VANCOUVER FEDERATION BOOKS DIVISIVE ISRAELI ARTIST FOR YOM HA’ATZMAUT BASH
Members of the Jewish community living overseas, may not be aware of the extent to which we are hurt from the news of the likes of Achinoam Nini – being invited to entertain our diaspora brethren on our national holiday, Israel’s day of Independence.
So said Eyal Platek, a LT. Col. in the IDF reserves in an open letter to Ezra S. Shanken CEO of the Vancouver Jewish Federation.
This is not the only objection delivered to the Vancouver BC Jewish Federation in the wake of their booking of Israeli performer Achinoam Nini, better known as Noa, to headline the community’s Israel Independence Day celebrations.
Nini has been widely condemned in Israel for her hard embrace of left-wing organizations like B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence and New Israel Fund. These critiques have intensified as these same groups have become mired in controversy over their European funding sources and questions of illegal activity. According to the Jerusalem Post, one activist affiliated with B’Tselem was recorded saying that he helps Palestinian authorities find and kill Palestinians who sell land to Jews. While these particular groups deny supporting the anti-Israel BDS movement, all have partnered with BDS affiliated groups to one degree or another.
No stranger to controversy and hyper-political, Nini is a polarizing figure in her home country. She has declared that her fellow Israeli citizens are “becoming monsters” while heaping praise on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for “his adamant adherence to ways of peace”. In April of 2012 Nini performed at what was billed as an alternative Memorial Day ceremony where both Israeli terror victims and Palestinian terrorists were honored. In January of 2014 she lobbied against Israeli music icon Ariel Zilber receiving a lifetime achievement award due to their differing political views.
Israel advocacy group, Vancouver United with Israel (VUWI) has implored the Vancouver Federation to find entertainment more unifying and suitable for a holiday that celebrates the rebirth of the Jewish state. Canadian philanthropist Frances Belzberg agreed, issuing a statement this week saying “I have no idea why the powers that be should have selected such a controversial individual to celebrate such a miraculous achievement. I urge each of you to ask the question or boycott the event.” An online petition against the controversial performance has so far garnered 263 signatures.
I have no idea why the powers that be should have selected such a controversial individual to celebrate such a miraculous achievement. – Frances Belzberg
The Vancouver Jewish Federation issued a statement re-printed in the Canadian Jewish News (CJN) that defended their choice of entertainer. “We take these concerns very seriously, and we have done our due diligence by looking closely into the facts. To the best of our knowledge, reports suggesting Ms. Nini promotes BDS are incorrect.”
Nini’s manager was quoted in the same CJN article asserting of his client “She has never supported BDS – on the contrary – she has done all she can to bring many top artists to Israel and has done so with great success. Noa has a strong love for the State of Israel. She has served in the army, and her husband is an army officer.”
Opponents of Nini’s appearance maintain that they have not accused Nini of being affiliated with the BDS movement, but rather that “she is a divisive personality, hostile to Israel and supportive of extremist anti-Israel groups”.
Lashing back at her critics Nini posted to Facebook “Your propaganda and slander will come to nothing. I have the support of the sane and enlightened majority, only the misinformed, the brainwashed, the blind or unintelligent oppose.. And thankfully, at least in Vancouver, they are a small minority.”
In the wake of the controversy, the Jewish National Fund has announced their withdrawal as a co-sponsor of the Vancouver Independence Day event. Josh Cooper, the CEO of JNF Canada, the Canadian affiliate of the Jewish National Fund, told the Canadian Jewish News his group would not co-sponsor the Federation event this year, as it has in the past “The entertainer that has been hired does not reflect nor correspond to the mandate and values of the Jewish National Fund of Canada.”