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For artists, playing the ‘escapist’ Meteor festival in an Israeli kibbutz is like playing Sun City

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Last weekend, a three-day music festival called Meteor in the northern Israeli kibbutz Lehavot Habashan took place. Less than a week before the start, the leading star of the festival, Lana Del Rey, responding to massive pressure from the BDS — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions– campaign, cancelled. She noted her solidarity with Palestinians:

“It’s important to me to perform in both Palestine and Israel and treat all my fans equally. Unfortunately it hasn’t been possible to line up both visits with such short notice and therefore I’m postponing my appearance”, she wrote.

Her cancellation initiated a wave of some 20 cancellations, including the American electronic musician Shlohmo, who wrote:

“Sorry for short notice but I will NOT be playing in Israel next week. Sorry to the fans Im letting down and to the festival staff but supporting the oppressed thru my absence is more important to me especially after the government’s recent human rights atrocities.”

The Meteor festival’s promotion on Facebook.

This still left over 130 performances in the festival (including some 80 Israeli performers), but with all the singing and dancing, it’s hard to ignore that BDS has had a major effect here.

Writing in Haaretz, Idit Frenkel called this a “tsunami of cancellations”, and was noting that this tsunami seems to be threatening even Tel-Aviv:

We may be reaching the day when the boycott movement bursts the escapist bubble of Israel’s nightlife…The current tsunami of cancellations, while it might sound trivial if you’re untutored in trance music, could reflect a trend with effects far beyond the Meteor Festival. In the optimistic scenario, this is a one-off event that has cast the spotlight on lesser-known musicians as well. In the pessimistic scenario, this is the end of an era in which the clubbing scene has been an exception.

So there’s a connection between the northern kibbutz and the “escapist bubble” of Tel-Aviv.

The Meteor festival could hardly hide its contempt for the BDS in its official response statement on the 24th of August. It called all the pressure from the BDS campaign a “BDS ambush”, and tried to discredit the boycott calls by stating that it was “receiving no support, funds or benefits from any governmental or political entity” – as if that was the basis for boycott to begin with. Meteor thus claimed that the calls were “absurd” and the festival was “100% politics free… an escapist and pure peace experience”.

Finally, Meteor said:

“No one will make us hate, that includes the BDS which insanely politicised our event. no one. Music heals, politics kills”.

Thus, the festival tried to frame the BDS as hateful and insane.

Idit Frenkel in Haaretz had also characterized Tel Aviv as an “escapist” bubble. And she echoed that idea of “no… politics.”

“Israel’s nightlife and clubbing scene – especially in Tel Aviv – had been an oasis regarding cultural boycotts, an extraterritorial hedonistic space with no room for politics”.

Yet Frenkel seemed to recognize that this bubble is bursting. And she’s clearly worried about it.

The Meteor festival is not a bubble. It takes place in Israel.

This is where I would like to draw a historical comparison to another supposed ‘bubble’ in the time of South African Apartheid: Sun City.

Sun City was established in 1979, in the Bantustan of Bophuthatswana. A lavish hotel and casino resort was built in what was then declared an ‘independent homeland’ by the Apartheid regime. Bophuthatswana was not recognized as a state by any country, but the local relaxation of Apartheid rules and the more liberal culture there served as a whitewash of Apartheid.

The UN imposed a cultural boycott on South Africa in 1980, so the founding hotel magnet Sol Kerzner offered lavish sums to international artists who were willing to defy the UN boycott.

Frank Sinatra performed there in 1981 for $2 million. Many well-known performers played there in the early 80’s – Dolly Parton, Tina Turner, Queen, Elton John, etc.

Now let’s just jump back to Israel again, and look at the money issue in particular:

Lana Del Rey, Meteor’s big cancellation, sells some of the most expensive tickets in the world (after Beyoncé among female artists), for around $270. Nonetheless, her appearance fee has reportedly been $75,000.

But notice how much she was offered, and paid in advance, by the Israeli Meteor festival: $700,000, according to Variety‘s source. That’s about 9 times her normal fee.

That fee multiple resembles a case with another big star from a few years back – Sinéad O’Connor, who in 2014 finally said, “I won’t play in Israel”.

