Backing Lorde on Israel, Pro-boycott Artists Blast Shmuley Boteach's 'Bully Tactics'

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FILE PHOTO; Rabbi Shumley Boteach
FILE PHOTO; Rabbi Shumley Boteach Credit: REUTERS

A group of artists came out in support of Lorde, the New Zealand pop star who recently canceled her show in Tel Aviv following pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, writing an open letter in The Guardian on Friday.

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After Lorde canceled her performance, American celebrity rabbi Shmuley Boteach took out a full-page ad in The Washington Post, calling her a bigot and charging her country with anti-Israel prejudice for supporting United Nations statements against Israel's treatment of Palestinians.   

In a letter titled "Lorde's artistic right to cancel gig in Tel Aviv," the Artists for Palestine group wrote: "We support Lorde, who made public her decision not to perform in Israel and has now been branded a bigot.

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"Shmuley Boteach, the author and promoter of the advert, supports Israel’s illegal settlements and wrote last month on Breitbart to thank Donald Trump for 'electrifying the world' with his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in defiance of international law.

"He has nothing to teach artists about human rights. We deplore the bullying tactics being used to defend injustice against Palestinians and to suppress an artist’s freedom of conscience," they wrote, concluding: "We support Lorde’s right to take a stand."

Among those cosigned on the letter are musicians Roger Waters and Brian Eno, as well as other pro-BDS British artists, like director Ken Loach. Other signatories included American hip-hop artist Talib Kweli, actors John Cusack, Viggo Mortensen and Mark Ruffalo, and writer Angela Davis.

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Boteach's ad superimposed a large photo of Lorde over the backdrop of a scene of fighting in Syria with men rushing babies to safety under the words: “Lorde and New Zealand ignore Syria to attack Israel”. In large letters it also states "21 is young to become a bigot". 

The ad was part of the fallout over the singer's decision last week to cancel a concert scheduled in Israel for next summer. The New Zealand Jewish Council, meanwhile, said the ad was counterproductive and "inflammatory."

"The New Zealand Jewish Council is committed to dialogue and tolerance and distances itself from the inflammatory and aggressive material that stoops to the level of BDS rather than rising above it," the council said in a statement.

"We are disappointed with Lorde's decision to cancel her show after pressure from the discriminatory BDS movement and invite Lorde to continue learning about the region."

Critics of her decision have said she was succumbing to the influence of the cultural boycott of Israel through the Palestinian-led BDS movement.

Her own concert organizer in Israel said she was not able to withstand the "pressure" of the BDS movement.

But in a statement distributed on social media and by her booking agency, Lorde wrote in response:"i pride myself on being an informed young citizen, and i had done a lot of reading and sought a lot of opinions before deciding to book a show in tel aviv, but I’m not too proud to admit i didn’t make the right call on this one."

The ad by Boteach also condemned New Zealand's decision to vote in favor of a UN Resolution calling on the United States to withdraw its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.  It also cites New Zealand's support of another UN resolution as evidence of anti-Israel prejudice. The resolution condemned Israel settlement building in the West Bank.

The ad suggests New Zealand's "growing prejudice" against Israel is "trickling down to its youth."   

It says of the singer's decision: "While Lorde claims to be concerned with human rights, she hypocritically chose to proceed with her two concerts in Putin's Russia, despite his support for [Syrian president Bashar al-]Assad's genocidal regime."

"Let's boycott the boycotters and tell Lorde and her fellow bigots that Jew-hatred has no place in the twenty-first century," the ad reads. 

Boteach also attacked Lorde last week in Breitbart, criticized as the platform of the alt-right that, writing "it’s so sad to see a pop star like Lorde going over to the dark side of bigotry and antisemitism at such a young age." Citing her plans to perform in Russia, he wrote, "makes a mockery of her tour and will forever undermine any legitimate pretense she might otherwise have had to be a human rights activist."