Ella Yelich-O’Connor has decided to cancel her June concert in Tel Aviv as she feels it’s inappropriate to perform there at this time. As a result, she has been described as a bigot.
People who know me are aware of my caution with dictionary definitions as they sometimes fail to adequately describe subtle nuances or meaning within sections of society. So it is with some trepidation that I resort to a dictionary for a definition of bigot.
Cambridge English Dictionary: a person who has strong, unreasonable beliefs and who does not like other people who have different beliefs or a different way of life.
Colins English Dictionary: a person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, esp on religion, politics, or race
Webster’s New World College Dictionary: 1. a person who holds blindly and intolerantly to a particular creed, opinion, etc. 2. a narrow-minded, prejudiced person
Merriam-Webster Kids’ Dictionary: a person who won’t listen to anyone whose ideas or beliefs are different from his or her own; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial group) with hatred and intolerance
Synonyms for bigot would suggest that they are “unpleasant people in general”.
From those definitions, I believe it is unfounded to call someone a bigot where they are open to information from multiple sources, and make a decision based on the information available, even when the decision made is different to your own.
I am not privy to what information Ella had access to, but I am confident that the decision to cancel the Tel Aviv concert was not taken lightly especially considering a significant part of her world tour is through the USA where support for Israel is high.
If you don’t know who Ella Yelich-O’Connor is, you may be more familiar with her stage name of Lorde.
In the week between the announcement of the Tel Aviv event and its cancellation, there were many calls both for and against the concert going ahead. Speaking on the cancellation, Lorde said “I’ve received an overwhelming number of messages and letters and have had a lot of discussions with people holding many views, and I think the right decision at this time is to cancel the show. I’m not too proud to admit I didn’t make the right call on this one. I’m truly sorry to reverse my commitment to come play for you. I hope one day we can all dance.”
Among the many articles for and against the Tel Aviv concert in the NZ media were these open letters: Dear Lorde, here’s why we’re urging you not to play Israel and Dear Lorde, here’s why an Israel boycott is the wrong answer. No matter what decision she came to there was going to be people who would disagree with her. I have no issue with that. My issue is with that decision being a case of bigotry.
In response to Lorde’s decision, Roseanne Barr wrote on Twitter :”Boycott this bigot. Lorde caves to BDS pressure, cancels Israel concert. She’s so privileged that she’s SCARED that she might have to live one second in the face of fascist anti-Semitism (that she approves of) like the Israelis/Jews do.”
With a tweet like that, one has to ask who is the bigot here? Lorde has decided that doing a concert in Israel at this time will be seen as giving tacit support to the policies of the Israeli government. How is choosing not to give that support anti-Semitic? Unless of course you believe the Israeli Government and the Jews are innocent victims while every Palestinian, man, woman, and child is out to wipe Israel and its Jewish citizens from the face of the earth.
Similarly, a full page ad in the Washington Post on New Year’s Eve accused Lorde of being a bigot and her home country of being anti-Jewish because it voted in favour of a UN resolution calling for the US to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The ad included comments such as “Let’s boycott the boycotters and tell Lorde and her fellow bigots that Jew-hatred has no place in the twenty-first century”. Regardless of where one stands on the Israel/Palestine conflict, it is extremely difficult to ignore the plight of the Palestinians in all this. To say that a concern for their plight is “Jew-Hatred” is a nonsense in my view. Whether Lorde chose the right course of action is open to dispute, but to claim that the action is an act of bigotry is an entirely different matter. In fact such claims are likely to close dialogue rather than open it and to harden attitudes.
My personal stance is that I lean towards supporting Lorde’s decision. I am mostly in agreement with the open letter linked to above urging Lorde not to perform in Israel. However, The writers’ claim that the the 1981 anti-tour protests are proudly remembered today is not entirely accurate – at least not for those who witnessed it first hand. It is perhaps one of the darkest periods in our history, the wounds from which we have not yet fully recovered. It pitted brother against brother and father against son – often violently so. It brought about a change in trust of the police in a large segment of the population that has not been restored, and it taught us that the veneer of a civil society is dangerously thin. It’s a topic I will cover in the not too distant future.