The Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver is preparing a warm welcome for Israeli pop star Achinoam Nini, who is set to perform in the city on Yom Ha’atzmaut, and is decrying what it says is an erroneous Jerusalem Post report suggesting Vancouver Jews are “outraged” about her appearance because she allegedly supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
“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,” the federation said in a statement, referring to a Feb. 9 Post story about the left-wing artist, known simply as Noa.
“We contacted Ms. Nini’s manager directly to clarify her position. He provided the following statement: ‘Noa is opposed to BDS. To say that she is a BDS supporter is an outright lie. 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,’” the federation statement read.
“Jewish Federation is unambiguous in our opposition to BDS, which is discriminatory and is antithetical to peace. We are deeply committed to continuing the fight against BDS at every opportunity,” the statement added.
The group that denounced the federation for inviting Nini and claims she is associated with the BDS movement calls itself Vancouver United with Israel. Its only online presence is a Facebook page with 46 likes. The anonymous individual or individuals associated with the page did not respond to The CJN’s requests for comment.
The group posted links on its page to statements by Nini expressing support for left-wing Israeli groups B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence.
In 2014, Nini and fellow Israeli singer Ariel Zilber were both selected to receive awards from ACUM, a non-profit group that seeks to ensure respect for copyright laws protecting artists’ work. Zilber has expressed support for the political views of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, a far-right advocate of an exclusively Jewish Israel. Nini, by contrast, is a committed peace activist well known for her duet with Israeli Arab singer Mira Awad, with whom she represented Israel at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. Nini decided not to appear at the ACUM awards ceremony, citing “ideological reasons” and asked that “nobody accept the prize on my behalf.”
More recently, in January, she cancelled her membership in the Israeli Union of Performing Artists (EMI) after the organization decided to present Zilber with a lifetime achievement award.
In a Jan. 31 blog post published in the Times of Israel titled “Creative dissonance,” Nini discussed Zilber’s political views in detail, referencing his collaboration with Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, a radical right-wing rabbi in the West Bank. Rabbi Ginsburgh, she said, authored a booklet that exalts Baruch Goldstein, the 1994 murderer of 29 Arabs who were praying in a Hebron mosque.
“As if all this were not enough, Zilber has outwardly supported the murderer of [Israeli prime minister] Yitzhak Rabin, Yigal Amir, and supported his amnesty and release stating that he can ‘understand him,’ since he was simply acting ideologically to ‘save the State of Israel,’” Nini wrote.
Of her decision to reject the ACUM award in 2014, she said she wanted neither the glory nor the money. “I simply wanted to stay away from what I considered to be a real betrayal of the message artists should be sending out to society. It was unconceivable to me that an artist who had put his art in the service of such radical racism and hatred of the other, who had expressed time and time again, in words, music, public activity and political activism, all the values that a society must shun and condemn, and on top of it all, had supported the killer of a prime minster, be elevated to the status of cultural icon and role model.”
On Feb. 12, the Post deleted the article about Nini and published the following clarification: “The article ‘Vancouver Jews’ outraged over Ahinoam Nini invite to Independence Day event,” which appeared on jpost.com on February 9, in no way intended to suggest that the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver or Ms. Nini herself support the BDS movement. We apologize for any confusion that may have been caused.“