Some pop singers these days are caving in to pressure to join the BDS movement and boycott Israel, either out of solidarity with the Palestinians or because of a cold calculation that the show will hurt their public image and bottom line.
Tween idol Justin Bieber isn’t among them and should be applauded for that. Not only did he perform in Tel Aviv this week, he is also reported to have given discounted tickets (with the help of American Jewish philanthropists) to kids who have suffered the onslaught of terrorist rocket attacks aimed at southern Israeli population centers from Gaza.
That wasn’t enough for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. There are conflicting reports about who canceled a tentative meeting between Bibi and Bieber — a headline writer’s dream– and a spokesman for Bieber told me there was never a finalized plan.
But it is clear that Netanyahu was insistent on including children who have fallen under attack in his meeting with the Canadian-born sensation.
"Netanyahu asked to have children from the south attend the meeting in order to encourage them and create a PR effect," the prime minister’s office told the daily Yediot Achranot. "The prime minister does not see this as a political issue."
Netanyahu’s heart was in the right place, looking to score both a morale booster for these traumatized kids and a media spotlight on the reality that Palestinian terrorism is focused on the most vulnerable of Israel’s citizens, no matter what apologists may say about resistance to the occupation.
It would have been nice if the pop star went along with the request. Visiting terror survivors doesn’t mean endorsing Israel’s settlement policy or denouncing the Goldstone report.
But in any case, the prime minister’s expectation of a "PR effect" is an unwise move on behalf of a country that wants internationally known artists to treat it just like any other concert venue. It’s strange that Netanyahu will sit down with the Palestinians without preconditions, but not Justin Bieber.
The move will surely boost Netanyahu’s political stock at home.
But telling celebrities who are considering a future Israel tour that the government will try to dictate their agenda and discouraging future "PR effects" doesn’t serve his country’s interests at a time when international activists want Israel branded a criminal "apartheid" state and its leaders ostracized.