Lorde just the latest musician mired in Israel controversy

Playing concerts in Israel are fraught with risks, as Lorde recently found out after first announcing and soon afterwards cancelling a concert. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

But just avoiding including Israel in tour plans means that opponents of Israel win, because that’s what they are trying to impose.

Washington Post – Lorde is only the latest: How touring in Israel thrusts musicians into controversy

On Dec. 18, New Zealand pop music sensation Lorde announced plans to play concerts in Israel and Russia. On Dec. 24, she announced the cancellation of her Israeli concert, which was scheduled for June 5 at the Tel Aviv Convention Centre. “I’m not too proud to admit I didn’t make the right call on this one,” she said in a statement.

In the six days between Lorde’s concert announcement and her cancellation, an increasingly pitched battle played out, both in public and behind the scenes, to win over the 21 year-old pop star. Activists and fans in favor of the ongoing cultural boycott of Israel because of the country’s policies related to Palestinians urged her to reconsider; pro-Israeli activists and fans lobbied for her to hold fast.

Lorde was caught in a no-win situation, but she is far from being the first.

In recent years, these artistic tug-of-wars over artists including Radiohead, Lauryn Hill and Nick Cave, have become increasingly common, although Lorde’s change of heart has been the highest-profile musical victory yet for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

If there’s one thing on which both sides can agree, it’s that 21 year-old artists from half a world away can’t be expected to understand the full details of a complicated issue tied to one of the defining geopolitical conflicts of our time. Musicians of any age who contemplate playing Israel sometimes lack awareness of the risks and rewards.

Managers and tour arrangers should be aware of the potential problems with booking gigs in Israel. A cynic could suggest it is deliberate publicity seeking (with or without the artist’s understanding).

Tour promoters warn acts in advance of any “delicacies they need to be aware of,” says Oren Arnon, a promoter at leading Israeli company Shuki Weiss, who did not promote the Lorde show. Artist managers warn fellow artist managers.

David Renzer, a music publishing veteran who co-founded the entertainment industry anti-boycott group the Creative Community For Peace, says his organization works within the record industry to outline the merits of playing in Israel, and warn of its complications.

The response to Lorde’s cancellation has been swift, and seismic. A hundred artists, including Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel and author Alice Walker, signed an open letter supporting her. Israel’s Culture Minister said she hoped the singer would reconsider, while its ambassador to New Zealand asked for a meeting.

Critics on Twitter pointed out the human-rights abuses in Russia, where Lorde still plans to play two shows.

In a roundly condemned full-page ad in The Washington Post, an American rabbi suggested that “21 is young to become a bigot,” its text juxtaposed with an image of Lorde appearing to stare skeptically at the Israeli flag.

Both sides have accused the other of extremist rhetoric, acting in bad faith and bullying, allegations that have become commonplace in the ongoing war for celebrity hearts and minds.

Arnon claims Cave, the Australian post-punk icon, endured “months and months of humiliation” before his November shows in Tel Aviv went on as planned.

The most prominent voice in supporting touring boycotts of Israel has become Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters. The man responsible for “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall” has spent the past decade becoming increasingly outspoken on the issue, and uses his fame within the music industry to confront artists who plan to perform in Israel.

I’m going to a Roger Waters concert in Dunedin later this month. Just for the music of course, it will be an evening break from politics.

Israel attracts a perhaps greater-than-usual share of baby boomers such as Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and Elton John. Classic rock acts are often indifferent to social media pressure campaigns, and their fans tend to have enough disposable income to withstand the country’s frequently higher ticket prices.

Perhaps rockers from the sixties are used to being controversial – some of them stoked and relished it, so a bit of political banter will be just more publicity.

Promoters live with the constant threat that a musician might bolt, whether it’s an apolitical artist who just wants to avoid a public thrashing, or someone privately sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, observing what Barghouti calls a “silent boycott.”

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Pharrell Williams, Elvis Costello and Lauryn Hill have all canceled dates in Israel, the latter two suggesting issues of conscience were responsible.

