Lorde strikes the right chord


Pop star Lorde is not just a singer, songwriter, record producer and Grammy-award winning artist. The New Zealander is these days the lightning rod that has come to the defense of the Palestinians. By cancelling a planned concert in Israel, Lorde has joined the overwhelming majority of the world which rejects the Israeli occupation and supports the freedom and justice that this oppressor regime has denied the Palestinian people.

Lorde had been urged to cancel the scheduled concert in Tel Aviv by Palestinian solidarity activists. Lorde responded by saying she was considering her options. A few days later she opted to nix the concert.

It was the right decision. Lorde’s concert, which was to be held in June, would have shown support for Israel’s occupation of land the Palestinians claim for a future state. A performance in Israel would have sent the wrong message. It would have been seen as giving support to the policies of the Israeli government, even if she had not mentioned anything about the political situation.

Specifically, Lorde was following activists’ calls for her to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which, since 2005, has been calling on “people of conscience” to employ non-violent tactics to pressure Israel into ending its military control of Palestinian territories and comply with international law in its treatment of Palestinians. In response to the movement, modeled after a similar campaign in the 1970s and 80s to end apartheid rule in South Africa, numerous writers, artists and musicians have canceled events in Israel or declared their support for a cultural boycott.

BDS has claimed numerous successes in recent years, including pressuring the Israeli beverage company SodaStream to move its facility from the West Bank to Israel. Consequently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made defeating the BDS movement a priority of his administration. He has approved $36 million for the creation of an agency to help fight it, seeking to raise the same amount again from private donors and organizations. In March last year, the Knesset passed a law barring those who support boycotts against Israel or West Bank settlements from entering the country.

The law, however, violates the most basic tenets of democracy by making political opinions a consideration that may prevent non-citizens from entering Israel. Those seeking to enter the country most certainly need not align their political positions with those of the Israeli government, especially with regards to the occupation. Moreover, the law targets human rights organizations that oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its treatment of Palestinians.

Lorde has previously championed other political and social issues but the fight against the Israeli occupation might be her biggest challenge yet. She was slapped with a $13,000 lawsuit by three teenage Israeli fans for “emotional damage” resulting from the cancelled concert. The lawsuit was filed under a 2011 Israeli law allowing lawsuits against anyone calling for a boycott of Israel. It is thought to be the first case filed under the law. The law has not been tested in court, and a link between a boycott call and an actual boycott may be hard to prove.

Notwithstanding, the real “emotional damage” is that of the Palestinians. After Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and cut aid to the Palestinians, Lorde’s decision provides at least a sliver of hope to the Palestinians in an otherwise increasingly bleak picture.

Lorde is a superstar with a worldwide fan base. Twice she has been included in Time magazine’s list of the most influential teenagers in the world. As such, she can influence millions of young people, a portion of whom could ultimately espouse her views on issues such as the Palestinian cause.

Every voice counts.