“Normally I get paid about ten grand for a gig, this offer was for a hundred grand,” she reveals. “I was refusing and refusing for a year, and a certain amount of pressure was put on me…”

The gig O’Connor was referring to was supposed to be in Caesarea, on the coast 30 miles north of Tel Aviv. So it’s not just about one particular city/bubble in Israel.

Let’s jump back south, once again, to Sun City. By the mid 1980’s, it was becoming seriously contentious to perform for Apartheid South Africa in the supposed ‘liberal island’ of Sun City. In 1985, a protest song called “Sun City” was launched by Artists United Against Apartheid. The Chorus went “I ain’t gonna play Sun City”. The video opens with an official Apartheid propaganda clip, which tells us all that we need to know about Sun City’s value for Apartheid:

“Sun city is the showplace of Bophuthatswana. One of the so-called ‘independent homelands’ where South African blacks have been relocated. It’s a lavish resort, where you can relax and enjoy some of the world’s headline entertainers – it’s part of the reality of Apartheid”.

“Part of the reality of Apartheid” – no one would use that today for promotion. “Apartheid” has become an actual crime against humanity, and the notion of it is a disgrace. But many were subscribing to this whitewash in the early 80’s. Notice Rolling Stone’s coverage from 1982:

Last summer, for example, the resort bagged Frank Sinatra for a week, at an estimated price tag of $2 million. It was a stunning propaganda coup. “Sinatra’s appearance at Sun City could strongly influence other entertainers who may be reluctant to perform there because they assume that Bophuthatswana is in South Africa,” said Sinatra’s press agent, Lee Solters.

Get that? The Rolling Stone was uncritically citing Sinatra’s agent essentially saying that Bophuthatswana is NOT in South Africa, and that it’s only a misguided assumption of some entertainers. Even the official propaganda video said “so-called ‘independent homeland’”, and no country in the world recognized it as separate from South Africa, but Sinatra’s agent is eager to promote this false notion. Surely, there was a nice chunk for him out of that $2 million.

So finally, back north to Israel. Israel is also trying to whitewash its Apartheid, although it certainly doesn’t want to call it that. It is also trying to create ‘alternate realities’ wherein this Apartheid supposedly doesn’t exist. Tel-Aviv is in many ways marketed as such a “bubble”.

But this is a soap-bubble which exists only because people maintain the fantasy, that Tel Aviv, or kibbutz Lehavot Habashan, or Caesarea, are NOT part of Apartheid Israel. This fantasy exists because people want it to exist – it is a form of denial. Israel’s Apartheid is not only worse than South Africa’s, it is intrinsic in its founding ideology and is existent throughout all of its facets. The more overt, indeed murderous form of Apartheid in the 1967 occupied territories is but one facet of it. Israel is not showing any signs of relinquishing it, and never really has. People are beginning to get this: If you are performing in Israel, you are performing for Apartheid, just like you were playing for Apartheid when you played Sun City. That’s the reality of Apartheid.

A new chorus line is forming up from these many cancellations, and like with the song “Sun City”, it’s saying: “I ain’t gonna play Israel”.

Thanks to Dan Swanson, Philip Weiss, Raymond Deane, Remi Kanazi

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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42 Responses

  1. annie
    annie
    September 11, 2018, 11:53 am

    great article jonathan

  2. jon s
    jon s
    September 11, 2018, 3:06 pm

    Does that mean that any artist performing in the USA is expressing support for President Trump’s policies?
    Any artist performing in Turkey is supporting Erdogan?
    Any artist performing in Russia supports Putin?
    And so on…

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      September 11, 2018, 4:00 pm

      “Does this mean…And so on…” “Jon s”

      Actually “Jon s”, Israel is being singled out. There, happy now?

    • CigarGod
      CigarGod
      September 11, 2018, 7:38 pm

      Nope, just Israel, Jon.
      It’s called focusing on one domino at a time.

