On 4 May, Grammy award–winning musician Lauryn Hill canceled her concert in Tel Aviv, scheduled to be held on 7 May. Her decision followed a campaign by Palestinian activists encouraging her to respect the 2004 call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) for artists and academic institutions not to cooperate with Israel. In an open letter to Hill on 1 April, PACBI wrote that it was
deeply troubled to learn that you are scheduled to perform in Rishon Lezion’s Live Park amphitheater on May 7, 2015, while Israel continues unabatedly with its settler colonial and apartheid designs to further dispossess, oppress and ethnically cleanse native Palestinians from their homeland. As a conscientious artist who opposes racial oppression, we urge you to cancel your performance and boycott Israel until it complies with international law and ends its oppression of the Palestinian people.
Earlier in the year, Palestinian activists had established a relationship with Hill with a view to producing a black-Palestinian solidarity project that was still under way as this publication went to press. As a result, activists were able to convey the message about the boycott to Hill directly in a private setting. At the same time, there were several online campaigns calling for the musician to cancel her show—most notably a petition by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation that garnered 11,743 signatures. Activists also launched a social media campaign using the hashtag #KillingMeSoftly, referencing Hill’s hit song with the Fugees. Explaining that she wanted “to be a presence supporting justice and peace,” Hill announced her decision to cancel the Tel Aviv concert on Facebook, with no reference to either the petition or the social media campaign.
Lauryn Hill is one of several international artists who have refused to perform in Israel so long as it does not comply with the demands of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. These include Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame, Talib Kweli, Elvis Costello, Sinead O’Connor, Carlos Santana, and the late Gil Scott-Heron.
Lauryn Hill’s announcement on her Facebook page.
#KillingMeSoftly is published in the Palestine Unbound section of Journal of Palestine Studies Vol. 44 No. 4.