Alicia Keys and a Brief History of the Israel Boycott

You Can't Tell the Artists Without a BDS Scorecard

The Keys To Boycotting a Boycott: Alicia Keys played Tel Aviv on the 4th of July.
Getty Images
The Keys To Boycotting a Boycott: Alicia Keys played Tel Aviv on the 4th of July.

By Anne Cohen

Published July 16, 2013, issue of July 19, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The question of whether or not to perform in Israel can be controversial for Jewish and non-Jewish artists alike. Will it be perceived as a political statement? Will it cost them fans? Not to mention the pressure from supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and, perhaps most influential, fellow artists.

The latest artist in this ongoing saga is Alicia Keys, who decided to boycott the boycotters and perform in Tel Aviv on the Fourth of July.

The first call for Keys to boycott Israel came from t author Alice Walker, who famously refused to allow “The Color Purple” to be translated into Hebrew.

Walker wrote to Keys that “a cultural boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions (not individuals) is the only option left to artists who cannot bear the unconscionable harm Israel inflicts every day on the people of Palestine, whose major ‘crime’ is that they exist in their own land, land that Israel wants to control as its own.This is actually a wonderful opportunity for you to learn about something sorrowful, and amazing: that our government (Obama in particular) supports a system that is cruel, unjust, and unbelievably evil.”

Despite pressure from Walker and from BDS groups and Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, Keys refused to give in. “I look forward to my first visit to Israel,” she told The New York Times in May. “Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show.”

Ma koreh, Tel Aviv,” Keys said as she opened her concert.

To play or not to play? Here are the artists who have said yes, no or a very solid maybe to performing in the Holy Land.

NOT BOYCOTTING

Neil Tennant
getty images
Neil Tennant

PET SHOP BOYS (2013)

“I don’t agree with this comparison of Israel to apartheid-era South Africa,” Neil Tennant, wrote on the band’s website. The band performed a show in Israel on June 23. Tennant stated, “In apartheid-era South Africa, artists could only play to segregated audiences; in Israel anyone who buys a ticket can attend a concert.”

ELTON JOHN (2010)

“Nobody gonna stop me from playing here, baby,” John told an audience.“Music is, and always will be, a universal language, free from boundaries. It can and does inspire unity and builds bridges between people.”

JETHRO TULL (2010)

“To those who tell me I should ‘boycott’ Israel (or, for that matter, Turkey or Lebanon),” Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull’s lead vocalist, wrote in 2010. “On my travels around the world I am continually reminded of atrocities carried out historically by many nations who are now our friends, and it serves to strengthen my resolve that some degree of peace and better understanding may result from my and other artists’ professional and humble efforts in such places.”

JOHN LYDON (2010)

“I really resent the presumption that I’m going there to play to right-wing Nazi Jews,” Lydon told The Independent. “If Elvis-f——-g-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he’s suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good [for] him. But… until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won’t understand how anyone can have a problem with how they’re treated.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.