Shakira abandons plan to play in Tel Aviv

Shakira, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, performs during the opening of a United Nations development conference in 2015.

Cia Pak UN Photo

This article has been updated since initial publication with more information about Shakira’s canceled show in Tel Aviv, and the number of artists who have pulled out of the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival in solidarity with Palestinians has reached nine.

Palestinians are welcoming the news that Shakira won’t be playing in Tel Aviv this summer.

PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, said that Shakira’s decision dashes Israel’s hopes “to use her name to art-wash its latest massacre in Gaza.”

“Artists, especially UN goodwill ambassadors, have a moral duty not to be complicit in covering up human rights violations and apartheid,” PACBI added.

Meanwhile, a number of international artists have announced that they are pulling out of the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival in solidarity with Palestinians.

Shakira, the Grammy-winning Colombian superstar with Lebanese ancestry, serves as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, the UN children’s agency that has documented many of Israel’s abuses.

“Hundreds of Palestinian municipalities and cultural organizations, as well as thousands of fans and boycott activists, from Gaza and Lebanon to Colombia and the US, appealed to Shakira to cancel,” PACBI said.

Israel supporters had presented Shakira’s planned show as a blow to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and as a sign of Shakira’s “support for Israel.”

Now, Israeli sources are attempting to downplay her cancellation.

“The media has incorrectly reported that Shakira will be performing in Tel Aviv this summer,” concert promoter Live Nation tweeted on Monday. “While no dates this summer will work, Shakira and Live Nation hope to bring a show to her fans in Israel in the future.”

“In April, Israel Hayom reported that the Colombian singer with Lebanese roots was ‘close to signing’ a deal to perform in Tel Aviv in July,” The Jerusalem Post stated on Tuesday. “Then earlier this month, Channel 2 News published an ‘exclusive’ report that the performer had closed a deal to appear in Israel on 9 July – for the first time in her career.”

But, the newspaper, added, “No Israeli production company ever confirmed the show and tickets were never announced or on sale.”

However, PACBI published a timeline showing that the Ticketsi ticket agency advertised the show for 9 July, telling fans that a contract had been signed and tickets would be on sale soon.

The Israeli embassy in Mexico City even tweeted in early May to celebrate Shakira’s expected visit:

Shakira did visit Israel in 2011, when she held a press conference with then-president Shimon Peres.

Lebanese opposition

Shakira is scheduled to perform in Lebanon on 13 July at the Cedars International Festival.

That show would likely have been untenable if she proceeded with a date in Tel Aviv.

Lebanon has been the target of repeated Israeli invasions and prolonged occupation that have killed tens of thousands of people and caused massive destruction to the country.

Lebanon remains in a state of war with Israel and there is strong popular opposition to activities perceived as normalizing Israel.

Activists in Lebanon and around the world were already calling for Shakira’s Lebanon show to be canceled if she went to Tel Aviv:

Shakira’s nixing of plans to play in Tel Aviv comes amid a wave of new support for BDS since Israel’s massacres of unarmed civilians during Gaza’s Great March of Return rallies beginning on 30 March.

Brazilian legend Gilberto Gil last week canceled a July gig in Tel Aviv and Tiago Rodrigues, the director of Portugal’s national theater, pulled out of this year’s Israel Festival.

In a coordinated action last week, dozens of UK bands declared their support for the cultural boycott of Israel as a peaceful way to demonstrate solidarity with Palestinians.

In recent months other big names who have refused to go to Israel include New Zealand pop star Lorde and Hollywood actor Natalie Portman.

Pinkwashing festival

And on Tuesday, PACBI announced that the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival had been hit “with a wave of cancellations” ahead of its opening “following calls from Palestinian LGBT collective Pinkwatching Israel and human rights activists around the world.”

“Even knowing that also in Israel there are people who suffer from oppression over their bodies and desires, I decided to cancel my participation, joining the cultural boycott that has happened in the last few months around the world, as a form of protest against Israel and its genocidal policies over Palestinians,” Black trans Brazilian singer, performer and activist Linn da Quebrada said.

In coordination with da Quebrada, directors Claudia Priscilla and Kiko Goifman announced they were withdrawing their documentary Bixa Travesty from the festival over what Goifman termed “Israel’s genocidal policies.”

French filmmaker Sylvain Coisne withdrew his short film Dylan, Dylan and Brazilians Calí dos Anjos and Bia Medeiros pulled out their animation Tailor.

Pakistan’s Aks International Minorities Festival has also withdrawn its participation from TLVFest, as the Tel Aviv festival is also known.

Cancellations gather pace

On Friday, it was announced that another four artists pulled out of TLVFest, bringing the total to nine.

French directors Océane Michel and Cyprien Vial asked for two screenings of their film Embrasse-moi! to be removed from the schedule. Similarly Spanish director Dany Campos announced he is withdrawing his short Flaw, and director Fabia Castro announced her support for the cultural boycott of Israel in addition to withdrawing her short Tres.

But according to PACBI, “Despite the cancellations, TLVFest has refused to remove the filmmakers’ films from the festival’s schedule.” Festival director Yair Hochner told Israeli media, “Whoever canceled, canceled. As far as we are concerned the festival will continue normally.”

TLVFest is a cornerstone of Israel’s pinkwashing campaign.

Pinkwashing is the public relations strategy that deploys Israel’s supposed enlightenment toward LGBTQ issues to deflect criticism from its human rights abuses and appeal particularly to Western liberal audiences.

It often involves gross exaggerations of Israel’s progressive policies, accompanied by outright lies about Palestinians.

“For the second year, queer filmmakers are standing in solidarity with Palestinians by refusing to lend their art to ‘pinkwash’ Israeli war crimes,” Haneen Maikey of the activist group alQaws stated.

“Withdrawing from TLVFest 2018 exposes the Israeli government’s cynical and deliberate use of queer culture and visibility to cover up the colonization and occupation of Palestine.”

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Comments

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I didn't see a quote from Shakira saying why she cancelled the show. The Live Nation tweet implies that it was due to scheduling and not out of any principled opposition to performing in Israel.

Maybe somebody should check on that before we get too excited.

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My wholehearted congratulations to Shakira for having the courage of her convictions not to perform in Tel Aviv this summer!