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A letter to Lorde from a devastated fan

Music is supposed to unite people, rather than divide them, writes a 15-year-old fan to the New Zealand singer

    (By Kirk Stauffer via Wikimedia Commons)

    Singer-songwriter Lorde has cancelled an upcoming visit to Israel. Here, one 15-year-old fan writes an open letter explaining why she is so disappointed by the decision - and asks the singer to reconsider.

    Dear Lorde,

    My name is Jess, I’m a big fan of yours, and I am a 15 year old student from London. When I found out yesterday that you had cancelled your tour date in Tel Aviv, I was quite honestly heartbroken. As a Jew in a school where the majority of my friends are Muslim, I have been heavily exposed to both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict. I believe that cancelling your concert was the wrong decision to make, and sends out a very confusing message.

    I really respect you for considering many options and reading the sentiments of others in order to shape your own point of view. Nevertheless, you have only responded to one letter publicly, which I was shocked by. The letter contains many falsehoods. I believe it is imperative to ascertain the actual truth, rather than information which has been strung together to fit a certain narrative. While Israel certainly is not the perfect country, it is definitely not as bad as the letter makes out. And it does seem strange to boycott only one country (a democracy) in the world, when there are so many with problems and issues.

    The letter begins with: “Since 1967, Israel has militarily occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza strip.” This is part of the story, but not all of it. Fifty years ago, when it was less than 20 years old, Israel found itself in a struggle for its existence as Egypt, Syria and Jordan sought to destroy it – openly calling for its annihilation. The legacy of that war is still being felt across the region, but it was not – as you would think from the above – all one sided. Things usually aren’t.

    The letter also states that Israel is an apartheid state, similar to South Africa. This is entirely untrue. In South Africa, black people were denied the right to vote, were moved from their houses into segregated “tribal homelands”, could not marry white people, and so forth.

    In Israel, Arabs have voting rights and can sit in the Knesset (Parliament). Arabic is an official language in Israel and unlike Apartheid South Africa, land is not allocated based on ethnicity, so this comparison is ludicrous. Arabs and Jews can also marry who they want to. Of course there is some separation between Jewish and Arab people, and I’m not denying that there are racial tensions within the country. However, calling Israel an apartheid state cheapens the legacy of apartheid and devalues the struggle of those who fought against it.

    The letter also quotes Mandla Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela. After visiting the West Bank, he declared that Israel is the “worst version of apartheid.” While Mandela has every right to come to this view, it seems strange that he never actually visited any other parts of Israel during this trip. Furthermore, it is important to note that Nelson Mandela supported Israel and its right to exist, as well as the Palestinian right to a homeland – which is the same as many of us.

    The letter states that Israel’s illegal settlements break the Geneva convention, which is true. However, it fails to mention Hamas’s human shields, which also break the Geneva convention. I’m certainly not saying that two wrongs make a right, but it seems hypocritical to blame one side for something and not the other.

    Furthermore, you are playing St. Petersburg and Moscow when Russia has broken the Geneva convention for its actions in Ukraine -  how can you pull out of one concert and not the other? In addition, in Russia, it’s just been announced that the opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, will not be allowed to run against Vladimir Putin for President. You are punishing the people of one country because you don’t agree with their government, but not another. Why?

    The letter writes about the Israeli Defence Force’s treatment of Palestinians, including the killing of 11 Palestinians since December 6th. I certainly condemn the IDF’s actions, especially in the case of Ibrahim Abu Thuraya. This seems inexcusable, and the Government are running an inquiry into the events which transpired as it’s currently unclear.

    According to an interim report, “During the demonstration Abu Thuraya attended, Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli soldiers along the border, hurled explosives at them and burned tyres, the report said. Some of the demonstrators also tried to sabotage the border fence.” The letter also complains about the arrest of Ahed Tamimi, but it fails to mention that this was due to her slapping and kicking of IDF soldiers. The letter also does not bring up the number of Israelis killed by Palestinians - although this is smaller than the number of Palestinians killed by the IDF, it still numbers many hundreds.

    The letter also states that by playing in Israel, you would be “giving support to the policies of the Israeli government”, yet they are not upset about your upcoming concerts in Russia. Does performing in St. Petersburg and Moscow mean that you are supporting the Russian anti-gay purge in Chechnya?

    The letter praises your commitment to the “empowerment of women [and] the LGBTIQ community”, so surely they must believe that you should cancel your concerts in Russia as well. On the other hand, Israel is the best country in the Middle East for women’s and LGBTIQ rights, with one of the largest Pride events in the world. It seems confusing that you refuse to play in Israel but continue to hold concerts in Russia. 

    Aside from the reasons above, cancelling your concert simply emboldens people who want to destroy Israel, and has the potential to increase anti-Israel hate. Why punish the people of Israel who were looking forward to your concert? Music is supposed to unite people, rather than divide them.

    I definitely think you made the wrong decision, and while it’s probably too late to reverse your choice, I hope you play Israel in the future. In my opinion, doing what is right is better than some bad PR.

    All the best,

    Jess