The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which advocates the
international isolation of Israel in protest of its policies toward the
Palestinians, has seen its profile spike recently.
well-funded movement without clear leadership or hierarchy, advocates of BDS
have long lobbied for performing artists to shun Israel, and they faithfully
launch vociferous email and Internet campaigns whenever a foreign act is booked
for a show.
However much they try to turn these artists against Israel,
they seem to have had only a marginal effect on the international artistic
Sure, they have achieved some success with high-profile
artists from Elvis Costello to the Pixies – both of whom canceled sold-out shows
shortly before their scheduled dates – but the tsunami of noted musicians,
dancers, writers and singers who continue to land on our shores and fill our
venues continues unabated.
Last month, the rather under-the-radar efforts
by the BDSers received a big boost when former Pink Floyd leader Roger Waters
wrote an open letter to his fellow artists calling on them to join the cultural
boycott of Israel. But Waters – who himself performed in Israel in 2006 at Neveh
Shalom to promote coexistence – does not have the kind of influence he once
It is unlikely that his plea will have much, if any, impact
on the multi-million dollar Israeli entertainment touring industry that has
hosted everyone from Paul McCartney and Elton John to Madonna and Alicia
While their efforts to portray Israel as an apartheid state are
fundamentally flawed, the BDS advocates are certainly free to pursue their
counterproductive hobby. By anti-Israel advocate parameters at least, there have
been much more vitriolic campaigns in the past against the
Recent disclosures reveal, however, that BDS advocates have
added sordid and ugly tactics to their methods, indicating that their seemingly
emotional, humanistic appeals are really thinly veiled – or unveiled –
Rumors have persisted for years, going back to unsourced claims
that McCartney received a death threat during his 2008 visit here, and that
singer Macy Gray was threatened with harm to her family if she went through with
her 2011 performance.
Recently, however, these rumors have been replaced
by clear facts. Scooter Braun, the Jewish manager of teen phenomenon Justin
Bieber, told The Jerusalem Post that their 2011 appearance in Tel Aviv was
surrounded by threats.
“We had plenty of death threats from different
groups over him coming to Israel. But most of the death threats were that ‘the
Jew manager will die,” he said.
In July, Eric Burdon, the famed vocalist
for 1960s band The Animals, almost canceled his August 1 show in Binyamina owing
to threats to his safety. “We’ve been receiving mounting pressure, including
numerous threatening emails, daily. The last thing I intend do is put Eric in
jeopardy,” Burdon’s management said. Burdon later reconsidered his decision and
arrived in Israel for the performance.
Most recently, the management for
Afropop superstar Salif Keita canceled his appearance at the Jerusalem Sacred
Music Festival last week due to threats made to ruin his reputation.
method of harassment was detailed in a Facebook post by Keita’s nonprofit
organization, the Salif Keita Global Foundation. The performer’s representatives
“were bombarded with hundreds of threats, blackmail attempts, intimidation,
social media harassment and slander stating that Mr. Keita was to perform in
Israel, ‘not for peace, but for apartheid,’” the post stated.
threats were made by a group named BDS, who also threatened to keep increasing
an anti-Salif Keita campaign, which they had already started on social media,
and to work diligently at ruining the reputation and career that Mr. Keita has
worked 40 years to achieve not only professionally, but for human rights and
When the artists being pressured to boycott Israel go public
with these campaign of intimidation, nothing is left to the imagination. No
longer can the BDS efforts be concealed as an ideological appeal from
peace-loving activists – it is thuggery, bordering on criminality, and it
reflects just how desperate their cause has become.
It is heartening that
most performers do not fall victim to these bullying tactics and make their own
decisions about performing in Israel. With Rihanna, Tom Jones and DJ superstar
David Guetta all due here this fall, it is clear they are making the correct