Friday, November 30, 2012

Stevie Wonder Not Overjoyed About Israel

WE'RE ALL FAMILIAR WITH HEARING Stevie Wonder sing "Isn't She Lovely," but it's become clear that he wasn't talking about Israel when he sings that song. The Grammy-winning singer and song-writer was all set to perform at a Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fundraising gala, but he is now refusing to appear.

The event is set to occur on December 6 in Los Angeles and Stevie Wonder has performed in the past for other Israel-related celebrations and fundraising events. His reps claim that Wonder's decision to pull out of this event is based on a strong recommendation from the United Nations to withdraw his participation based on his participation with the U.N. as a "Messenger of Peace."

What's odd about this is that the UN supposedly doesn't tell its "Goodwill Ambassadors" where they can and cannot support. Most likely this was a result of pressure from fans through social networking sites, including an online petition with several thousand signatures.

The change.org petition states, "You were arrested in 1985 protesting South African Apartheid, now we ask you: please remember that apartheid is apartheid, whether it comes from White Afrikaaner settlers of South Africa or from Jewish Israelis in Israel. Desmond Tutu has recognized that Israel’s Apartheid is worse than South Africa’s -- will you stand with us against apartheid and cancel your performance at the IDF fundraiser."



Of course, Stevie Wonder is not the first performer to back out of a concert to support Israel. More common, however, are cases in which celebrities and musicians cancel planned appearances and concerts in Israel after facing pressure. Recently, Elvis Costello and Lenny Kravitz canceled planned concerts in Israel, but the reason was unknown. In June 2011, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, legendary basketball player who, declined to appear in Israel as planned due to “concerns arising from Nakba day violence.”

It would be nice if performers like Stevie Wonder upheld their prior commitments. Bowing to pressure over a political issue isn't necessary. Rather, a celebrity like Wonder should have issued a public statement explaining that he is a proponent of peace and thus he is willing to celebrate with and help support both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Rabbi Jason Miller is the co-founder of the PopJewish.com blog and an prolific blogger. He is president of Access Computer Technology and is on Twitter at @RabbiJason.