Helene Fragman Abramson has been a careful observer of events in the Middle East for as long as she can remember. Most of the time, Abramson grinds her teeth about the raw deal that Israel gets in the mainstream media, in academia, and – sometimes – in the arts.
That’s why Abramson was so thrilled to read that Rhythm & Blues singer Alicia Keys refused to cave to pressure from a fellow African American artist, writer Alice Walker, who tried to pressure Keys into cancelling a scheduled appearance in Israel on July 4.
Abramson thinks everyone who wants Keys to know that people support her principled position – but who cannot be in Tel Aviv to hear her and show their appreciation in person – should purchase one of Keys’ CDs or songs on July 4.
It’s a small gesture, but it will make a big statement.
“It seems to me we keep rewarding people who seek our demise,” Abramson told The Jewish Press on Monday, June 3. “I do my best to put my money where my mouth is, and that is not always so easy.
“Point is, we can use our wallets to punish as well as to reward. If we can close it to attacks on the Jewish state, we can also open it in friendship.”
It is not easy for people in the entertainment industry to resist public calls by older, famous people, to shun a person or a land vilified with the worst calumny, that of racism; many artists and other celebrities have been unable to resist the call.
Alice Walker, the 69-year old author, is best known for her novel The Color Purple 31 years ago.
But in the past few years Walker has become infamous for her single-minded hatred of Israel and her efforts to strangle the Jewish State through economic and political boycotts. In 2011, Walker sailed aboard the “Audacity of Hope,” seeking to puncture Israel’s lawful blockade of Gaza. She refused to allow her best-selling novel to be translated into Hebrew, and she attempted, along with fellow Israel-hating artist rock musician Roger Waters, to prevent the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra from performing at Carnegie Hall in October, 2012.
Most recently, Walker wrote a letter which she posted on the Internet, calling on Alicia Keys to cancel her scheduled singing appearance in Tel Aviv, Israel. Walker was not content to merely call Israel an apartheid country. She told Keys Israel is “unbelievably evil,” “greedy” and “cruel,” and that it is responsible for a great deal of global suffering.
The response from Keys came swiftly: “I look forward to my first visit to Israel. Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show.” A Facebook page was set up to thank Keys.
And Abramson is suggesting everyone go one step further.
So on July 4 – or leading up to it – everyone who wants to thank Alicia Keys for standing tall and seeking to ‘unify audiences in peace and love’ should buy an Alicia Keys CD or tune either online or in stores.
Abramson said, “I am so grateful that Keys has not succumbed to pressure from fellow artists, the very people who should appreciate Israel. Half of them would not have been able to develop their craft in most of the neighboring Arab and/or Muslim nations.
“I decided that I would buy an Alicia Keys CD on the date of her performance as a way of saying thanks. I posted it on my Facebook page and asked others to share the idea.”
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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