New Zealand pop star Lorde sparked intense backlash and calls for a boycott on social media this week after canceling a planned concert in Israel next summer due to pressure from the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The 21-year-old “Royals” singer was due to perform in Tel Aviv in June 2018 but reversed course and canceled the concert this week after coming under pressure from BDS, the hard-left movement which advocates for financial and cultural boycotts of Israel.
“I’ve received an overwhelming number of messages and letters and have had a lot of discussions with people holding many views, and I think the right decision at this time is to cancel the show,” Lorde said in statement announcing her decision.
The cancelation was met with widespread backlash both on social media and in the larger entertainment industry.
Actress Roseanne Barr reacted to the news by tweeting, “Boycott this bigot.”
Meanwhile, numerous social media users called attention to the fact that Lorde’s two planned concerts in Russia would still go on as scheduled, accusing the singer of hypocrisy for supposedly canceling the Israel show for human rights reasons.
.@Lorde If you canceled your concert in 🇱 Israel, an imperfect liberal democracy, but not in 🇷🇺 Russia, a perfect dictatorship that poisons its own dissidents, persecutes gays, and helped kill 500,000 Syrians, you're not being pro-human rights—you're just being anti-Israeli. pic.twitter.com/sl9fL9x9dH
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) December 25, 2017
Feminist @lorde cancels concert in Israel – only place in the Middle East where women are truly equal – on moral grounds. I look forward to her making a stand for the millions of oppressed women living under Islam. Or cancelling her Russian concerts due to the treatment of LGBT.
— Rita Panahi (@RitaPanahi) December 26, 2017
I just deleted all my Lorde songs since she won't play Israel.
Protests are not as visually stunning in the digital age.
— Jeff Dwoskin – Hashtag Roundup (@bigmacher) December 25, 2017
The backlash has spilled over onto the singer’s Facebook page, with many of the top comments on her posts featuring sharp criticism of the cancelation.
“Anyone that will play in Russia and not play in Israel based on alleged human rights concerns is either ignorant or anti-Semitic,” one Facebook user wrote.
“To recap: artist from country built on colonialism and land theft has zero qualms playing in Russia or the Vatican, but refuses to play in a state built by a returning indigenous people,” added another.
Additionally, a large group of entertainment industry executives, including from talent agency powerhouses CAA and WME, have publicly criticized Lorde’s move.
The Creative Community for Peace said in a statement over the holiday weekend that it was “deeply disappointed” over the cancellation, and described BDS as 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’s “anti-boycott” initiative was also reportedly signed by an additional thirty thousand people.
Several artists have cancelled scheduled concerts in Israel due to BDS pressure, perhaps most notably Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, who remains one of the most vocal anti-Israel celebrities in entertainment.
Other artists have gone ahead with concerts in the country, including Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Radiohead, and Sir Paul McCartney, the latter having disregarded death threats to play to an audience of 400,000 people in Tel Aviv in 2008.
In June, Radiohead singer Thom Yorke fired back after Waters and other pro-BDS activists attempted to pressure the group into cancelling their concert.
“It’s deeply disrespectful to assume that we’re either being misinformed or that we’re so retarded we can’t make these decisions ourselves,” Yorke said. “I thought it was patronizing in the extreme. It’s offensive and I just can’t understand why going to play a rock show or going to lecture at a university [is a problem to them].”
A number of major acts are still set to perform in Israel next year, including former Beatle Ringo Starr.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum