3 Jan 2018

Lorde attack ad 'a step too far' - academic

3:33 pm on 3 January 2018

An attack ad in the The Washington Post accusing Lorde of bigotry is a step too far, an academic says.

A full-page ad taken out in the Washington Post by a pro-Israel group calling singer Lorde a 'bigot'.

A full-page ad taken out in the Washington Post by a pro-Israel group calling singer Lorde a 'bigot'. Photo: Washington Post

The New Zealand pop star was set to play in Tel Aviv as part of her Melodrama tour. She pulled out of the concert scheduled for 5 June after she received criticism from some in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement who claimed it would be seen as supporting Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

In an ad in the Washington Post on 31 December, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach called Lorde a hypocrite and bigot for cancelling the show. Rabbi Boteach is a one-time spiritual adviser to Michael Jackson, outspoken religious commentator and the author of books including Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments.

Israeli activists in the US have kept up their attack on the recording artist and the ad and a column for the Jerusalem Post said Lorde had joined the BDS movement, which promotes cultural boycotts of the state and works to end Israeli occupation of contested territories.

Lorde at the first show of her Australia/New Zealand tour in Dunedin.

Lorde at the first show of her Australia/New Zealand tour in Dunedin. Photo: Alex Lovell-Smith

Lorde has not responded directly since announcing the cancellation and has at no point indicated she had any involvement or affiliation with the BDS movement, or that it influenced her decision.

Victoria University's Centre for Strategic Studies Professor Robert Ayson said the criticism of Lorde was not going away because of her celebrity and the Tel Aviv show's cancellation shortly after the world tour was announced.

"She's kind of involuntarily become for the moment one of that movement's [BDS] favourite stars and she has basically joined in on not appearing in Israel ... but I think you'd find it hard to say she was an out and out long time supporter of the BDS movement.

"The whole boycott issue is going to continue as a very divisive one and problematic one but I think Lorde's role in it will probably be temporary."

The artistic community was divided, he said.

"I think a young entertainer who brings a demographic into this is going to be hotly contested by supporters and opponents of the boycott movement.

"I think the bigotry argument is really a step too far. Clearly there are people who support a boycott of Israel for bigoted purposes but I don't think you can argue that this is an example of that. I think that the other thing that's a real reach here is to try to connect what Lorde has done to the approach that the New Zealand government has taken towards Israel-Palestinian relations. That's way too much of a reach. She's not a spokesperson for New Zealand.

"There are some real questions to be asked about the boycott phenomenon and really what it can symbolise, and how it's interpreted and how it can actually be quite a dangerous phenomenon.

"This boycott movement has spiralled a bit. What might start as an idea of not having anything to do with [Israeli] settlement areas starts to turn into a broader anti-Israel campaign. I think that's where a lot of the sensitivity is. It's more complex than just a question of 'do you oppose or support Israel's policies under the Netanyahu government towards the West Bank and Gaza?'.

"That I think partly explains the sensitivities on this issue and why for an artist to decide not to perform in Israel is a bigger deal than perhaps a lot of people might think."

Previously, the New Zealand Palestinian Human Rights Campaign said Lorde's concert would be seen as an endorsement of the Israel government and its treatment of Palestinians.

Last week, Israel's ambassador to New Zealand Itzhak Gerberg asked to meet with Lorde to try and convince her that her cancelled show was 'a mistake'.

New Zealand was one of the countries to vote in favour of a non-binding resolution at an UN General Assembly emergency session that called on the United States to rescind its decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The vote passed 128 votes to 9, with 35 countries abstaining.

Artists who have cancelled shows in Israel include Elvis Costello, Lauryn Hill and Gorillaz, while others who defied criticism include Radiohead. Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, a vocal opponent of the Israeli government and a supporter of the BDS movement, plays New Zealand later this month.

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