Unsettling Lana Del Rey’s Israel Palestine Statement

Rafael Shimunov
Aug 20, 2018 · 7 min read
Photo composite by Rafael Shimunov

UPDATE: Lana has cancelled her show!

Preface: I don’t write this with any ill will towards Lana Del Rey, but from a position of sadness that artists, who have been historically instrumental in challenging the status quo are pressured one way or another to ignore their unique super powers. The powers we gravitate towards are not their voices, their talent playing instruments or their composition of music, but their deep, natural sense of empathy.

This weekend, in response to news that Lana Del Rey will be the biggest star performing at Israel’s Meteor Festival, young fans from around the world, including Palestinians, began to urge the American artist to skip the concert using the hashtag #LanaDontGo. Fans cited the increasingly influential movement to boycott Israel into accountability for human rights violations and the brand new nation-state law that enshrines its long and rapidly increasing and unapologetic actions. These actions resemble South African Apartheid and the Jim Crow south, both of which were ended using boycotts.

The demand reached its peak Sunday, after Lana tweeted about former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s claiming that “the truth isn’t the truth” when questioned about investigation of his client, Donald Trump. What was expected to be the usual support young fans show artists when they call out Trump, turned instead into an opportunity to address the actual truths of state violence against Palestinians in West Bank only 8 minutes away from the concert and seconds from Palestinians, other Arabs, Druze and Africans all through Tel Aviv.

In response to the blowback, Lana crafted a statement about her decision to play Israel.

Her full statement is below with my comments.

“On the topic of ‘truth’ (my earlier tweet that references a statement made by Giuliani about Trump today) I understand many of u are upset that we’re going to Tel Aviv for the Meteor festival, I understand your concern I really get do.”

Lana here introduces “we” rather than “I”, helping to diffuse her influence and responsibility for the decisions she makes. I’m sure many people are involved, but I’m also sure Lana Del Rey has enough agency with Lana Del Rey to follow her lead.

“What I can tell you is I believe music is universal and should be used to brings us together. We signed on the show w the intention that it would be performed for the kids there and my plan was for it to be done w loving energy w a thematic emphasis on peace.”

Specifically, Israeli kids. Palestinian kids caged into West Bank and Gaza will not be allowed to attend. Kids in Gaza and West Bank, who are nearly 50% of the population, are banned from travel. And 273 Palestinian children as young as 14 are held in Israeli prison. There is nothing about this event that is “universal” or “brings us together”. It is akin to walking passed the black section to the white section of a cafeteria to sing songs about unity.

“If you don’t agree with it I get it. I see both sides.”

Here is where Lana’s statement begins to verge on Giuliani’s statement about truth. There aren’t two sides to human rights. There is only one absolute truth.

“But me and my band have been performing all over the world for month out of the years for close to 10 years now together. And we’re about to travel to a place that many big bands are playing this and at this festival.”

Again we have an example of diffusing responsibility. Lana isn’t just another act on a long list of artists, she is the biggest selling, most successful artist on the ticket with enormous power.

“We don’t always agree with the politics of the places we play within or even in our own country- sometimes we don’t even feel safe, depending on how far abroad but we travel- but we are musicians and we’ve dedicated our lives to being on the road.”

Politics are how much we should pay in taxes. If college should be debt free. Human rights are not politics and pegging it to “we don’t always agree on politics” doesn’t add up. You may disagree on the politics of a 5 cent refund on the plastic bottle that holds water, but one wouldn’t put “we don’t always agree on politics” before a super power denying a besieged community access to drinking water — which Israel does as collective punishment and to literally fill pools and garden sprinklers of illegal settlements.

“So in closing although I have deep sentiments over what is true or not true, right or wrong- I would like to remind you that performing in Tel Aviv is not a political statement or a commitment to the politics there”

Lana here claims deep sentiments but has yet to even introduce the word “Palestinian” in her statement. In fact, her entire statement does not mention Palestinians at all. That is political.

“just as singing here in California doesn’t mean my views are in alignment w my current governments opinions or sometimes inhuman actions.”

This is comparing apples to hummus.

Had San Diego defied the US Constitution and installed walls around people of Latinx background, starving them of medical supplies, school supplies and their own fishing and drinking waters while occasionally bombing peaceful protests, assassinating unarmed nurses, and imprisoning poets for poetry, Lana Del Ray would not be playing San Diego.

“Or that I condone my own president who openly mocked disabled people at rallies (I’m not in anyway likening the gravity of certain travesties that have occured in Israel to the current hardships we’re facing here)”

It’s very strange here that when you even attempt to mention Palestinians, you say Israel.

“I’m just stating that I’m a simple singer,”

Singers have spent generations and risked great harm to their lives and the lives of their families to protest. They did not do that because they thought they were not powerful, they did it because they knew they were.

You are also a poet, like Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour who is only a few years older than you and has spent years in house arrest for poetry, and now faces “terrorism” charges and prison for one she posted on Facebook.

“I’m doing my best to navigate the waters of the constant tumultuous hardships in the war-torn countries all over the world that I travel through monthly.”

Germany and Russia were at war. The United States and Japan were at war. The Palestinians are not at war or “war-torn”. They are occupied, ethnically cleansed from lands and their bodies, their water, their air and their food is obliterated every single day.

In recent months alone, Israel has not only erased the notion of a Palestinian capitol by moving its embassy, assassinating an unarmed nurse, imprisoning children, and planning a mass deportation of Black refugees referred to by officials and public opinion as “a cancer” (one which Israelis like Sarah Silverman’s sister, Rabbi Susan Silverman, compared to the Holocaust and her actions to hide Africans to those who hid Anne Frank), it has enshrined these supremacist acts with a law that removes Arabic as a national language, and sets anyone but Israeli Jews as second class citizens.

“For the record I’m doing the best I can and my intentions are better than most peoples that I know.”

For liberals who say that, I recall Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said it was not the Trumps and Netanyahu’s of his age that risked the civil rights movement,

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice”-MLK

But I think the best advocate for Lana Del Rey to reverse course in 2018, is Lana Del Rey of 2014, who cancelled her first visit to Israel as Israeli families literally ate popcorn and clapped in celebration while Gaza schools and hospitals were flattened while others cheered, “There is no school tomorrow, there are no children left in Gaza,”.

It is true that there are many conflicts all over the world, but we as Americans are tied closest to this one. We fund it. We defend it at the UN with a veto that paves the way for Israel’s right wing. And we as Americans have a unique responsibility and leverage to end its criminal behavior once and for all.

Your Palestinian fans have already told the world what would help and have decided that it’s a boycott.

I as a Jew have chosen this fight because it is done in my name, hijacking my heritage and faith, and abusing the memory of my 6 million sisters and brothers.

And you as an artist? You have millions of young people behind you not only because of your voice or your music, but because of the empathy that drives it and connects directly with the generation that can change — everything.

Rafael Shimunov

Written by

Techie Political Artist, Creative Director, Refugee from Uzbekistan @JFREJnyc board. Ride with @WorkingFamilies @theCCR @IfNotNowOrg @TheJewishVote Views my own

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