    • annie
      annie
      September 11, 2018, 8:35 pm

      jon, your comment implies this is about netanyahu, it isn’t. it’s about your privilege and your apartheid country. it’s about decades of no rights for palestinians and slaughtering innocent people. wasn’t there something like 90% of the israeli jews approving the 2014 invasion of gaza? that was after israel’s weeks long pogrom in the west bank where they reneged on the shalit trade and recaptured all the freed prisoners, hundreds of them? a gruesome collective punishment for millions of people. where were the protests for that? this is not about netanyahu, bennett is worse — even more of a homicidal maniac. and, for the most part, the people support them!

      any artists performing in israel is empowering the structure of apartheid, breaking a boycott — they will go down in history as scabs.

    • chocopie
      chocopie
      September 12, 2018, 2:51 am

      If you want to organize boycotts of those countries, go right ahead. Good luck, it takes a lot of planning and years of work before a boycott begins making inroads.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius
      September 12, 2018, 4:01 pm

      Have American civil society organisations asked for a boycott of the US?

      • catalan
        catalan
        September 12, 2018, 4:35 pm

        “Have American civil society organisations asked for a boycott of the US?” Maximus
        BDS already boycotts virtually all large American companies, including Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Starbucks, Victoria Secret, GM and others. It has been a very successful strategy according to most commenters.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        Maximus Decimus Meridius
        September 12, 2018, 5:19 pm

        You haven’t answered the question. Never mind, it wasn’t actually asked of you.

      • jon s
        jon s
        September 17, 2018, 3:27 pm

        Not that I know of.

  3. Jonathan Ofir
    Jonathan Ofir
    September 11, 2018, 3:23 pm

    Thanks Annie.

  4. Brewer
    Brewer
    September 11, 2018, 3:35 pm

    The post-modern State of Israel has a solution. Simply re-define the term “artist”, line up a bunch of nonentity noisemakers and declare it a huge success.

  5. Marnie
    Marnie
    September 11, 2018, 11:02 pm

    “The current tsunami of cancellations, while it might sound trivial if you’re untutored in trance music, could reflect a trend with effects far beyond the Meteor Festival.”

    “Israel’s nightlife and clubbing scene – especially in Tel Aviv – had been an oasis regarding cultural boycotts, an extraterritorial hedonistic space with no room for politics”. Yeah? Tell that to palestinian teenagers who 1) are losing their spaces on a daily basis, all spaces, home, school, town and 2) their lives are encroached upon 24/7 by the occupation and the political games of netanyahu and tRUMP. Since all those ‘politics’ agendas are for the benefit of israeli jews and the detriment of palestinians and other non-jews, the only way to escape it my hedonistic enemies is to change the politics (vote the bastards out) or die.

    I’m untutored in ‘trance music’ but it seems to me the last thing israelis need is more ‘trance’. Time to get bit in the ass by reality. Don’t like the reality eh?

    Israelis have plenty of escapist, hedonistic spaces for them to play in. They breathe free air, drink clean water, have electricity 24/7, come and go freely and aren’t used for target practice.

    Why the need for this pampering escapism? You can run, drug out and go all caligula but you can’t hide from what the rest of the world has woke up to. Just because you want to stay in your ‘bubble’ about to be burst, there are millions of others who won’t. Much thanks to the performers who refused to play sun city.

    @jon s – why don’t you explain to your whining students, children, etc., with the standard zionist response – the world is full of antisemites out to destroy your happenin’ good times. It’s a bitch being chosen huh? waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh

  6. amigo
    amigo
    September 12, 2018, 10:36 am

    Perhaps .one day jon s will have an epiphany and realise that he is an integral part of the crimes that israel commits on an hourly basis.All that israel does is in the pursuit of the so called “greater Israel” which could not be accomplished without compliant if not indeed enthusiastic illegal squatters.

    Jon s seeks to seperate himself from this obvious fact.by waxing lyrical about his outreach activities
    and (faux)concern for Palestinians.whose land he squats on.

    Jon s is worse than jackduh/boris /mondonut et al who are up front with their racism and bigotry and zionist ideology.

    Someday jon you may break free of your self imposed bonds.
    Don.t leave it until you are on your death bed .Why be on the wrong side of history all your life.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      September 12, 2018, 12:43 pm

      “Why be on the wrong side of history all your life.”

      Oh, “Jon s” doesn’t worry about that. He’s got dual-citizenship and a US passport. He can always come back to the US and blame the settlers and the right for ruining Israel.

