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Why I can’t listen to Lorde any more

If you’re not accustomed to feeling under cultural siege, it’s nigh-on impossible for you to understand someone who is

    A slightly embarrassing confession to make. I quite like Lorde. Sure, as a six-foot male from Glasgow I have a hard time admitting to it in public but still, I’m a fan of her music, melodramatic as it is. Glory and Gore, from her debut album, is one of my favourite songs. 

    Recently, however, my taste for Lorde has become embarrassing for other reasons. Lorde, under pressure from the anti-Zionist Boycott Divestment Sanctions campaign, recently cancelled a planned concert in Israel. She claimed to be doing so to protest human rights abuses by the Israeli government, but strangely enough such humanitarian concerns haven’t stopped her touring in Russia.

    This means I can’t listen to Lorde any more. Maybe she isn’t antisemitic, but the BDS campaign is, and I’m not going to give money to people who kow-tow to antisemites, no matter how lyrically gifted they are.

    Now, I could go on at great length about BDS and their BS, but this is a student views column, not a political platform, so instead I’m going to talk about the effect of all these boycotts and counter-boycotts on young Jews. 

    In a climate of growing antisemitism, of acrimonious debate over the status of Israel and all that entails, being Jewish feels almost like a political act. It feels like I’m not an individual, but one of many footsoldiers in a culture war. Like everything we do, we do not for ourselves, but to help secure a future for Judaism. Or, if that’s too grandiose, to shut up angry idiots with Palestinian flags as their Twitter profile pictures. I still remember the sense of sheer relief I felt when my favourite band, Sabaton, made positive reference to Israel in one of their songs. I still remember pretending to be a fan of Radiohead (Radiohead!), when they did what Lorde failed to do and faced down the BDS mob.

    My non-Jewish friends struggle to understand this, and to be fair, I don’t blame them. On the face of it, it is a little ridiculous - a student from Scotland boycotting a singer from New Zealand, based on their actions towards a state in the Middle East.  And at times, it can feel restrictive. Thom Yorke has written literally one good song in his life, while Lorde is one of the most interesting artists currently active, but Thom Yorke picked my side, and Lorde picked the other one, so I feel I have a responsibility to appreciate one and boycott the other.  As remote and distant as conflicts over Jerusalem are to me, I still feel its tentacles on my shoulder whatever I do.

    I’m not saying my non-Jewish friends are ignorant, but if you’re not accustomed to feeling under cultural siege, it’s nigh-on impossible for you to understand someone who is.

    So, maybe it’s stupid. Maybe this is just a chip on my shoulder I need to dislodge. But I don’t think so. Because to be a young Jewish student is to know there are people around the world who mean you and people like you harm. It is also to know that there are people you might otherwise like or admire, who, perhaps unwittingly, give aid and comfort to antisemites.

    Try not getting paranoid in those circumstances.

    Jamie Rodney is one of the JC's regular student bloggers for 2017-18. He is studying English at St Andrews University

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