A major problem with ‘conscience’ based boycotts is claims of inconsistency and hypocrisy, as Lorde discovered when her plans for Israel and Russia were compared.

Lorde’s cancellation is seen as a needed, high-profile win for pro-boycott activists.

Perhaps it is also a high profile win for Lorde’s tour publicity.

Lorde will almost certainly be one of the last major artists to schedule an Israel concert date without appearing to have fully considered the global implications. From now on, if it weren’t the case already, merely scheduling a concert date in Israel will be considered a political act.

“It’s a very tricky issue,” the concert promoter Arnon says. “And you never come out of it clean.”

So best to avoid including Israel in tour schedules, as the anti-Israel protesters demand? Or try the schedule then cancel trick to increase your tour publicity?

What if a protest movement starts to target artists who plan to perform in the US?

16 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  January 13, 2018

    The loony Left like rust never sleep.

    • Corky

       /  January 13, 2018

      And never stop hating. It’s in their native DNA.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  January 13, 2018

        It’s their raison d’etre. Without it their self image of moral superiority would collapse. Ask Joe.

      • Patzcuaro

         /  January 13, 2018

        The right has an indifference to the suffering of others. All is well as long as they can do what they want, where they want, when they want.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  January 13, 2018

          The only indifference I have is to the insufferable loony Left. That is truly sublime.

    • Patzcuaro

       /  January 13, 2018

      More squawking from the rabid right they like rust never seem to sleep.

      • Corky

         /  January 13, 2018

        I don’t think our squawking stopped Lorde going to Israel. But Jew hating, excuse mongers for Palestinian atrocities did. Seems to be a common trait…from social media to university campuses to running over Trump’s election signs.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  January 13, 2018

        Every loony Left action provokes an equally rabid reaction. First law of politics.

        • Blazer

           /  January 13, 2018

          there are right wing nutjobs everywhere….Al.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  January 13, 2018

            Probably. The world is full of idiots as I have noted before. Fortunately it also has a lot of good people.

  2. Gezza

     /  January 13, 2018

    Lorde made the wrong call to do a concert there in the first place. Doing so is widely presented by the Israeli Government’s slick internationally coordinated PR operation as supporting the Zionists currently controlling the Israeli Government who are busily engaged in progressively stealing more & more Palestinian land that they are illegally occupying.

    The Israeli government has just in the past few days announced the building of yet another 1,000+ illegal settlement units in the occupied West Bank, knowing this will generate more protests & that they will probably end up killing Palestinians as a result.

    They have always laughed at the US’s half-hearted admonitions not to do this until a resolution has been reached on a separate Palestinian state – which must include a fair allocation of the land, compensation for stolen land & property, and allowing the return of the Palestinian diaspora.

    Trump & his family, especially the son-in-law, being close friends of the Netanyahus, have now given the green light to the Zionists to steal even more Palestinian land. And kill more Palestinans who resist.

    It is best for the boycott to get wide support. And for artists not to go there. Going there means they support this theft & the provocations the Zionists know will result. The rest of it is smoke & fire-stoking from Netanyahu & crew.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  January 13, 2018

      The two state solution is dead and the Palestinians and their multiple manipulators killed it.

      Best focus on a pluristic one state = Israel solution and the sooner the better.

      • Gezza

         /  January 13, 2018

        A pluralistic one state that’s a Jewish state & an apartheid state is not the best solution.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  January 13, 2018

          It is in these circumstances because it will limit the malign influence of external parties and free those directly involved to find their own compromises.

          • artcroft

             /  January 13, 2018

            Compromises. Such a benign word. I guess it could cover a multitude of sins.

      • Patzcuaro

         /  January 13, 2018

        If they were to go down the one state road, would that include the Gaza Strip and West Bank? If it does, the number of people of Arab decent and the number of Jewish decent would be approximately equal. However I imagine that the Arab population is growing faster so would soon overtake the number of Jewish decent. Would there be universal suffrage?