By Jennifer Lipman
April 15, 2011
Remember when Bill Clinton hosted Charlotte Church at the White House? Did you know Mariah Carey recently entertained the Obamas for Christmas? Or that before he became Prime Minister David Cameron dined with Simon Cowell?
What about the Alternative Vote campaign (both yes and no) at the moment – both sides of which are a veritable who's who of showbiz supporters?
What have they got to do with a teenage pop star from Canada with floppy hair?
Earlier this week, Justin Bieber arrived in Israel for a much-heralded Tel Aviv concert. His plan (closely guarded by the international media) was to spend a few days touring Israel's Christian treasures and relaxing on the beach, but there was also talk of a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The meeting was called off at the last minute – with both sides pointing fingers. The Bibi camp said Bieber had cancelled because a group of Israeli children from the southern communities blighted by rocket fire from Hamas folk in Gaza was also on the guestlist. The Bieber camp said the meeting was never officially given the go ahead.
The spat (such as it was) prompted the inevitable peace summit jokes – "Justin Bieber, paparazzi target, fails to find peace in the Middle East" and "Justin Bieber's troubled diplomacy in Israel" - with some on Twitter sniggering that Bibi was boycotting Bieber. Hilarity ensued.
The truth, as with all these things, was probably somewhere in between. No matter, though, because the Economist's anonymous American Politics blogger decided that by even attempting to meet the star Netanyahu had set a record for "petty, grasping cheesiness". It was apparently a social faux pas to bring some kids from Sderot along.
"Trying to turn a photo op with a teen idol into a propaganda stunt for the war on Gaza. Nice."
Besides the fact that the Israel-Canada drama really had little to do with American politics, what an unnecessarily contemptuous jab at Israel.
As reader "chernyshevsky" most eloquently commented:
"If students from the Brazilian school where the recent mass shooting occurred were invited to a celebrity concert, would people condemn it as a political gesture? If efforts were made to bring some joy to children affected by conflicts in Libya or Ivory Coast, would people cheer in like manner when these fall short?
"What have the children of Sderot done to deserve such scornful indifference? Does the fact that they're Jewish somehow make their trauma insignificant, unworthy of sympathy, the stuff of dirty politics?"
Yes, of course Netanyahu comes across as opportunistic and a bit of an embarrassment for acting like a desperate teenage fan.
It's absolutely cringe-making when greying politicians like Bibi try to appear down with kids, when they act like the nerd grasping for the attention of the coolest kid in class. But last I heard, it's not exactly unique.
Every politician in the world tries to bask in the reflected light of celebrities. It may be silly and show them to lack substance; we may well wish our leaders spent more time on policy and less time on performers. But whether we like it or not, in today's world politics and showbusiness go hand in hand.
It's not just Netanyahu and it's not just Israel.