  7. msmoore
    msmoore
    September 12, 2018, 12:51 pm

    Thank you, annie and Jonathan.

  8. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    Maximus Decimus Meridius
    September 12, 2018, 5:34 pm

    Remember a few years ago free trips to Israel were offered in the ‘goody bags’ given to attendees at the Academy Awards?

    How many A listers have taken up the offer, I wonder? Not a single one, I’ll bet. Brand Israel is toxic. Nobody needs it.

  9. Maghlawatan
    Maghlawatan
    September 13, 2018, 12:54 am

    « and the festival was “100% politics free… an escapist and pure peace experience.

    Say Ahed Tamimi is into Electronic Dance Music. She is 17. She lives in the West Bank. How would she get to the festival?
    Israël recently blew up a cultural centre in Gaza. It too was a pure peace experience but it doesn’t count under Israeli rule. Say a teenager at the centre wanted to go to the Meteor festival. Could Jon S arrange it for her?
    Half of the population is Palestinian. What proportion of festival goers are Palestinian?
    This is about the political economy of Israeli apartheid.

    https://youtu.be/TlMdYpnVOGQ

  10. DaBakr
    DaBakr
    September 15, 2018, 12:45 am

    So, the whole bds movement is just singling out israel (some big mouth on here admitted it) and israel happens to be the only jewish nation but bds has nothing to do with jews. even matisyahu. the philosophical debate for the ages.

    As y’all see israel, including the national author, as a hateful nation the majority of jews consider mw and the majority of its contributors hate mongers on an officially recognized hate site.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius
      September 15, 2018, 10:47 am

      Surprised you could type through your tears.

      “So, the whole bds movement is just singling out israel (some big mouth on here admitted it)”

      Eh? The BDS movement is aimed at using non-violent resistance to strive for justice for Palestinians, at the request of Palestinian civil society. of course it ‘singles out’ Israel. It’s not like Mongolia or Tanzania is occupying Palestine, is it?

      “israel happens to be the only jewish nation but bds has nothing to do with jews.”

      Israel is only a ‘Jewish nation’ because the non-Jews living there were either killed, expelled or demoted to 3rd class citizens. So of course the victims of those crimes, and those who support them, are going to seek to right those many wrongs. Being Jewish doesn’t absolve someone of responsability for their actions.

    • annie
      annie
      September 15, 2018, 11:14 am

      the majority of jews consider mw and the majority of its contributors hate mongers on an officially recognized hate site.

      regardless of whether the majority of jews have even heard of mondoweiss, or whether this is true, what difference does it (or should it) make?

      by this logic, israel could do literally anything to anyone or any group and you’d justify it because israel is “the only jewish nation”. do you think israel, merely by virtue of being a (or only) jewish state, deserves a pass on committing war crimes and other such atrocities? do you believe a jew, merely by virtue of being jewish, deserves some special consideration in the commission of committing crimes?

      the philosophical debate for the ages.

      accusations of hatred are not a counter argument per se and as they are used routinely in the defense of israel, ineffective. (iow, your argument has no merit).

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      September 15, 2018, 11:39 am

      DaBakr: “So, the whole bds movement is just singling out israel (some big mouth on here admitted it).”

      ROFL. Does any other country expell and occupy the Palestinians that called for BDS? Your comment is ridiculous and pathetic.

      DaBakr: “… and israel happens to be the only jewish nation but bds has nothing to do with jews.”

      ROFL. Like the third reich was the only German nation, but they Jewish boycott against it had nothing to do with Germans? Was it only anti-Germanism?

    • eljay
      eljay
      September 15, 2018, 1:12 pm

      || @Daa: So, the whole bds movement is just singling out israel … and israel happens to be the only jewish nation but bds has nothing to do with jews. … ||

      It’s funny how you don’t hear the people of Iran – the world’s only Persian nation – whine, bitch and moan about the crushing sanctions levied against their “singled out” country the way Jewish supremacists (Zionists) whine, bitch and moan about BDS (when they’re not busy laughing it off an ineffectual).

