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

For Israelis, Anti-Zionism Kills

Dec. 14 2018

This week alone, anti-Zionists have killed multiple Israelis in a series of attacks; these follow the revelations that Hizballah succeeded in digging multiple attack tunnels from Lebanon into northern Israel. Simultaneously, some recent news stories in the U.S. have occasioned pious reminders that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism. Bret Stephens notes that it is anti-Zionists, not defenders of Israel, who do the most to blur that distinction:

Israelis experience anti-Zionism in a different way from, say, readers of the New York Review of Books: not as a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms. . . . Anti-Zionism might have been a respectable point of view before 1948, when the question of Israel’s existence was in the future and up for debate. Today, anti-Zionism is a call for the elimination of a state—details to follow regarding the fate befalling those who currently live in it. . . .

Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go. By a coincidence that its adherents insist is entirely innocent, this happens to be the Jewish state, making anti-Zionists either the most disingenuous of ideologues or the most obtuse. When then-CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill called last month for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea” and later claimed to be ignorant of what the slogan really meant, it was hard to tell in which category he fell.

Does this make someone with Hill’s views an anti-Semite? It’s like asking whether a person who believes in [the principle of] separate-but-equal must necessarily be a racist. In theory, no. In reality, another story. The typical aim of the anti-Semite is legal or social discrimination against some set of Jews. The explicit aim of the anti-Zionist is political or physical dispossession.

What’s worse: to be denied membership in a country club because you’re Jewish, or driven from your ancestral homeland and sovereign state for the same reason? If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are meaningfully distinct (I think they are not), the human consequences of the latter are direr.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian terror