ISRAEL’S embassy has thrown its support behind concerts in Australia by controversial Israeli entertainer Achinoam Nini, aka Noa, after a spate of “vile and vitriolic” comments from within the Jewish community.
The singer, who is performing in Melbourne this week, is set to take to the stage at the Bondi Pavilion Theatre next Tuesday in a show arranged by the New Israel Fund.
Noa is a vocal advocate of a softer line on relations with Palestinians and has been heavily critical of the current Israeli Prime Minister and government.
She has also been accused of supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, a claim she emphatically denies.
“I see it as a hypocritical movement full of contradictions [that] will not bring peace to Israel nor help the Palestinians achieve their goals; very much on the contrary,” she said last year.
However, in the lead up to her performance at Melbourne’s Temple Beth Israel, senior rabbi Gersh Lazarow revealed that as soon as Noa’s visit was announced several months ago, TBI became the target of attacks, including “about half a dozen phone calls, half a dozen emails and 20-30 Facebook posts”.
Amid calls for members of the community to boycott Noa’s concerts, slurs directed at TBI accused its management of being “worse than the Nazis”, “stormtroopers of the Socialist Left”, and “best friends of the Palestinians”.
Rabbi Lazarow said Noa has been targeted by “a vocal and ill-informed minority within the Australian Jewish community, who are choosing to focus on her politics and are putting forward spurious information about her and by extension my congregation being supporters of the BDS movement.
“What makes this even more painful, is that many of these falsehoods have been accompanied by vile and vitriolic rhetoric that I, as a lover of Israel, find shameful and embarrassing.”
Meanwhile, two well-known local community organisations have withdrawn their support of the concerts, the rabbi said.
In the wake of the protests, Rabbi Lazarow wrote to the embassy asking it to endorse the synagogue’s hosting of concerts at the shule and inviting outgoing ambassador Shmuel Ben-Shmuel to attend.
“Regrettably, the ambassador finishes his tenure this Sunday,” Rabbi Lazarow subsequently posted on Facebook, :but his office did not hesitate to respond to our initiative with their full support and encouragement for our commitment to Israeli art and artists.”
The embassy confirmed to The AJN this week that they endorsed Noa’s concerts.
Last year, after JNF Canada dropped its support for a Yom Ha’atzmaut appearance by Noa, the Israeli Embassy in Canada stepped in to support the show.
Earlier this year, meanwhile, a synagogue in Detroit cancelled a Noa concert, claiming threats attributed to right-wing Jewish protesters posed a security risk.
Lamenting “the undertone of bullying on our community”, Rabbi Lazarow told The AJN, “I’m not worried about a few keyboard warriors …[but] about the culture that is quickly becoming normative in our town and the impact it will have on the future of our relationship with Israel.”