by David Brinn and Lahav Harkov | JPost.com | January 20, 2011
Photo by: AP
Like Elton John, Leonard Cohen, Paul McCartney and countless other international performers before her who have performed in Israel in recent years, American soul singer Macy Gray has been the target of a pro-Palestinian lobby campaign to convince her to cancel her two shows next month at Reading 3 in Tel Aviv.
However, unlike those stars - who after various considerations bucked the boycott - or other high-profile performers like the Pixies and Elvis Costello who did buckle to the pressure and canceled their already scheduled and sold out shows, Gray did something different. She asked her fans what to do.
She posted a message on her Facebook fan page this week asking her fans’ opinions on whether she should cancel the shows “in protest of Apartheid against the Palestinians.”
"I'm booked for two shows in Tel Aviv," Gray wrote. "I'm getting a lot of letters from activists urging and begging me to boycott by not performing in protest of apartheid against the Palestinians. What the Israeli government is doing to the Palestinians is disgusting, but I want to go. I have a lot of fans there that I don't want to cancel on, and I don't know how my not going changes anything. What do you think? Stay or go?"
Around 2,000 people reacted to Gray's status update, with the majority writing messages like "cultural boycott is an integral part of the fight against apartheid" and "cancel your tour and stand up for human rights."
Others responded differently. “Please don’t give in to the haters – they claim that Israel practices Apartheid, but the last time you played in Israel, the Arab students of Israel’s Hebrew University were equally able to watch you play. That’s not apartheid; that’s freedom!” wrote one referring to her last performance here in 2009.
Shortly after Gray posted the question to her fans, Israel Online Ambassadors, a group dedicated to online hasbara, asked fans on Wednesday to tell Gray she should perform in Israel. They also implied that they would start a counter-boycott, writing: "Make it clear to Macy Gray that if she listens to the propaganda against Israel and cancels her visit, you will find it impossible to buy her products for moral reasons."
Another hasbara organization, StandWithUs, told its members to "share with Macy Gray why she should play in Israel and ignore the haters...Respond with love and educate her!"
Having evidently weighed the various responses, Gray announced via Twitter on Wednesday that she had decided to honor her commitment to perform in Tel Aviv.
“Dear Israel fans. Me and the band will be there in 20 days. Can’t wait. See you then. Peace,” she wrote.
Gray told The Jerusalem Post earlier this week in a phone interview from Los Angeles before posting her Facebook query that she enjoys coming to Israel and has particularly fond memories of the Jerusalem show.
“I like coming to Israel. I’ve been all over Jerusalem, at all the historical places, things you guys would call it touristy,” she said. “When I told friends in Tel Aviv I go to the all the tourist things, they just roll their eyes. It’s like if you came to Los Angeles and went to the Wax Museum. But I love all the historical things in Israel, and I’m going to go to them again this time. I really enjoy it.”
Yaron Cohen, who handles PR at Reading 3 said that the shows’ producer Ilan Elkayam had been in touch with Gray and was told she was not canceling the shows.
“As far as we know, everything is full steam ahead,” he said. “Macy has a very a very good relationship with Ilan and with Reading 3, and if seems like the show is going on.”
Cohen added that despite Gray’s unorthodox method of deciding on the issue, there was nothing unusual about the efforts to push her to change her mind about performing in Israel.
“Everyone who decides to perform here gets inundated with the pro-Palestinian lobby campaign with the goal of convincing them to cancel their shows,” he said.
Gray has appeared in Israel three previous times without any incident or any public attempt to muffle her unique voice.
“The issue never came up and she never mentioned anything about possibly not coming,” said Hillel Wachs, who was part of the production for the 2009 Jerusalem show. “She likes Israel, she has great chemistry with the audience and it was clear that she had a really good time here. She was letting anyone who wanted come backstage and hang out and talk to her. Not many artists do that.”
Another local promoter added that going public on Facebook with her deliberations was a clever move on Gray’s part, but is not convinced that her decision to go through with the shows is final.
“I don’t think it’s the end of the story yet,” he said. “There might be more intense pressure put on her as the date approaches.”