With conflict rising in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine, cultural artists are choosing to boycott the state of Israel. Recently, Grammy Award winning artist, Lorde, canceled her scheduled concert in Tel Aviv, following the boycotters’ calls for her to join the BDS movement. Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions, often referred to as BDS, is a campaign attempting to increase economic and political pressure on Israel to end “violations of international law.” The BDS campaign hopes for various forms of boycott against Israel until the government grant Palestinians the “right of return” and Israel’s West Bank barrier is dismantled. From 2005, the BDS boycott has urged governmental institutions, academic establishments, companies, musicians and others to avoid visiting Israel.
Lorde’s concert was scheduled for June 5, 2018. At first, Lorde responded to the activists by saying she would “reconsider the concert date.” But later she said in a statement, “I’ve received an overwhelming number of messages and letters and have had a lot of discussions with people holding many views, and I think the right decision at this time is to cancel the show.”
Israel’s Minister of Culture, Miri Regev, stated, “I hope that Lorde reconsiders her decision not to play in Israel.” She also said, “Lorde, I expect you to be a ‘pure heroine’ like the title of your first album. A pure heroine of culture, void of any foreign political considerations, not to mention delusional ones.” The singer is keeping her scheduled tour dates in Russia. This is controversial because of its imperfect record in civil rights.
Since her cancellation, over 100 artists including writers, actors, musicians and directors have signed an open letter in support of Lorde’s choice to cancel her show. One of the many, Roger Waters, urged many other artists not to perform in Israel. In an interview, he declared that, “The music industry has been particularly recalcitrant in even raising a voice against Israel. I’m hoping to encourage some of them to stop being frightened and to stand up and be counted, because we need them.”
This is not the first time artists have canceled their shows in Israel. In 2014, when Israel was in a fifty day war, several artists including Lana Del Rey, Neil Young, and even the Backstreet Boys, all canceled or postponed their shows.
Although numerous artists have canceled their shows in Israel, many have not surrendered to the pressure. One example of this is Thom Yorke, the singer and songwriter of the alternative rock band, Radiohead. Thom declared, “It’s really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years.”