American singer Lionel Richie announced in a video message released last week that he is excited for his first performance in Israel on March 2 as part of his “Hello” world tour.
Despite pressure from the women’s grassroots social justice movement Code Pink to cancel his concert due to Israel’s “oppression and dispossession of the Palestinian people,” the 70-year-old celebrity known for hits such as “Hello” and “All Night Long,” is determined to ignore the calls and perform at Tel Aviv’s Menora Mivtachim Arena.
In an open letter to Richie, Code Pink warned that his performance in Tel Aviv would “act as an endorsement of Israel’s brutal systems of military occupation and apartheid. Cancelling your Tel Aviv concert, on the other hand, would send a strong message that Palestinians, like all people, deserve equal rights and freedom.”
In response, he blocked the movement on Twitter and Code Pink’s national co-director Ariel Gold called Richie a “snowflake.”
Richie’s trip to Israel, which is taking place on the day of Israel’s third election, was organised by producer Marcel Abraham, who in the past has also brought Justin Bieber, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Jennifer Lopez to Tel Aviv, which has been criticised by the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement who want companies, performers and governments to disengage from Israel.
Performing in Israel has grown more contentious recently as BDS groups have gained traction in urging artists to respect the cultural boycott, in response to Israel’s ongoing violations of Palestinian rights.
In December 2017, New Zealand pop star Lorde cancelled a concert due to take place in Israel in response to BDS calls for her to respect the Palestinian call for a boycott. A year later, many international bands and artists, including Lana Del Rey, pulled out of Israel’s Meteor Festival because of BDS’ efforts.
Though BDS has seen a rise in support from artists, academics and activists, governments including Germany and the US have actively tried to outlaw the boycott movement, labelling it “anti-Semitic.”