Sporting a huge, billowing afro and a T-shirt with an anti-Iraq war slogan, Erykah Badu expressed her support of black leader Louis Farrakhan and the Palestinian cause Thursday before a crowd of Israeli fans and journalists in Tel Aviv.
The Grammy-award winning neo-soul vocalist, 36, is in Tel Aviv to perform on Saturday night. She has also won acclaim for her acting roles in Cider House Rules and House of D.
"I come from across the water bringing light and hope," said Badu in her deep, languid voice. She commissioned a poster design especially for her visit to Israel, featuring a large hamsa, a traditional Middle Eastern good luck charm, that appears to be growing out of her hair. At the bottom, the words for peace in Hebrew and Arabic appear side by side.
However, Badu could not name any Israeli hip hop artists. She explained that she identified best with the Palestinians and their hip hop scene, saying that they are a part of her tribe of hip hop.
"They use (hip hop) as a form of liberation, as a form of pre-resistance, as a form of therapy," Badu said.
Badu defended Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, who has drawn fire over the years with pronouncements including praise for Hitler in a 1984 speech, for which he was censured by the U.S. Senate, repeatedly denouncing Israel and the Jewish people and calling the pretense for the war in Iraq a Zionist conspiracy.
The Anti-Defamation League, a leading Jewish group, has labeled Farrakhan's statements bigoted and anti-Semitic. On its Web site, the ADL lists dozens of Farrakhan statements it considers anti-Semitic.
"(Farrakhan is) not an anti-Semite. He loves all people," insisted Badu. Her next album, Nu AmErykah will be released February 26, the date of Savior's Day, a main Nation of Islam holiday.
Israeli reggae-soul group Karolina and Funset, who will be opening for Badu's concert, posed for pictures with Badu after she spoke, then joined her in raising the Black Power raised-fist salute.