Right-wing Zionist reactionaries at a synagogue in Michigan have canceled a concert by Israeli singer Achinoam Nini, known as Noa. The Yemeni Jewish singer, who is responsible for the ballad that served as the angsty soundtrack to my pre-adolescent years at Reform Jewish summer camp in Indiana, is an advocate of peace and the two-state solution. Due to these liberal views, she has been no stranger to objections lobbed from right-wing arenas.
In a letter to its members, leaders at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, a suburb of Detroit, explained that the cancellation decision was a safety precaution: “Several credible threats of protest and demonstration have been planned in response to the appearance of Achinoam “Noa” Nini at Adat Shalom on Thursday, May 18. We have been working closely with law enforcement and our security advisers and have concluded that based on these threats there was a high potential for disruption to the concert.”
The May 4 letter, according to the Detroit Jewish News, “stated the concert was intended ‘to present a concert of Israeli music at its finest’ and was ‘not intended to reflect political viewpoints.’” This echoes the sentiments Noa expressed in a blog post published this morning on The Times of Israel, in which she writes, “I never mix politics and music.” Yet this does not matter to her hawkish critics, which the Detroit Jewish News called “a vocal minority.”
In her blog, Noa represents this act of silencing as part of a larger, sinister current in modern culture, and powerfully reveals the flimsiness of the security argument: “As for security issues: I am certain the Jewish community is accustomed to dealing with such things, supported by Israeli security technology (best in the world) and the local security forces. I am also certain the community has a fair sense of which ‘threats’ are tangible and which marginal (a demonstration is a threat?) or imaginary.” This is a “crucial moment,” she argues, and choices like this speak volumes about what values we are willing to stand for. By “caving” to a “handful of bullies,” she writes, Adat Shalom “provid[ed] the aggressors with a great victory, empowering them and paving the way for the next round of threats, lies, intimidation and violence.”
Noa, who calls herself “a Zionist in the Ben Gurion and Rabin tradition,” is hardly a radical leftist. “I am critical of my government but love my country, just as more than 150 million people in U.S. today are critical of their government and love their country,” she wrote. She has publicly denied that she supports the BDS movement or that she has even criticized the IDF—and she repeats this in her post. But this is of little consequence to those who took issue with her concert, who sit smugly in their echo chambers and threaten to silence any and all dissent. As Noa says, “hope for peace is a very offensive concept to some people nowadays.”
Miranda Cooper is an editorial intern at Tablet. Follow her on Twitter here.