Lionel Richie, the popular singer known for such hits as "Hello" and "All Night Long," who is scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv on September 12, drew praise from Jason Greenblatt, the US special representative for international negotiations, on Monday for choosing to ignore pressure from the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to cancel his concert.
Greenblatt tweeted, “Lionel Richie refused to cancel his concert in Israel or be intimidated by threats. BDS & intimidation only undermine the chances for peace & do absolutely NOTHING to help Palestinians.”
Last week, Richie, who has won multiple Grammy Awards and whose albums have sold more than 100 million copies around the world, blocked the group Code Pink over its campaign calling on him to cancel his upcoming concert.
Code Pink started a campaign calling on the Richie to cancel his Tel Aviv performance with a petition that accused Israel of “oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian people... If you choose to follow through with your performance in Tel Aviv, it will act as an endorsement of Israel’s brutal systems of military occupation and apartheid.”
On July 31, Code Pink tweeted, “BREAKING: Simply because we started a campaign urging him to stand up for Palestinian human rights and cancel his upcoming show in Apartheid Israel, Lionel Richie blocked us! #LionelDontGo.”
Pressure from BDS activists on artists to cancel scheduled shows in Israel has become routine in recent years. Some have heeded the call and canceled, but most – like Jennifer Lopez last week and Bon Jovi in July – have performed anyway.
BDS has widened its scope over the past two years to call for boycotts of films by any filmmaker who has worked in Israel, including acclaimed Arab filmmakers. The Insult, an Oscar-nominated film by Lebanese director, Ziad Doueiri, was scheduled for the Days of Cinema film festival in Ramallah two years ago and was canceled due to pressure from activists. The Umm al-Fahm municipality called for a boycott of Maysaloun Hamoud’s film about Arab women living in Tel Aviv, In Between, because she accepted money from Israeli film funds.