My friend and I bought tickets to see Lorde perform at New York’s Barclays Center hours after they went on sale. The chorus to one of her songs, The Louvre, was still playing in my head as I hit the “Purchase” button. I’d listened to it hundreds of times while riding the subway to work.
With Melodrama, her sophomore record, Lorde did not snatch a Grammy, but she created a piece of musical storytelling that won the hearts of many, myself included. The album combined a picturesque critique of today’s dramatizations of reality, a series of well-rounded pop anthems on youth and love, and a hypnotizing electro-pop sound she created with the producer Jack Antonoff.
I was electrified. But then, something happened.
Lorde had recently announced a new leg of her world tour, which included two concerts in Russia and one in Israel. After being criticized by the BDS movement, the 21-year-old artist, who is originally from New Zealand, caved in to the activists’ pressure. In December, she canceled one show. The one in Israel.
“I 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,” she wrote in a statement, calling herself an “informed young citizen.”
Months have passed, and the decision is still haunting Lorde’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, because people are still upset. Any artist of her caliber who announces a show in Israel today cannot possibly be unprepared for the backlash they will receive from the growing boycott movement. It’s also remarkable that while Lorde chose not to perform in Tel Aviv for political reasons, she has not canceled her upcoming shows in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. (There is no need for me to explain why Russia is considered by many to be a major violator of human rights.)
Dear Lorde: I lived in Israel for three years; I studied, worked, and traveled there.
Over those years, I saw many sides to Israel. I pursued a degree at a largely conservative university, got my first job in a largely liberal tech firm, worked alongside Jewish, Muslim, and Christian colleagues. Lay down on my stomach in the middle of a highway as a siren warned of incoming Hamas rockets from Gaza. Rented an Airbnb in Nazareth and spent part of a summer there, on my own, doing research and making new friends.
I witnessed hate and racism on all sides of the conflict, but also love and coexistence.
A seemingly countless list of issues characterize Israel, from its military occupation of the West Bank, to the ongoing attempt to deport thousands of African migrants living in the country. Like many countries in the world, its society is layered into social strata that often correspond with different ethnic groups. On top of that, its prime minister is currently being investigated for corruption.
As a journalist, I am committed to writing about Israel in all of its true aspects. I can write of the gay parades, of the monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate, of the blooming food-tech scene, and of the struggle of several minority groups to be part of the society.
But to see Israel being targeted so specifically by you, Lorde, an artist I love, was frustrating.
I don’t believe that the demonization of Israel as a whole, which the BDS movement advocates for, can bring us any closer to a peace deal. The boycott movement aims to ban anyone who happens to be Israeli from speaking in universities, performing in theaters, selling products abroad. Its activists look at reality through a lens that turns all shades of reality into a binary vision of black and white. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the people involved in it are too complex, too layered for me to accept such a limited vision.
Months after buying those tickets, the excitement had faded. After long discussions and ponderings, I decided to hit the “Sell” button.
I am no longer going to Lorde’s concert. Disenchanted, I chose to exclude myself from the party. Someone else will be taking my seat at the Barclays Center on Wednesday night.
This is not a boycott. This is the result of the realization that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy this concert as much as I would have before Lorde decided that her Israeli fans, most of whom probably long for peace and dread their government, were not worthy of joining the Melodrama celebrations.
Simone Somekh is a New York-based author and journalist. He’s lived and worked in Italy, Israel, and the United States.