Commentary: Israel’s Detractors Must Stop Politicizing Art
Alicia Keys was absolutely right to ignore detractors and perform in Israel.
I would like to congratulate Alicia Keys on her sold out concert in Israel on July 4 where she brought a message of love to a region continuously looking for peace. While July 4 was a night of celebration, the weeks and months leading up to the her performance in Israel were very difficult for the iconic artist.
Unfortunately, there is a current movement afoot to politicize art. Israel’s detractors are attempting to use the influence of artists and pop icons like Keys as a powerful tool to spread false allegations about Israel. When artists announce a performance in Israel, anti-Israel boycott groups spread misinformation about the Jewish state through social media and pressure artists to cancel their trips. Perhaps the most emotionally charged allegation is the charge of apartheid made by boycott supporters, such as author Alice Walker, who falsely compare Israel to pre-1994 South Africa.
I have spent time in Israel. I know Israel and I agree with the great Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world.” The country has a diverse population, where women, gays, Arabs, Muslims, Christians and all minorities have equal rights, and Arabs serve in the Israeli parliament and the Supreme Court. Citizens of all ethnicities mingle openly in public arenas, sit side-by-side in restaurants and are free to speak their minds and vote their consciences.
The recently crowned Miss Israel is from Ethiopia, which is an indication of Israel’s multicultural society and a celebration of its diverse identity. Allegations of apartheid in Israel or that concerts in Israel are segregated are not only false but they diminish the real human suffering of those times.
Further, there is certainly a note of hypocrisy in critics singling out Israel for criticism while ignoring the well documented human-rights issues of Israel’s neighboring countries. Yet human-rights groups do not encourage artist boycotts in these countries.
Music is an opportunity for artists of all colors, faiths and beliefs to lead the world toward peace. Hundreds of artists perform in Israel annually, refusing to allow the noise of boycott activists to drown out the melodies of freedom and the voices of change. Before the concert, a poll conducted by BET.com asked its readers “Should Alicia Keys Perform in Israel?” The majority of respondents said yes.
“I look forward to my first visit to Israel. Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show,” Alicia Keys said an interview with the New York Times. Alicia Keys took a stand and her fans followed.
I am proud to be an advisory board member of Creative Community for Peace, an organization that brings together entertainment executives who seek to balance the misinformation artists and their fans see on social media and present an accurate image of Israel. We believe in the power of music and culture to build bridges and we encourage artists to visit Israel and see for themselves that it is a vibrant democracy with extraordinary culture, daily debate and profound desire for ongoing peace. Music gives an artist the opportunity to be an ambassador for peace, spreading messages of hope and love. It should not be silenced.
Ben Silverman is the founder and chairman of Electus and former co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios. He is also an advisory board member of the Creative Community for Peace.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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