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John Ondrasik on New Pro-Israel Single: “I’m Just a Guy Who Sees Evil and Doesn’t Like It”

Five for Fighting Singer Laments Music Industry’s Silence on Oct. 7
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March 8, 2024
John Ondrasik with Michael Dickson, Executive Director StandWithUs Israel

John Ondrasik, who performs under the stage name Five for Fighting, released a new single last January, “OK.” He discussed it with the Journal following the evening session on Mar. 2 of StandWithUs’ Israel in Focus International Conference at the Los Angeles Hilton Airport Hotel.

The music video for “OK” begins with New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) saying, “We are not alright” and shows images of the Oct. 7 massacre as well as pro-Palestinian protesters celebrating the massacre. In the chorus, Ondrasik — who is not Jewish — sings the haunting words “we are not okay” in his trademark falsetto heard on the hit songs “Superman” and “100 Years.”

“I’m just a guy who sees evil and doesn’t like it,” Ondrasik said. “I’m a guy who loves freedom, I supported our troops — I do a lot of songs with our troops — I see what our troops have died for and I see this country on our campuses becoming this rotted out, antisemitic radical institutions. I just don’t like it. I’m no different than anybody else, I just can write a song and sing it. We all have a role to play.”

He added that “you have to stand up. The first line of that song is, ‘this is a time for choosing.’ There’s no gray area anymore.” The last image in the video is a photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the quote “He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” “It’s not hard,” Ondrasik said. “It’s funny, sometimes I kind of get offended when people say, ‘Why are you doing this?’ And I understand that it’s a legitimate question, but it shouldn’t be … everybody should be doing this.”

When Israel shared the “OK” video on social media, “I got a quick education on what it means to be Jewish in this world … The vitriol, the death threats and all that stuff … But what I didn’t expect were the thousands of emails from Israelis and Jewish people around the world who really feel abandoned by the arts,” Ondraski said. “They’ve been saying, ‘Where is the arts? Where are the people standing for us? We stand for so many of these other groups under threat, and the arts have been silent.’”

He added that “it’s not about Israel or Jewish people, it’s about common sense and decency and compassion and calling out evil where it exists, which seems to be something that our industry cannot do,” which he said is “a historic shame.”

Ondrasik recalled the 2001 concert organized by former Beatle Paul McCartney at Madison Square Garden in which “every living icon in the music business was there to stand with New York and condemn Osama bin Laden … Where the hell are those people?” he asked. “They’re not 25 being brainwashed on TikTok. So the silence of so many of those — many of them who are Jewish —that was depressing.”

He has talked to some artists who say, “I’m afraid for my family, I don’t want my concerts being protested … That’s all legitimate,” he acknowledged. “I get it. That’s not wrong. I’m experiencing some of that myself. But what I say to them is, ‘You guys, you understand this is the same the same arguments they used in 1938?’ It’s the same arguments. And with each voice we get stronger… and you don’t have to love Israel. If you can just come out and say, ‘Raping women at a concert, kidnapping grandmothers, beheading babies is bad, we condemn that.’ Can’t even say that.” The song is really about the “cultural decay of America and the world where you can’t come out and say that, and that cannot stand,” Ondrasik said.

He is planning to do a “We Are The World”-like international collaboration for “OK.” “It’s all connected,” said Ondrasik. “Hamas is connected to Iran, [which] is connected to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, who’s frankly connected to the U.N. It’s all the same evil actors.” In the “OK” video, Ondrasik sings the words “evil is on the march” as the video shows images of Putin, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“So, we’re going to do a global version of this song with Ukrainian artists, with Israeli artists, Iranian dissidents to make the point that this is about anti-evil,” Ondrasik continued. “It’s not about what happened 500 years ago somewhere, it’s about simple anti-evil actors, and hopefully that message will be one where the press cannot ignore, but also may inspire other artists who may be on the fence a little bit to join the right side of history. It will be interesting to see who does.”

Ondrasik is partnering with organizations like StandWithUs and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) for this collaboration. “We’re just looking for people to join our mission,” he said. “You can be a singer, you can an influencer, you could be an organization, it could be anybody that wants to make a statement, ‘We are not okay. We understand that, and we stand together to change this.’ So it’ll be interesting to see how far it can go… and then if that accomplishes what we hope it does, then we’ll do some kind of concert.”

He has never been to Israel before, but thinks he’ll be there “very soon.”

Ondrasik’s message to pro-Hamas protesters celebrating the Oct. 7 massacre: “Unfortunately some of them are so far gone it’s like a cult. There’s no message that will get through. But if there are people who have an open mind and open heart, I would just say: ‘What if it was your daughter who was raped at a concert? What if [it was] your baby who’s still kidnapped … what if your grandmother was tortured? Is that something under any circumstance that is acceptable?’ Sadly, many of them will say yes.”

The singer-songwriter called it a “generational battle” and stressed the importance of getting the message out “to the kids.” He alleged that while his “OK” video went viral on X, it hasn’t been shared by TikTok users, and argued that more artists — especially younger artists — need to “push back,” especially on college campuses. “We need to take the fight to the college campuses,” said Ondrasik. “We need to go sing this song on the college campuses and walk through the campuses proudly. I think so many people are on defense, I think we need to go on offense, because we’re in the right.”

Ondrasik, a UCLA alumnus, is “ashamed that I went to this school, and this is a legacy that many alumni feel … we need to go to these schools and we need to hold them accountable and sing these songs and stand with folks who have sanity and put them on notice that we’re not going to accept it. We’ve already lost a few presidents, probably a good idea to lose a few more.”

He has not yet been to a college campus to perform “OK,” but shortly after the interview he claimed to have at least 30 students come up to him and ask if he could perform at their campus. At the end of his address during the plenary to attendees, Ondrasik gave out his phone number so students experiencing hate on their campuses can contact him for support. “It just breaks my heart when I talk to them and they’re 16 years old, 18 years old on the front lines of this historic generational battle,” Ondrasik said. “But you look in their eyes and they’re strong, and they have fortitude, and they have compassion. So tonight’s really given me a lot of hope for the future in a time where there’s a lot of hope in my mind.”

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