Since Lana Del Rey burst onto the scene in 2011 with her soulful, evocative and often wistful music, she's toured around the world, performing widely in the US and Western Europe. International support for her award-wining music also brought her to places like Istanbul, Moscow and Beijing.
Of course, Del Rey's concert in Turkey couldn't reasonably be viewed as a political statement in support of the Erdogan regime and the repression of journalists, academics and civil servants. Similarly, her concert in Russia certainly didn't represent an endorsement of authorities’ military aggression in Syria or the annexation of Crimea. Nor did Del Rey's performance in China signify the singer's alignment with a totalitarian regime that, as reports by the human rights organisation Freedom House demonstrate, is one of the worst human rights abusers on the planet.
Yet, if we were to believe BDS activists, only the singer-songwriter's upcoming performance in Israel – which Freedom House ranks as the only free, democratic country in the region – should be viewed through the lens of the government's alleged human rights abuses.
As the singer argued in a tweet in response to calls to cancel her Israeli show, “music is universal and should be used to bring us together”. The American born Del Rey, an outspoken critic of the Trump administration, also noted that her gigs in the US naturally don't mean that her views are in alignment with what she's described as the Trump administration's “inhuman actions”.
The tendency of anti-Israel campaigners to hold Israeli citizens responsible for the actions of their government, whilst failing to hold citizens of countries with far worse human rights records to the same standard, gets to the heart of the immoral double standards which compromise the BDS movement.
In addition to targeting artists who visit Israel, BDS activist in the UK and Europe also attempt to blacklist visiting Israeli academics, cultural figures and even athletes, often using the specious argument that Jerusalem is using such ordinary citizens in an attempt to ”whitewash“ the occupation.
Is it even conceivable that progressive activists would put pressure on British institutions to, say, cancel performances from a visiting Russian orchestra to protest Vladimir Putin, or refuse to cooperate with Chinese academics because their research is partially funded by Beijing?
In one especially disturbing example, a former Cambridge University lecturer actually refused to answer a letter from a 13-year-old Israeli girl asking about horse breeding “until there was justice in Palestine”, out of deference to the BDS Movement.
Sometimes, even non-Israeli Jews are targeted. In 2015, organisers of a music festival in Spain initially demanded that Matisyahu, an American Jewish singer, denounce Israel and express his support for the Palestinians to be granted permission to perform. He refused to do so. Then, following a wave of criticism against the festival by the press and Spanish government, Matisyahu was re-invited, and performed as scheduled, saying that he “always believed in the power of music to unite all people, regardless of religion, politics or geography”.
However, the goal of BDS is certainly not to “unite” people, promote peace or bring Israelis and Palestinians together. Their real goal is to ostracise Israelis and delegitimise even non-Israeli supporters of the state who acknowledge that Israel is flawed, but also recognise, as Freedom House put it, the country “is a multiparty democracy with strong and independent institutions that guarantee political rights and civil liberties for most of the population” and has “a judiciary active in protecting minority rights”.
If peace between Israel and the Palestinians is ever going to be achieved, it will require that Israelis and Palestinians are both taken seriously as moral actors in a maddeningly complex conflict that requires each side to make painful compromises. It will also require the recognition that BDS, and other efforts which demonise Israel and vilify ordinary Israelis, is inimical to the spirit of dialogue, co-existence and reconciliation – initiatives between the two parties that a real and lasting peace must be predicated upon.
Adam Levick covers the British media for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)
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