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July 15, 2019 7:01 am

BDS Pressure Can’t — and Won’t — Stop Musicians from Performing in Israel

avatar by Lana Melman


A BDS protest in front of Carnegie Hall. Photo: Liberate Art.

Jennifer Lopez (JLo) will be performing in Israel on August 1. Bon Jovi will grace Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv for the second time on July 25. And Lionel Richie will perform in the Jewish homeland for the first time in September.

Earlier this year, a massive Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign was launched, pleading with musicians and artists from 42 countries to withdraw from the popular Eurovision song contest held in Tel Aviv this past May. No one did.

Will Jennifer Lopez, Bon Jovi, or Lionel Richie bow to anti-Israel boycott pressure? Unlikely. But the divisive effort to isolate the Jewish state will continue.

An Israeli BDS group recently penned an open letter to JLo, attempting to persuade her to cancel her show — and they weren’t alone. The extreme left-wing group Code Pink charged Israel with human rights violations and launched a petition, with close to 5,000 signatures to date, calling for the artist to boycott Israel in every capacity. Emotionally manipulative videos and memes containing classic antisemitic tropes are flooding social media, with the hashtag #JLoDontGo.

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When artists cancel concert dates, BDS proponents are quick to claim victory, and Israel supporters may rush to condemn the very same talent they hailed just days before. But the fact is, concert cancellations happen everywhere. Common reasons are a lack of ticket sales, schedule changes, illness, and other personal issues. About half of the cancellations in Israel are for reasons unrelated to BDS.

Even when artists do succumb to BDS pressure, it does not necessarily mean they support BDS’s agenda. Many artists simply do not wish to have their art politicized. Other times, BDS has made the atmosphere so toxic with their threats and intimidation, that artists cancel because they fear BDS attacks on their physical safety or damage to their careers.

Naturally, during times of major conflict such as Operation Protective Edge in 2014, cancellations spike for safety reasons, and artists frequently rebook when things quiet down.

Certainly, however, BDS has racked up some “wins.” In 2018, both New Zealand songstress Lorde, and American singer and songwriter Lana Del Rey, canceled their scheduled concert dates under BDS pressure. By and large, however, cancellations in support of BDS remain rare.

When artists bow to BDS pressure — out of agreement or as a result of bullying and intimidation — they unwittingly become political pawns. Apolitical intentions are eclipsed, hate groups claim victory, and Israeli audiences of all faiths miss out.

To BDS proponents, however, the campaign to destroy Israel is not a zero-sum game where their nominal wins are offset by Israel’s greater wins. For BDS, much like terrorists, the occasional success sustains them and generates much sought-after publicity for their mission.

But as long as artists continue to love their fans and to place their art above politics, music will continue to be heard — and hearts will be lifted — across concert grounds in Israel.

Lana Melman is the CEO of LiberateArt, Inc. For more information on her work, view the video here.

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