Lauryn Hill has canceled a 7 May concert in Israel, following a request by Palestinians and a campaign by many of her fans.
The former lead vocalist of The Fugees made the announcement in a message on her Facebook page addressed to “Friends and Fans in Israel.”
“When deciding to play the region, my intention was to perform in both Tel Aviv and Ramallah,” Hill writes. “Setting up a performance in the Palestinian Territory, at the same time as our show in Israel, proved to be a challenge.”
She says she wanted to perform in the region “but also to be a presence supporting justice and peace.”
“It is very important to me that my presence or message not be misconstrued, or a source of alienation to either my Israeli or my Palestinian fans,” Hill states. “For this reason, we have decided to cancel the upcoming performance in Israel, and seek a different strategy to bring my music to ALL of my fans in the region.”
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and Palestine solidarity activists will see Hill’s move as a victory.
Her name will be added to the growing list of artists who have pulled out of shows in Israel which includes Sinéad O’Connor, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, Talib Kweli, Moddi and Carlos Santana.
But Hill’s strategy of seeking to offset the Israel show with one before a Palestinian audience in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank will likely raise concerns.
In its guidelines for the cultural boycott, PACBI states that artists “attempting to visit Palestinian institutions or groups in a ‘balancing’ gesture contribute to the false perception of symmetry between the colonial oppressor and the colonized.”
While Palestinians welcome visits, PACBI says that “solidarity entails respecting the boycott call, which is an authoritative call of the oppressed, and not combining a visit to Palestinian institutions or groups with activities with boycottable Israeli institutions.”
For now, however, Hill has heeded the Palestinian boycott call – a very significant step.
Israel’s Walla! News called Hill’s cancellation a “painful” blow at the hands of “pro-Palestinian” organizations.
In a letter in April, PACBI told Hill that it was “deeply troubled to learn that you are scheduled to perform in Rishon Lezion’s Live Park amphitheater on 7 May 2015, while Israel continues unabatedly with its settler colonial and apartheid designs to further dispossess, oppress and ethnically cleanse native Palestinians from their homeland.”
“Performing in Israel today is the equivalent of performing in Sun City, South Africa during the apartheid era,” PACBI added.
“Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and former South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils have repeatedly declared that Israel has created a form of racial apartheid that is far worse than anything that existed in South Africa.”
A social media campaign, including a spoof of Hill’s hit cover of the song “Killing Me Softly,” had in recent weeks driven home the message.
Separately, the director of the Israel Festival recently revealed that the flagship government-backed cultural program has had to curtail its 2015 schedule due to the growing impact of the boycott, especially in the wake of Israel’s killing more than 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza last July and August.