Why Lauryn Hill cancelled her Israel concert

R&B star Lauryn Hill has cancelled a concert in Israel because she could not schedule a parallel show in the Palestinian city of Ramallah. Who else has boycotted Israel? And who hasn't? 

(Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Invision/AP, File)
Lauryn Hill performs at the Voodoo Music Experience in New Orleans in November 2014. Hill is canceling a planned performance in Tel Aviv because she wasn’t able to schedule a concert in the Palestinian city of Ramallah. The singer-songwriter said in a statement Monday, May 4, 2015, that she originally intended to perform in both cities in hopes of being “a presence supporting justice and peace.”

Joining a long list of musicians who have weighed in on the Israel-Palestine conflict, rapper and R&B star Lauryn Hill has cancelled a concert in Israel because she could not schedule a parallel show in the Palestinian city of Ramallah.

"When deciding to play the region, my intention was to perform in both Tel Aviv and Ramallah," the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter said in a statement on her website on Monday. "Setting up a performance in the Palestinian Territory, at the same time as our show in Israel, proved to be a challenge."

Ms. Hill, the former Fugees singer, was scheduled to play at Rishon Lezion, the country's largest open-air venue, on Thursday, May 7. She said she wanted to organize a similar show in the West Bank also, but that logistics "proved to be a challenge."

In her message, Ms. Hill also said she wanted to promote peace and inclusiveness in the region.

"I’ve wanted very much to bring our live performance to this part of the world, but also to be a presence supporting justice and peace. It is very important to me that my presence or message not be misconstrued, or a source of alienation to either my Israeli or my Palestinian fans," she wrote.

"For this reason, we have decided to cancel the upcoming performance in Israel, and seek a different strategy to bring my music to ALL of my fans in the region."

It turns out the global boycott movement Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), had been pressuring Hill to cancel her Israel concert. Ahead of her Thursday show, activists from the BDS campaign had launched a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #KillingMeSoftly, from her hit song with the Fugees.

A petition asking Hill to cancel her performance was signed more than 11,700 times, according to reporting by the New York Times. The petition was taken down after her announcement.

Lauryn Hill did not mention either the BDS movement or the petition in announcing her decision not to perform in Israel.

Activists behind the movement liken it to international boycott campaigns against the apartheid government of South Africa in the 1990s when prominent artists and academics refused to perform in or support the country's discriminatory policies.

Hill is the latest artist to weigh in on the Israel-Palestine conflict by cancelling her concert there.

A number of other musicians have refused to play in the country citing Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories including Elvis Costello, Carlos Santana, Stevie Wonder, the Pixies, and Roger Waters, former lead singer of Pink Floyd, who famously compared Israeli occupation of Gaza and West Bank to apartheid in South Africa and called Israeli settlements “an impregnable obstacle to peace.”

At the same time, a number of artists have vocally opposed boycotting the country by performing in Israel in defiance of boycott pressures. Among them are Paul McCartney, Alicia Keys, Aerosmith, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, and Elton John, who once said, “Nobody gonna stop me from playing here, baby ... Music is, and always will be, a universal language, free from boundaries. It can and does inspire unity and builds bridges between people.”

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