      I thought “Captain Israel” Zionists were supposed to be made of sterner stuff.  :-(

      • DaBakr
        DaBakr
        September 16, 2018, 8:34 am

        @ej

        Well, I actually DO hear the citizens of Iran bitching and moaning about first, their shitty tyrannical regime which most middle class Persians hate but still risk prison and death for protesting. And, some of my Persian cousins who made it to Israel will tell you all the stories you like about exactly how’free’ their elders are there. They will tell you that the supposed 25,000 (more like 18,000) Jews left in Iran are mostly used effectively by the mullahs as hostages so that the rest of their families that got out limit any or all activity critical of the regime. Jews have no effective rights in Iran. There’s a token parliamentary member and they sure as hell talk shit about Zionism when asked on camera or by journalists. Try talking to some frkkn Persians who got out and have family there and- happen to be Jews. See what they tell you kid.
        . Other then that… Persia is a most amazing nation. It’s people are so culturally advanced it’s embarrassing. The art is spectacular. The Islamic fascist mullahs have fkd up an amazing place in very little time (and no, my family did not like Shah. They hated Shah but hate mullahs more….,fyi

      • DaBakr
        DaBakr
        September 16, 2018, 8:58 am

        @ej

        Btw….some of the most gorgeous women on planet earth are still being hounded, lectured, beaten and jailed for not covering their hair. That did not exist in Shah time. How would you like your sister/mother beaten for not wearing a hijab? Think you’d bitch? You’d get arrested for hanging out with girls covered or not. This is one of the centers of human culture. It’s not like the KSA where people including all the princes just started to read a few decades ago. Art is mostly banned. Music, nope. And another interesting pov from a damn Zionist: I would ten times rather live in the fkd up Iran even with the mullah regime because after the first month of living in KSA and driving a Ferrari at 220km around the desert I would literally go to any town square and chop my own head off because living like it’s 700 years ago but with fast cars, computers and…….um…….. sand and men in white robes who still own their’women’ even though they can drive is, well, it’s not Persia. One can sneak around in Iran. The basij are notoriously stupid as are the modesty police. You should visit isfahan . It’s blue like nothing else.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        Maximus Decimus Meridius
        September 16, 2018, 11:16 am

        “.some of the most gorgeous women on planet earth are still being hounded, lectured, beaten and jailed for not covering their hair.”

        That’s awful. I mean, if they were ugly, none of this would be a problem, would it?

      • eljay
        eljay
        September 16, 2018, 1:32 pm

        || @Daa: @ej

        Well, I actually DO hear the citizens of Iran bitching and moaning about first, their shitty tyrannical regime … ||

        But not about the crippling sanctions levied against their “singled out” state. Got it.

        || … Btw….some of the most gorgeous women on planet earth are still being hounded, lectured, beaten and jailed for not covering their hair. … ||

        I condemn all manner of evil, including what goes on in Iran and Israel. You condemn the evil that goes on in Iran and then use it to justify the evil you advocate, engage in and/or support in Israel. Go figure.

      • DaBakr
        DaBakr
        September 18, 2018, 12:49 am

        @mx

        Yeah. Partial to Persians. And most women are beautiful in at least one way and often more. weren’t you taught that? or were you brought up by barbarians

        @ej

        but you are just licking your chops how how exciting it would be for Israelis to be hurt badly by bds sanctions. why should anybody give a shit what your personal political biases are? ask yourself why your Canadian msm as well as US and EU msm don’t carry more about Iranian apolitical citizens suffering. why is Israel and its conflict with Arab palestinians so juicy? Or don’t you have a clue?

      • eljay
        eljay
        September 18, 2018, 9:07 am

        || @aak: @ej

        but you are just licking your chops how how exciting it would be for Israelis to be hurt badly by bds sanctions. … ||

        Wrong as usual. You’re off to a poor start.

        || … why should anybody give a shit what your personal political biases are? … ||

        No reason. And yet you do. How sweet. :-)

        || … ask yourself why your Canadian msm as well as US and EU msm don’t carry more about Iranian apolitical citizens suffering. why is Israel and its conflict with Arab palestinians so juicy? … ||

        Neither story is “juicy” in Canadian MSM, but when they are in the news Iran is demonized while Israel is handled with kid gloves.

        || … Or don’t you have a clue? ||

        Do you?

