In her short career, 21-year-old pop star Lorde has made undeniable waves in the music industry and landscape. But now, the New Zealander has made waves in the Jewish community for something other than catchy songs.
Lorde, born Ella Yelich-O’Connor, was scheduled to play a show in Tel Aviv in June, but backed out on Dec. 24, after lobbying by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel and an open letter from two fans from the Dayenu movement in her home country.
Upon reading this letter, Lorde tweeted that she was “considering all options.”
After Lorde pulled the plug on her show, she tweeted that she has “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.”
This decision was met with backlash in the pro-Israel community, most notably with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who took out a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post on Jan. 1, labeling the singer a “bigot.”
In Arizona, musicians decried the announcement as well.
Todd Herzog, a singer-songwriter and cantorial soloist at Temple Solel who visited Israel for the first time in December, said he thought Lorde’s decision was “naive and short-sighted.”
“Israel is not perfect,” Herzog said. “I witnessed the security barrier and saw the injustices that have been done to the Palestinian people, so I’m not saying that those things don’t exist.
“But to try to single out Israel as a nation when there are even in Lorde’s own country of New Zealand human rights abuses against aboriginal people ... to single out Israel as the one place where she’s not going to go seems more like a political stunt.”
Scott Leader, a musician and songwriter in the Valley who was once the cantorial soloist at Temple Sinai in Denver, thought Lorde’s decision was “spineless and stupid.” He was confused as to why Lorde initially booked the concert in Israel if she had such strong personal objections to the country’s policies.
“Anywhere you go in the country, in the world, you can find a problem, even in the United States,” Leader said. “I mean, you would never play anywhere if you wanted to base your career off of your political and social viewpoint.”
In response to Lorde’s decision, 56 artists (including actor John Cusack and musician Brian Eno) signed a letter supporting Lorde.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Creative Community for Peace, an organization made up of industry executives and artists who are against the boycott of Israel, issued a statement that said the group was “deeply disappointed that Lorde canceled her show in Tel Aviv after receiving pressure from the radical boycott Israel movement.”
“Artists should never become beholden to the political views of a small but loud minority ... [a] political movement ultimately aiming to extinguish the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people rather than a movement for human rights,” the group added.
A-listers such as Rihanna and Justin Timberlake have performed in Israel.
Herzog doubted that Lorde’s decision would have any impact on the well-being of the Palestinian people. He also noted that situation was complicated and doubted whether Lorde had “all of the information.”
“It’s not fair that the Arabs are being sequestered into these little communities and surrounded by walls in some places, but it’s also not fair to subject Israeli citizens to terror attacks and suicide bombs,” Herzog said.
“Somewhere in the middle, there has to be some kind of a compromise. It’s not immediately clear what that compromise should be, but when you have artists like Lorde simplifying the situation, I don’t think that it really helps at all.” JN