Photo: Flash90

US pop group defies BDS

The Grammy-winning group performed in Jerusalem this week despite heavy pressure from pro-Palestinian activists.

By Erin Viner

The Black Eyed Peas, perhaps best known for the smash single “Where is The Love,” was welcomed by exuberant fans in Israel, which is permitting live performances to be held under its Green Pass program despite the recent emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign lobbies for Israel to be shunned on all fronts, including academically and culturally. The movement has been condemned as anti-Semitic by the Anti Defamation League (ADL), the German Parliament and elsewhere, and some 30 of the United States have banned the implementation of BDS measures.

Despite calls from the BDS movement, such as a statement from its branch in France demanding the “scandalous” concert be canceled, the band’s frontman will.i.am told the Associated Press that politics do not dictate his actions and he would not be deterred from performing or maintaining ties to Israel’s hi-tech sector.

“I’m a musician and a tech enthusiast and people like our music,” he said, standing alongside 2 of the group’s other members, Taboo and Apl.de.ap. “Do I turn my back on people that live here because of politics? No, that’s not the way we were built.”

will.i.am also revealed many personal connections in Israel to explain why he will not boycott the country. His first girlfriend was Israeli, he said, and the band often met at the home of an Israeli friend when getting its start in Los Angeles – where they were often invited to share meals on the Jewish Sabbath.

The Black Eyed Peas cultural connection to the Jewish State is also witnessed by use of Hebrew in another of their big hits, “I Gotta Feeling,” and the band also recently collaborated on a song with Israeli musical artists Static and Ben El.

On the tech scene, the musician/entrepreneur has made many visits to the country after his “i.am+ tech” firm acquired an Israeli startup in 2016. During his current trip this week, will.i.am also participated .in an innovation conference held by Improvate.

Referring to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, both will.i.am, Taboo and Apl.de.ap said they were less concerned to come to Israel as compared with other countries, due to its strict travel, testing and vaccination procedures.

As of today, 43.3% of Israel’s total population has been administered all three vaccine doses, and all attendees at the Black Eyed Peas concert in the capital had to show certification that they had been fully vaccinated or received negative PCR test results.