Pop singer Lana Del Rey stood by her decision to perform in Israel after fans and activists urged her to cancel.
“I understand many of you are upset that we’re going to Tel Aviv for the Meteor Festival, I understand your concern,” Del Rey stated on Twitter. “I believe music is universal and should be used to bring us together.”
The festival is actually being held in the Upper Galilee.
Fans urged Del Rey to reconsider, using the Twitter hashtag #LanaDontGo:
Some pointed out that bringing people together through music wouldn’t work since Israeli restrictions mean Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip would not be able to attend her concert:
The pop singer insisted that her “loving energy” could inspire change “even if it’s just for a minute.”
But many of her followers pointed out that there is no well-intentioned way to cross the international picket line, and urged her to heed Palestinian civil society calls to stay away.
One characterized Del Rey’s response as a form of white savior complex.
Another stated that her “excuse is more offensive than her initial fault,” citing an Arabic saying.
Making a political statement
Del Rey insisted that she is a neutral party.
“I would like to remind you that performing in Tel Aviv is not a political statement or a commitment to politics there just as singing here in California doesn’t mean my views are in alignment with my current governments.”
But aside from the fact that she is directly violating an appeal from Palestinians not to go – and that action is a political statement in itself – the Israeli government has openly exploited her decision for its own propaganda.
The Israeli government-backed Act.IL app was used to launch a fake grassroots social media campaign – a tactic known as astroturfing – that directs users to praise the pop singer’s planned performance:
The app also encouraged users to share Del Rey’s statement standing by her decision:
“The Act.IL app is the product of a partnership between Israeli think tanks, lobby groups and Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which poured nearly $600,000 into the project,” The Electronic Intifada reported in May.
PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, is calling on artists to withdraw from the Meteor Festival where Del Rey is scheduled to perform in September.
“Lana Del Rey, we urge you to reconsider. We doubt that you would have played in apartheid South Africa; likewise, artists refuse to play in apartheid Israel,” PACBI stated on Twitter, citing as an example the widely praised decision by Lorde to cancel a performance in Tel Aviv last December.
Naranja was launched by two Israelis – Yonatan Elimelech and Eran Arieli – who met during their time in the Israeli military. “They see the artists they bring to Israel as future ambassadors of Israeli nightlife,” Israeli daily Haaretz reported in 2009.
Following Israel’s invasion of Gaza launched in December 2008 that left around 1,400 Palestinians dead, Naranja wanted to “improve Israel’s image in Scandinavia,” according to Haaretz, adding that its mission goes beyond music.
“We are not political types, but it is important to us that the artists who come here will leave wanting more, and not just musically speaking,” Elimelech told Haaretz.
In addition, the festival’s website recommends accommodation in Israeli settlements in the occupied Golan Heights – illegal under international law – near the festival’s venue in the northern Galilee.
Artists cancel performances
Earlier this month, American rappers Fat Joe and Tyga canceled performances in Israel.
The rappers cited “security concerns” as the reason, without providing further details, according to The Times of Israel.
Their decision prompted the scrapping of the Shaka Festival of hip-hop, which they were due to headline.
Israel grappling to host Eurovision
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to cut government funding from Israel’s public broadcaster Kan if they do not help sponsor next year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Israel.
The government and Kan reached an agreement last week after intense negotiations.
They scrambled to meet a 14 August deadline to deposit $14 million with Eurovision’s sponsor, the European Broadcasting Union, to secure Israel as the contest’s host.
The public broadcaster agreed to take a government loan to cover the deposit and help finance the contest, which is estimated to cost around $42 million.
The agreement to take the loan was reached after it became clear that Netanyahu “would do everything in his power to pass a law to close down the new public broadcaster,” Haaretz reported.
In a sign of Israel’s worries about isolation over its mistreatment of Palestinians, the agreement includes a guarantee from the finance ministry to cover the loan amount “if the competition is ultimately not held in Israel, due to extenuating circumstances such as an earthquake, war or a political boycott of the event organized by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement,” Haaretz reported.
Israeli officials see hosting Eurovision as a “national project” and are willing to invest millions of dollar to ensure it is held there.
They hope the event will help whitewash Israel’s image, especially in the wake of its recent massacres in Gaza.
Over 130 Palestinian football clubs and sports associations warned the German sportswear manufacturer that it may face a boycott call if it continued its sponsorship.
The Israeli association includes six teams based in settlements in the occupied West Bank, all of which are illegal under international law.
Adidas told Israel’s i24 News that its decision was “not politically motivated.”
However, Adidas responded to boycott warnings in March by reaffirming its commitment to human rights.
“We do support and uphold human rights standards and norms and we have raised with FIFA the need for them to adjudicate on the question of the Israeli settlement teams, by following the tenets of international law and their human rights policy,” Adidas stated, referring to football’s world governing body.
Palestinian campaigners are now turning their focus on Puma, which replaced Adidas as the sponsor.
Ali Abunimah contributed reporting.
- Lana Del Rey
- Fat Joe
- Golan Heights
- Meteor Festival
- white savior complex
- Ministry of Strategic Affairs
- apartheid South Africa
- Yonatan Elimelech
- Eran Arieli
- Operation Cast Lead
- The Times of Israel
- Shaka Festival
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- Israel Football Association