The anti-Israel activist who helped convince New Zealand singer Lorde to cancel a concert in Tel Aviv has defended her actions, saying that exclusion was the only way to pressure Israel’s government into making a change.
New Zealanders Nadia Abu-Shanab and Justine Sachs — Palestinian and Jewish, respectively — wrote an open letter last week on the website, The Spinoff, saying that Lorde’s scheduled performance in Israel “sends the wrong message.”
In an interview with the Hebrew-media Walla website published Monday, Sachs said that even she was surprised at the success of her campaign.
“This reached much further than I imagined,” said Sachs, who has been a fan of the singer for some time. “We asked Lorde to not break the boycott and to not support the occupation of Palestinian lands, the destruction of Palestinian lands, homes and lives and I am proud of her brave response that testifies that she has an open progressive mind, is concerned about social justice.”
“I understand the Israeli anger, but your feelings about the Lorde cancellation don’t override the lives of the Palestinians and Palestinian rights. The Israeli government doesn’t represent their interests. A cultural boycott is one on the ways to pressure the Israeli government to make a change.”
Sachs is one of the founders of Dayenu, an online activism page that promotes a boycott of Israel over its presence in the West Bank.
“We wanted to create a discourse in New Zealand in particular with the community and with the Palestinian community in New Zealand,” she said of Dayenu. “To create a discourse about citizen rights abuse by Israel and the occupation.”
“When Lorde announced her on performance in Tel Aviv, we felt that was the moment to speak, to make a voice for peace, justice, and human rights. It was a moment in which we could have a discourse in our local community.”
Asked if she was bothered that many liberal and left-wing Israelis who would have attended the concert would also be impacted by the cancellation, Sachs speculated that they would also prefer to see the boycott preserved.
“I know many Israelis who support the boycott,” she said. “I don’t think they see this as a punishment.”
“This is a critical moment,” she added. “One day we will look back and see this as the start of something quite big. Israeli public opinion and in the world will change.
Art and politics are inseparable, she reasoned.
“I think that art is politics, I think that artists are connected to political statements, I think that for an artist to go to Israel now is a political statement.”
In their open letter to Lorde, Sachs and Abu-Shanab wrote that “millions of people stand opposed to the Israeli government’s policies of oppression, ethnic cleansing, human rights violations, occupation and apartheid.”
“Playing in Tel Aviv will be seen as giving support to the policies of the Israeli government, even if you make no comment on the political situation,” they declared.
On Sunday concert promoter Naranjah sent a message that it was “sorry to announce” that Lorde’s show had been canceled.
The concert promoter released a message from Lorde in which she said she had “done a lot of reading and sought a lot of opinions” before booking the show, but she was “not too proud to admit” that she “didn’t make the right call on this one.”
“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,” she said.
The cancellation appears to be the latest in a series of acts to pull out of performances in Israel, after pressure from pro-Palestinian activists, who have pushed for a cultural boycott of the Jewish state.
Past cancellations include Elvis Costello, Lauryn Hill and The Gorillaz. Other acts have pushed back against such pressure, including rocker Nick Cave, who recently said his Israel concert was spurred on by the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, and Radiohead, which vigorously defended its decision to play in Israel last summer.
Jessica Steinberg and JTA contributed to this report.