    • Marnie
      Marnie
      September 18, 2018, 6:30 am

      ‘So, the whole bds movement is just singling out israel ‘

      Wow! Israel is the only apartheid ‘state’ on the planet now. Think that has something to do with BDS? BDS hasn’t taken a jewish life in its singling out ‘israel’. I can almost taste your tears (FYI – needs salt).

      And the ‘state of israel’ has been singling out palestinians to divide, conquer, destroy for over 70 years. Palestinian dead since 9/29/2000 – 9,510 but probably by now over 10,000 (average 46 killed per month).

      Israelis and Palestinians Killed since 9/29/2000 – If Americans Knew
      https://ifamericaknew.org/stat/deaths.html

      • DaBakr
        DaBakr
        October 12, 2018, 4:38 pm

        @m

        Fyi: 10000s of Israel’s killed as well. Not that it matters to you

  11. DaBakr
    DaBakr
    September 16, 2018, 6:56 am

    Well, she sure is a pretty gal. And she had some principals. At least I mean she has a couple principals, or maybe it’s just one. But it’s better then nothing. One day the government should allow the singer to be hauled up 130ft/40m in a bird cage hanging from a crane directly over a border with equal access to sound. She cooks realize her’dream’ of playing to Israeli and arab fans at the same time. The visuals alone would make her…um…. Memorable.

  12. catalan
    catalan
    September 16, 2018, 10:04 am

    The article doesn’t address what outcome is sought: let’s say that not a single foreign musician wanted to perform in Israel. What is that supposed to achieve? Make Israeli voters more liberal? Perhaps less liberal? Is the thought process going to be: I couldn’t see Lana Del Rey in Tel Aviv, so I am going to vote to have 10 million Arabs refugees come? Or I think we should leave the settlements? I guess I just don’t get the path from Lana del Ray not visiting to Israel to making concessions on the issues of borders, refugees, settlements, and Jerusalem.

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      September 16, 2018, 3:55 pm

      Catalan: “I guess I just don’t get the path from Lana del Ray not visiting to Israel to making concessions on the issues of borders, refugees, settlements, and Jerusalem.”

      What is even more strange is that Israel has a minister whose only job is to focus on Lana del Ray. And wonderbras.

      • DaBakr
        DaBakr
        September 23, 2018, 12:30 pm

        Is it Rapheal Bar Ilan?

    • zaid
      zaid
      September 17, 2018, 3:38 pm

      If it is useless then why do you keep commenting about it, just leave it dude.

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        September 17, 2018, 5:41 pm

        He doesn’t think it’s useless. To the contrary. He wants everybody to believe that it is useless. That’s why he focuses on Lana Del Ray or Wonderbras or Dr. Pepper, etc, because he needs to belittle it. He NEVER responded to the articles I linked which showed what BDS has actually achieved and how.

      • gamal
        gamal
        September 17, 2018, 6:45 pm

        “because he needs to belittle it”

        It is so transparent it’s puzzling that he would think it effective, also kudos for “wonderbra” and “belittle”, i got a literary frisson, no prurience.

      • DaBakr
        DaBakr
        September 18, 2018, 1:01 am

        BDS hurts like gossip. gossip is a sin in most religions but it has always been effective in shaming the weak minded. So, did you actually expect Israel to ignore bds like it tried for the first few years? Pragmatic policy, pragmatic leadership, pragmatic nation (jewish). when we need to change tactics we change tactics. you think any other successful nation doesn’t do the same? (Let’s just throw up China as the biggest example and they just happen to be abusing their own Muslim population which none of you seem to give asht about, much.) I just don’t happen to believe that the palestinian culture of extreme tenacity along with their willingness to be preached to that they will ultimately destroy Jewish sovereignty in israel coupled with outside bds (lana, lorde, pink Floyd guy(forgot his name Fcs!) pressure will budge Israel any more then the other extreme forms of pressure we’ve endured. Obviously, people here believe different, I understand that.

  13. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    September 16, 2018, 12:48 pm

    @catalan
    ” I guess I just don’t get the path from Lana del Ray not visiting to Israel to making concessions on the issues of borders, refugees, settlements, and Jerusalem.”

    Yup it doesn`t help the piss process. Yawn.

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