Our Lorde

So the Kiwi songstress Lorde is reconsidering her Israeli options. How very unsurprising.

Depending on how one reads these things, my fellow New Zealander has either suffered a horrendous backlash from gazillions of her fans or a concerted campaign by a relatively small number of slacktivists and anti-Semitic phantoms who have besieged her social media accounts ever since the announcement she would play Tel Aviv next year.

In either event, the mix of dubious assertions having to do with Israeli “apartheid” and dark hints of what the show might do to her future artistic prospects will be familiar to anyone who followed the online noise engendered by the recent performances by Nick Cave in the same city.

As Cave explained during his Israeli stopover last month, the naming and shaming game has become a tediously familiar experience for any performers looking to make an Israeli stopover.

Unlike the dark poet of Australian music, however, Lorde hasn’t spent decades exquisitely honing the art of lifting a middle finger to those who claim a right to tell artists where they may or may not play. Nor does she share Cave’s longstanding fascination with religion or affinity with Israelis.

The young woman whose breakout song was called Royals also has to worry about … well, royalties. As successful as she has been in her still-tender career, she’s not commercially unassailable like the Rolling Stones, Radiohead, Madonna or Elton John — artists who were all secure enough to call the bluff of their detractors, perform in the Jewish state and emerge none the worse for it.

Yes, yes, of course, as pretty much everybody knows, the situation in the Palestinian territories is not democratically pretty. But the BDS arguments are just as dire. They claim, preposterously, the mere presence of an artist, even within Israel’s recognised borders, will somehow make that situation worse; a non-appearance, on the other hand, will help usher in the day when all will be well and Arab and Jew may yet live together in a state of enduring felicity.

Exactly how these various dots can be joined is never quite explained, for the rather good reason that they can’t. Which is why a lot of the current “backlash” having to do with Lorde has consisted of the name-calling, cultural smears and ululations that constitute so much of social media activity these days.

For the benefit of those who might not know, the nation the tentative artist and I call home is a colonial construct built on land that was blatantly stolen from its native inhabitants.

Cities such as Auckland and Wellington are no less settlements than any outposts on land captured in the 1967 war. Indeed, New Zealand lacks any of the justifications — historical, religious, cultural and linguistic — that led to Israel’s modern establishment. And we are talking Israel here, not the Palestinian territories: Lorde was never booked to play Hebron but the glittering cultural melting pot that is Tel Aviv.

If she does bail, citing the standard-issue BDS party line, the least she could also do is pull a curtain down on any future New Zealand dates.

Or, better still, she could do the right thing and follow the example of Nick Cave’s recent one-fingered salute in the direction of the bullies.

About the Author
David Cohen is a Wellington-based author and journalist whose work appears frequently in publications around the world.
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