Israeli promoter: ‘Naive’ to think Lorde could withstand boycott pressure

Production company Naranjah asks fans for forgiveness, says it’s not angry at pop star for caving

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Lorde performs at Coachella Music & Arts Festival in Indio, California, on April 16, 2017. (Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Lorde performs at Coachella Music & Arts Festival in Indio, California, on April 16, 2017. (Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

The Israeli concert promoter behind pop star Lorde’s now canceled Tel Aviv show said it was “naive” to think the New Zealand singer could have withstood the pressure from Israel boycott activists and apologized to fans.

“The truth is that I was naive to think that an artist of her age would contain the pressure involved in coming to Israel, and I take full responsibility,”  Eran Arielli, who co-founded the Naranjah production company, wrote on Facebook early on Tuesday.

Arielli thanked Lorde for looking Israel’s way and sought to “apologize” for the backlash.

“She does not deserve all the shit that has gone on in the last week since the announcement, and the last thing she needs in her comeback campaign is a bunch of globalists and anti-Semites on her head. I have no complaints about her, and even more, my assessment of her has not been affected one millimeter,” he wrote.

Lorde’s cancellation isn’t the first that Naranjah has experienced, wrote Arielli, nor will it be the last.

The promotion group specializes in bringing indie, or independent, rock groups to Israel, and has successfully organized local concerts for Radiohead, Tame Impala, Brian Wilson, alt-J and others.

The 21-year-old singer formally announced on Sunday she would be pulling out of the June 5 Tel Aviv concert and refunding Israeli fans who had bought tickets.

The move has been widely panned in Israel and by Jewish organizations.

Culture Minister Miri Regev urged Lorde to rethink her decision, calling on the singer to “ignore foreign political considerations, especially delusional ones.”

On Tuesday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanual Nahshon said Lorde had been invited for a “friendly meeting” with Israel’s Ambassador to New Zealand to discuss her decision.

On Twitter, United Nations Watch NGO Executive Director Hillel Neuer called out Lorde for canceling performances in Israel but not in the “perfect dictatorship” of Russia.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote on Twitter earlier this week he was “disappointed” Lorde called off the show, missing a “chance to share her views with an Israeli audience and make an impact.”

Outside Israel, a group of artists and entertainment industry executives — part of Creative Community for Peace — wrote they were “deeply disappointed” and that “artists should never become beholden to the political views of a small but loud minority.”

Actress Roseanne Barr called Lorde a “bigot” on Twitter.

The cancellation came several days after Lorde said she was considering pulling out of the gig due to a campaign led by two pro-Palestinian activists in her native New Zealand.

Eran Arielli, one of the co-founders of Naranjah, the promotion group that signed Kiwi singer Lorde, who canceled due to BDS pressures (Courtesy Eran Arielli Facebook page)

At the time, promoter Naranjah published 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 letters that Lorde referred to may have been extremely violent and threatening, said Adam Shay, a cultural boycott expert at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, who works closely with concert promoters in these situations of BDS cancellations.

“We don’t see the 500 letters being sent to Lorde, to her promoter, manager, bandmates, to her mother,” said Shay. “Based on past experiences, these letters often contain death threats.”

Lorde had received a letter from New Zealanders Nadia Abu-Shanab and Justine Sachs — respectively, Palestinian and Jewish — who wrote an open letter on Thursday on the website, The Spinoff, saying that Lorde’s scheduled performance in Israel “sends the wrong message.”

“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 wrote.

In response, the singer had tweeted that she was now “considering all options.”

Adam Shay, a cultural boycott expert (Courtesy Adam Shay)

“I’ve seen dozens of such letters,” said Shay. “A 21-year-old girl from New Zealand who doesn’t necessarily know much about Israel, she comes to a different understanding. She’ll go to Google and write, ‘Israel, apartheid.’ It’s easy to come to this decision if you don’t know the facts.”

He linked the singer’s musical style to the political decision.

“Different musical genres have different underlying political ideologies,” said Shay. “It’s definitely easier to influence an indie artist because they are required to have an element of social awareness and that makes them more susceptible to BDS belligerence.”

Other musical genres can completely “shrug off” the notion of boycott, said Shay, pointing to heavy metal bands — which shun intervention of any kind as a “sellout” — or older, more established musicians who have their own history with Israel and can make up their own minds.

Aussie rocker Nick Cave addressed Israeli journalists during a press conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday, November 11, 2017, during which he said he was performing in Israel as a stand against BDS (screenshot: Israel Hayom)

“Whenever I deal with producers, I always say to them up front, let the artist know what they’re getting into and know what to expect,” he said.  “Lorde is younger and not as established as other acts that have visited Israel, that also means she’s easier to influence. And we shouldn’t place the whole burden of BDS on the fragile shoulders of a 21-year-old from New Zealand.”

It’s up to the government to acknowledge the strategic problem here, said Shay, and offer local promoters the option of insuring their events.

“We don’t know who doesn’t even consider performing in Israel to begin with,” said Shay. “Playing in Israel is now a political decision — that is the success of BDS.”

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