By Rabbi Yeshaia Charles Familant
Recently, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach – the self-proclaimed ‘America’s rabbi’ – accused Lorde, the Grammy award singer-songwriter, along with her native country, New Zealand, of anti-semitism because of Lorde’s cancellation of her scheduled engagement in Tel Aviv next June. In case it has slipped the mind of many, it should be remembered that the music industry is big business; its prime mover is not politics or race or religion, but profits pure and simple.
Pressure on the organizers’ of Lorde’s tour in 2018 to cancel the Tel Aviv engagement, exerted by the powerful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), is an example of the music industry becoming embroiled, much to its disdain, in politics. Long before Lorde achieved celebrity status for her many music awards, the BDS movement had expressed strong disapproval of Israel’s policy regarding the expansion of the settlements within the occupied territories of the West Bank. This growing expansion has resulted in the insidious squeezing of the Palestinians out of their homes, farms and orchards into smaller and smaller enclaves, thus diminishing the possibility of a two-state solution.
Donald Trump, Mischief-Maker and Chief, has further inflamed the Palestinian reaction, together with those supporting a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, by announcing his intention to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv, Israel’s recognized seat-of-government, to Jerusalem, thereby establishing Jerusalem as the de facto capital of the State of Israel. This would shut down, once and for all, a two-state solution. What would happen next, I shudder to contemplate. But there is no reason to presume that the Palestinians and their allies throughout the Arab world would take this sitting down.
As for the accusation of anti-semitism by Rabbi Boteach, regarding this most recent action by Lorde and New Zealand, he is doing Jews no favor. He, along with many other Jewish organizations – and the Netanyahu right-wing government – have capriciously overused “anti-semitism” which once had powerful import because it described actual incidents of anti-semitism, and have severely weakened its meaning.
Finally, the only thing that Rabbi Boteach and I share is our rabbinic title. By his pretentious self-reference as ‘America’s rabbi’ he no more represents my America than does Trump. He vigorously defends Steve Bannon, despite Bannon’s racist, white supremacist/nationalist and anti-Jewish rhetoric as head of Breitbart News. Uncritical support of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, showing not a whit of empathy or compassion for these oppressed people, has further distanced this rabbi from everything my brand of Judaism values – justice, mercy, compassion and truth.