The Case against Punishing Celebrities Who Boycott Israel

March 14 2018

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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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Popular music

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war