Between A Rock And A Hard Place: What possessed Lorde to include Tel Aviv on her 2018 touring schedule? If there is one shark school a young performing artist should avoid at all costs – it’s the Middle East. Put your foot into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and you may be sure of only one thing: you will be bitten. The smartest move is always to give Israel/Palestine a very wide berth.
“THOSE GREAT WHITES, they have big teeth”, sings Ella Yelich-O’Connor (Lorde) in “Green Light”. Her decisions to play – and then not to play – Tel Aviv are showing how much damage those teeth can inflict. Right now, there’s a lot of blood in the water and, unfortunately, most of it is hers.
How did it come to this? What possessed Lorde to include Tel Aviv on her 2018 touring schedule? If there is one shark school a young performing artist should avoid at all costs – it’s the Middle East. Put your foot into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and you may be sure of only one thing: you will be bitten. The smartest move is always to give Israel/Palestine a very wide berth.
That’s not so easy, however, when Lucian Grainge, the CEO of your record label, the Universal Music Group (UMG) is the 2013 recipient of the Foundation For Ethnic Understanding’s (FFEU) 2013 Humanitarian Award.
The FFEU was established in 1989 by Rabbi Marc Schneier to promote understanding and reconciliation between Muslims and Jews. Presumably, the decisions of the UMG’s chief executive were seen as contributing significantly to that worthy objective. Presumably, that’s why they honoured him. Presumably, that’s also why building bridges between Israelis and Palestinians is seen as “a good thing” in Lucien Grainge’s UMG.
Did Lorde know about this? When she saw Tel Aviv on her 2018 touring schedule, did her interior moral traffic light flash green or red? Was she reassured that playing Tel Aviv was “a good thing” because it promoted understanding between Muslims and Jews? Did her “people” tell her that the boss of UMG believed very strongly in the power of music to bring people together? Is that why, like that other big UMG star, Elton John, she agreed to perform in Israel?
Standing back from all this, it is difficult not to see Lorde as a pawn in a whole host of people’s games.
As a propaganda tool, the music industry is every bit as effective as the film and television industries – maybe more so. It would be naïve in the extreme to think that the Israeli Government and its “assets” in the Jewish diaspora were ignorant of the effect Lorde’s playing Tel Aviv would have had on global opinion. How else to explain their reaction to her green light switching to red?
But, if Lorde has been treated as a pawn by Israel’s friends in the global music industry, her treatment by the ‘Boycott, Disinvest, Sanctions’ (BDS) movement hasn’t been much better.
When the BDS movement discovered Lorde was scheduled to play Tel Aviv, it must have whooped with delight. Here, at the mercy of the social media platforms it has learned to manipulate so ruthlessly, was a young singer-songwriter earnestly committed to doing good in the world. How long would she be able to resist the orchestrated pressures of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram? Not long – as it turned out.
The Great White Sharks are not confined to corporate waters exclusively. The Left have teeth of their own.
Pity is an emotion all-too-easily evoked: and the situation of Palestinians living on the West Bank and Gaza is pitiable in the extreme. That the BDS movement exploits their pitiable circumstances is unsurprising – Public Relations 101.
Beseeching Lorde and her fans to boycott “Apartheid Israel” offers them the opportunity to strike a blow without firing a shot. What young entertainer anxious to prove her progressive credentials is going to turn down an offer to become the John Minto of her generation?
Upon closer inspection, however, the BDS movement is nothing more than a sophisticated front organisation in the service of Palestinian nationalism. Just one more weapon in a war that has been raging since 1947. It’s never been a war for two states in the Holy Land. Rather, it’s been a war to determine who inherits the Holy Land – Jews or Arabs? Sometimes the war’s been fought with fighter-bombers, tanks and artillery; sometimes with martyrs on buses wearing explosive vests; and, yes, sometimes with singer-songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, Nick Cave and Elton John.
The BDS movement hasn’t the slightest chance of defeating the State of Israel, nor of liberating the Palestinians. What it can deliver, however, is the occasional, morale-boosting, Palestinian propaganda victory.
On this occasion, that victory’s collateral damage was Ella Yelich-O’Connor.
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 5 January 2018.