Keys unlocks groundswell of Jewish support
PHILADELPHIA—The fireworks over the July 4 Alicia Keys concert in Tel Aviv continue to go off. The latest development: Israeli consulates across the United States are encouraging the singer-songwriter’s fans—and fans of Israel in general—to post to her Facebook page and tweet support for her decision to stand up to the efforts to get her to cancel her appearance.
Keys, who has been one of the most popular recording artists in the world ever since the release of “Songs in A Minor” in 2001, has sold over 35 million albums and is currently touring the world in support of her most recent album, “Girl on Fire.”
Her decision to perform in Israel has set the boycott, divestment and sanctions community, known as BDS, aflame.
Notable anti-Israel A- and B-list celebrities, like the author Alice Walker (who refuses to allow her book, “The Color Purple,” to be translated into Hebrew and whose new book, “The Cushion in the Road,” reportedly describes Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians as “genocide” and “crimes against humanity”) and former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters have called on Keys to join others who, like Waters himself, have canceled previously scheduled shows after pressure from pro-Palestinian factions. Their number includes Elvis Costello, proto-alternative group The Pixies and ’60s singer-songwriter Gil Scott-Heron.
Elad Strohmayer, deputy consul general in Philadelphia, said the reason for the diplomatic involvement is simple: “We want to show support to those who show support for Israel. Artists need to come to Israel and show support for a two-state solution—boycotting won’t help.”
Despite the numerous people who have shown their support for Keys’ commitment on social media, Strohmayer said, they are vastly outnumbered by the BDS movement’s mobilization. (A cursory perusal of Keys’ Facebook page, Twitter feed and a poll from BET confirms the consul’s assertion.)
When asked if there’s a similar furor in Israel, Strohmayer replied: “It is and it isn’t. People in Israel really appreciate that despite all the pressure, she is still coming, but they are not necessarily aware of the efforts we are making here. People here should be very active about” supporting her and her concert, he said.
And what does the subject of all of this contention think about it? In a statement released to the New York Times, Keys said, “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.”
Greg Salisbury is the arts and culture editor for the (Philadelphia) Jewish Exponent, from which this article was reprinted by permission.