Actress Meg Ryan's decision to cancel her appearance at this week’s Jerusalem Film Festival didn’t garner the same attention in Israel as British rocker Elvis Costello when he nixed his Israel concert this spring.Musicians that cancel appearances under pressure are denying their fans the ability to see them live.
Both, however, were a reminder to Israelis that in the eyes of much of the world, Israel’s politics and culture are inseparable.
The cancellations were part of a string that Israel has experienced over the past few months, including appearances by the indie rock band The Pixies, singer Devendra Banhart, alternative rockers Gorillaz, the British band the Klaxons and American soul singer Gil Scott-Heron. In February, rock legend Carlos Santana withdrew from a sold-out performance reportedly due to pressure from pro-Palestinian groups.
Israelis have taken to calling this a “cultural intifada” -- borrowing a term used by the Palestinians to describe their uprisings against Israel.
"Intense pressure is being applied to foreign artists not to come to Israel," prominent Israeli promoter Shuki Weiss, who has brought such top-name acts to Israel as Madonna and Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, told the Israeli business daily Globes.
After The Pixies canceled last month, Weiss called it “cultural terrorism.”
"I am full of both sorrow and pain in light of the fact that our repeated attempts to present quality acts and festivals in Israel have increasingly been falling victim to what I can only describe as a form of cultural terrorism which is targeting Israel and the arts worldwide," Weiss wrote in a statement.[...]
Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar, whose 2007 movie "Beaufort" received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, told JTA that the refusal of artists to perform in Israel is a kind of collective punishment of the culture-loving public -- often the very public that is "extra critical of Israeli policies.”
Cedar said that while he believes a boycott is "a legitimate way for an artist to express his political views,” they should be political views the artist has consistently and publicly held.
Some artists appear to be concerned that their performances in Israel will be perceived as a political endorsement of Israel's policies.[...]
After coming under pressure from pro-Palestinian groups such as the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Jethro Tull reaffirmed that it would be playing three concerts in Israel in early August.
Front man Ian Anderson said in a statement linked to the concert dates that he has "long maintained the position that culture and the arts should be free of political and religious censorship and a distance kept between them." Anderson also said he would donate his concert proceeds to charities promoting coexistence.
Others have been more unabashedly warm toward Israel. In mid-June, Elton John, who has donated money to Israeli causes, played before an enthusiastic crowd.[...]
Musicians Rod Stewart and Rihanna also performed in Israel last month. And on Sunday, Ynet reported that American singer Missy Elliott announced that after pressure to cancel her July 15 show in Tel Aviv, she will arrive in Israel a day early to tour the country with her entourage of dancers and crew.
Elvis Costello is nowhere on my "to listen to" music playlist. His cancelling an appearance in Israel is a slap in the face.
UPDATE: After a commenter mentioned something, I did find this.
It took two phone calls to Hoffman’s agent and publicist — and an e-mail to Ryan’s publicist — to get Hoffman’s and Ryan’s side of the story: It was false.Eshman does make a brilliant point when it comes to artists that do consider boycotting Israel:
Hoffman did not pull out of the Jerusalem Film Festival to boycott Israel. He had never committed to going.
Ryan, through her publicist, said the same thing: She had been invited but had never accepted.
“Meg did not pull out of the Jerusalem Film Festival, as she never accepted the offer to attend,” her publicist, Stephen Huvane,e-mailed me. “She was invited, but her schedule did not allow her to attend the festival.”
The Jerusalem Post and The New York Times eventually printed small retractions to the initial large Hoffman stories, although the reports of a major Hollywood star “boycotting” Israel still show up as fact on myriad blogs and Web sites.
If a client calls and wonders aloud if boycotting Israel is the right thing to do, here are three questions and a suggestion his or her agent can offer:
1. Are your facts correct? The Middle East crisis is a cesspool of misinformation. Breaking news stories are the most susceptible to lies and spin. The initial reports following the shooting of Muhammed al-Dura, the so-called massacre at Jenin, even the flotilla raid all proved exaggerated, misleading or false. Before you decide, make sure you get the facts.
2. Are you being fair? Israel is an imperfect democracy. But poll after poll shows its people want to reach a just resolution to its problems with the Palestinians, and numerous Israeli governments have tried. For all its flaws, Israel doesn’t come close to the levels of social and political oppression, injustice, occupation, resource theft or cruelty that is common in Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, Syria or Egypt — to name a few. The American invasion and occupation of Iraq killed more innocents in seven years than Israel ever would or could — but no one’s boycotting the Staples Center. Why single out Israel?
3. Are you being effective? Once you are informed and you put Israel’s transgressions in perspective, by all means take the right action — speak out. But speak out against extremists and fanatics on all sides. That’s the real battle here: between fanatics on all sides who want to perpetuate hate and deny the other side’s rights, and moderates on all sides who want a better future for their children. The band Jethro Tull donated proceeds from a concert to groups that bridge gaps between Jews and Arabs. Use your platform to support the many people in Israel fighting for a just solution. The artistic, musical and film communities are at the forefront of this struggle — your support for them can really make a difference.