It’s a good thing Jews don’t celebrate Christmas, because this last one would have been thoroughly spoiled.
’Twas the night before said holiday when 21-year-old New Zealand-born pop star Lorde, a Grammy-winning artist, succumbed to pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and canceled her Tel Aviv concert planned for later this year.
“I pride myself on being an informed young citizen, and I had done a lot of reading and sought a lot of opinions before deciding to book a show in Tel Aviv, but I’m not too proud to admit I didn’t make the right call on this one,” the singer said in a statement.
Lorde’s acquiescence to the forceful politics of BDS was a blow to Jewish and Israeli morale, prompting defenders of Israel to respond with rebuke.
Instead of lobbing attacks and insults, what if defenders of Israel encouraged Lorde to perform for her fans to
promote reconciliation and peace?
Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev offered a slyly mocking appeal to the young musician, urging her to reverse her decision. “I’m hoping you can be a ‘pure heroine,’ like the title of your first album,” Regev said in a statement. “[B]e a heroine of pure culture, free from any foreign — and ridiculous — political considerations.”
But asking an artist to be free of political considerations when it comes to the most loaded conflict in the world is naïve and shortsighted. The current generation of young people is the most interconnected in human history, and as a result, deeply socially conscious. Many of them are eager to integrate their values into the decisions they make. Besides, how can you insist a celebrity with a worldwide following divest herself of what happens in the world?
Regev’s statement isn’t the worst offense committed by a lover of Israel in defending the Jewish state. That accolade belongs to The World Values Network, led by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who on New Year’s Day took out a full-page ad in The Washington Post shaming and defaming Lorde for bowing to BDS pressure.
The ad states, “21 is young to become a bigot.” At the center of the ad is Lorde, superimposed on a split-screen background that features two contrasting images: In one, men clutch babies to their chests as they run from a scene of total destruction. In the other, beautiful buildings of Jerusalem stone stand tall and proud, topped by Israeli flags. “Lorde and New Zealand ignore Syria to attack Israel,” the ad declares.
Lorde certainly doesn’t deserve any credit for heroism. As the ad suggests, she schmeissed Israel while proceeding to perform in countries with far worse records. If her aim is to take a stand against countries with stained human rights histories, she’d best cancel other stops on her tour, starting with Russia. President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea was a strutting display of anti-democratic expansionism and his autocratic tactics at home are equally treacherous. According to Human Rights Watch, “Today, Russia is more repressive than it has ever been in the post-Soviet era.”
Because she is young and inexperienced, Lorde is not worthy of our scorn.
But if Boteach and others think politicized assaults on a global superstar are the way to “win” against BDS, they’re mistaken. The language of Boteach’s ad is mean-spirited and offensive, and will only further alienate the pop star and her millions of fans. How does that serve Israel?
Instead of lobbing attacks and insults, what if defenders of Israel encouraged Lorde to perform for her fans, and perhaps use her platform, to promote reconciliation and peace? What if Regev had offered to help facilitate an additional concert in the West Bank for Palestinian fans? What if the message was inviting and encouraging instead of angry and denigrating?
BDS has failed to intimidate musicians into not performing in Israel far more than it has succeeded. Fighting the nasty fight only makes Israel — and us — look foolish, spiteful and, worst of all, guilty.
Danielle Berrin is a senior writer and columnist at the Jewish Journal.