In December, the New Zealand-born singer known by the stage name Lorde canceled an upcoming concert in Tel Aviv, citing the “overwhelming number of messages and letters” encouraging her to boycott Israel and “a lot of discussions with people holding many views.” A member of the Florida House of Representatives is now urging his state to use its anti-BDS laws to prevent Lorde’s upcoming performance in Florida. Adam Shay suggests that this might not be the best use of anti-boycott laws:
When the BDS movement targets artists to pressure them into canceling a performance in Israel, the artist is bombarded with hate mail and explicit threats. These threats are sent not only to the artist but to anyone who appears to be part of the decision-making process. This includes the artists, their accompanying musicians, producers, promoters, managers, and sometimes even relatives. There is no shortage of artists who have publicly stated that they have received such threats. Paul McCartney publicized one such threat: [the] Islamic activist Omar Bakri Muhammad said in an interview with the Sunday Express in 2008: “If he values his life, Mr. McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there. The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him.”
In response, McCartney said, . . . “I have no intention of surrendering. I refuse to cancel my performances in Israel.”
If this type of threat can be made publicly, just imagine what the back-channel messages—cloaked by the cover of virtual anonymity—look like. . . . However, many artists prefer not to make these threats public. Why? If an artist decides to succumb to boycott pressure, he or she has no interest in explaining that this decision was made out of fear, especially if the alternative is to appear to be taking a moral stance. . . .
[Trying to retaliate against] artists who have canceled concerts in Israel does not help battle this phenomenon. If we give into a visceral demand for revenge, the result will be a strengthening of the so-called “silent boycott”—artists who refrain from contact with Israel to avoid a heated public dispute. . . . The way to face this problem is not by alienating artists, but rather by working with them. The artistic community is looking to Israel for a solution to this problem. [It’s necessary] to create the conditions for artists to perform in Israel and assist them in coping with boycott attacks.
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