RABBI SHMULEY: Lorde Joins the Horde of Antisemitic BDS

Lorde (Zac Kaczmarek / Getty)
Zac Kaczmarek / Getty

It took only 21 short years for New Zealand singer Lorde to succumb to the corruption of celebrity and align herself with bigotry and antisemitism.

This week, she canceled her planned June 2018 concert in Israel and joined the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks the economic annihilation of the State of Israel.

In choosing to align herself with those committed to Israel’s fiscal destruction, Lorde broke with some of the greatest names in modern music, including Lady GagaJustin TimberlakeRihannaRadiohead, and Sir Paul McCartney, who in 2008 played to an audience of 400,000 people in Tel Aviv, despite receiving death threats.

When I was Michael Jackson’s rabbi, his strong feelings for the Jewish community meant he was even prepared to suffer professionally for his love of Israel and the Jewish people. In 1993, Michael went to Israel on his Dangerous Tour, where he performed for 160,000 fans in Tel Aviv.

In late 2000, a Jewish philanthropist called me and told me that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was coming to his home that night for a reception. He asked if Michael Jackson would come there and meet with the Prime Minister. I turned to Michael, in the presence of some of his professional staff, and asked him if he would like to meet the Israeli prime minister. Michael immediately jumped at the opportunity and told me he would love to do so. However, the people who surrounded him at the time mentioned that it might not be a good idea. They said that Sharon was hated in many parts of world, especially in Arab nations. A photograph of Michael with Ariel Sharon could spark a significant backlash, including a boycott of Michael’s albums and music. Michael dismissed their concerns and said that he felt very excited to meet the prime minister.

A few minutes later, we embarked in Michael’s van and crossed town to the meeting. The pictures of Michael greeting Prime Minister Sharon, along with me and our mutual friend Uri Geller, were published throughout the world. Michael’s professional staff were correct. The very next day websites called for a boycott of Michael’s music, saying that he supported Israel’s “hated” leader. Michael didn’t care. He loved Israel and the Jewish people and he was thrilled to meet Israel’s democratically elected leader.

That’s why it’s so sad to see a pop star like Lorde going over to the dark side of bigotry and antisemitism at such a young age. Even more hypocritical was her announcement that she would be keeping her engagements in Putin’s Russia, that global font of Nobel-prize grade humanitarianism. Lorde’s decision to play in Russia, which has backed the murder of 500,000 Arabs in Syria under Bashar al-Assad, makes a mockery of her tour and will forever undermine any legitimate pretense she might otherwise have had to be a human rights activist.

The Zionist Federation of New Zealand put it well when they condemned Lorde for joining the ranks of “those who wish to see the destruction of Israel. … By singling out Israel amongst other nations whose human rights abuses make any that Israel supposedly commit seem a drop in the ocean, shows the double standards and discrimination towards the Jewish state of those in the BDS movement.”

Just in case Lorde may be reading this column, has a conscience, and is interested in repentance, let’s be clear. The sole purpose of BDS is to destroy Israel. It has no interest whatsoever in Palestinian rights. If it did, it would be boycotting Egypt for destroying hundreds of Palestinian homes on the Gaza border in October 2014 to stop Hamas from smuggling weapons. If BDS was about Palestinian rights, it would be boycotting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for becoming a dictator and running a kleptocracy in the Palestinian Authority. If BDS were about Palestinian rights, it would be boycotting Hamas for its honor killings and assassinations of Palestinians who protest its vile and brutal rule.

BDS has no interest in protecting Arab life. If it did, it would be boycotting Syria for murdering half a million Arabs.

BDS has no interest in protesting an occupation. If it did, it would be boycotting China for occupying Tibet since 1950, the longest occupation in the modern world.

BDS has no interest in promoting Arab human rights. If it did, it would be divesting from Qatar ,Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and every other Arab country where Arabs are denied the most basic rights like freedom of press, freedom to protest their government, and the freedom to vote, all of which are guaranteed to Arabs only in Israel.

BDS trades in antisemitism by trivializing human rights abuses in any country but democratic Israel. BDS has nothing to say of the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar, the hanging of gays in Iran, the honor killings of women in Pakistan, and the political imprisonment of tens of thousands of political prisoners in Turkey. As far as intent, BDS stands for “Brutally destroy Semites,” with the Semites in question being Jews.

Lorde, do you not understand that joining the anti-Semitic BDS movement has brought you into serious discredit? Do you not understand that you are emboldening Israel’s enemies like Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah all of whom seeks Israel’s physical destruction?

Lorde, you are young. But youth is not excuse for anti-Semitism and bigotry. Might I suggest that you look to your elder in music, legendary Lady Gaga, who said to the massive crowd of Israelis at her 2014 concert in Israel: “Ani ohevet et’chem” (I love you). She closed off her songs with the words “Todah rabah” (thank you very much).

Best of all, she told the crowd: “Put your hands up and cheer for yourselves. “You are strong, you are brave, you are confident, and I f–king love you, Israel.”

The expletive might have been unnecessary, but her commitment to a country that is the foremost bastion of human rights in the Middle East was downright incredible.

Perhaps it’s time for Lorde to ask guidance from the Lord and try and fix a severely broken moral and spiritual compass.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post and Newsweek call “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books, including his most recent, “The Israel Warrior.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


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