Grassroots pressure from the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon forced Belgian-Italian singer Lara Fabian to cancel February 14 and 15 performances at Jounieh’s Casino du Liban, Al Akhbar English and NOW Lebanon announced Thursday.
Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigners targeted Fabian for her previous violations of the cultural boycott of Israel, and particularly her celebration of the 60th anniversary of Israel’s founding, which entailed the ethnic cleansing of at least 750,000 Palestinians. NOW Lebanon reports:
In May 2008, she performed at a special concert in France to commemorate the anniversary of the creation of the Israeli state. At the end of the performance, she can be heard telling the audience, “I love you, Israel.”
In response to the announcement, Asad Ghsoub, an activist for the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon, which spearheaded the campaign against Fabian said, “We can’t be but happy because she knows that what she did has consequences… She cannot say ‘I love you Israel’ and expect us to welcome her. She would be out of her mind if she thinks we’re going to welcome her.”
Ghsoub had told Al Akhbar Monday, “The 60th anniversary of Israel is the 60th anniversary of the Nakba so she is not neutral. Some people try to defend artists as neutral but she has crossed the line.”
Of his organization’s plans, “Ghsoub said the exact nature of the protests against the concerts were still being formulated, but added that the group is planning to meet with Lebanese ministers to encourage them to back the ban.”
While arguing against the boycott, Ayman Mhanna, executive director of the SKeyesCenter for Media and Cultural Freedom, admitted to NOW Lebanon that it has recently attracted broad support from Lebanese civil society:
Mhanna noted that recently, and for the first time, the effort to boycott Israel has received the support of political parties in the country. On December 13, the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and several other parties signed a statement calling for the boycott of “all concerts, companies and troops supporting the Zionist enemy.”
“This shows how much culture itself is politicized… The political and sectarian debate is now automatically translating into to how people perceive a cultural work. People are no longer able to look at culture through an artistic perspective. Everything is through a political prism,” Mhanna said …
Ghsoub responded to critics who say the success of the Fabian boycott campaign is, in effect, a form of cultural censorship. “We are clearly against all forms of censorship,” he said. “As individuals we are socially liberal, open and progressive. We have nothing to do with censorship, and I think people who want to attack us, try to associate us with this, and we are completely against it. Israel is a state that is an enemy of Lebanon. And we are in a state of war… Can you imagine a pro-Hezbollah superstar singing in Tel Aviv?”
Nevertheless, Ghsoub left open the possibility of supporting a future performance by Fabian in Lebanon:
“She should reconsider her actions and join this global movement that many artists are joining. If she makes a statement at least distancing herself from Israel, we have no problem welcoming her next time. We’ll throw a red carpet down for her,” Ghsoub said.