The day the music died

Lara Fabian has performed in Lebanon twice before. But the Belgian-Italian singer won’t grace a stage in the country for a third concert; at least, not anytime soon.

Fabian, who was scheduled to perform on February 14 and 15 at the Casino du Liban in Jounieh, announced on Thursday that her upcoming concert has been cancelled amid an intense boycott campaign by local activists. At issue is her record of involvement with Israel.

Fabian held a concert in Tel Aviv in March 2010 and participated in the Cercle Ben Gourion festival in Brussels in June of last year. In May 2008, she performed at a special concert in France to commemorate the anniversary of the creation of the Israeli state. At the end of the performance, she can be heard telling the audience, “I love you, Israel.”

In response to the announcement, Asad Ghsoub, an activist for the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon, which spearheaded the campaign against Fabian said, “We can’t be but happy because she knows that what she did has consequences… She cannot say ‘I love you Israel’ and expect us to welcome her. She would be out of her mind if she thinks we’re going to welcome her.”

Ghsoub said over the last few days, representatives from the campaign met with officials at the Casino du Liban along with reps from the state’s economy and culture ministries. They also sent an email to Fabian notifying her of the boycott.

“This is sad, especially in the long-term. It makes way for the entire future of cultural production in Lebanon to be jeopardized. This is about Israel now, but it could be about anything at any moment… Soon it will turn into producers and sponsors not wanting to fund projects because of potential boycotts and what the media might say about it,”Ayman Mhanna, executive director of the SKeyesCenter for Media and Cultural Freedom, told NOW Lebanon.

Mhanna noted that recently, and for the first time, the effort to boycott Israel has received the support of political parties in the country. On December 13, the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and several other parties signed a statement calling for the boycott of "all concerts, companies and troops supporting the Zionist enemy."

“This shows how much culture itself is politicized… The political and sectarian debate is now automatically translating into to how people perceive a cultural work. People are no longer able to look at culture through an artistic perspective. Everything is through a political prism,” Mhanna said.

Human rights activists have noted a marked increase in censorship in Lebanon this past year. Radio stations were reportedly banned from airing American pop star Lady Gaga’s single, “Judas,” in April. Lebanese director Degaulle Eid’s “Chou Sar” (What Happened) and the Iranian film “Green Days” were both prevented from screening at the Forbidden Film Festival in June. The Austrian film “Michael” was not allowed to show at last year’s BIFF. And most recently, Lebanese director Danielle Arbid’s feature film, Beirut Hotel, was banned by authorities in December amid concerns its “depiction of the political situation would endanger Lebanon’s security.” The movie contained scenes referring to the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Ghsoub responded to critics who say the success of the Fabian boycott campaign is, in effect, a form of cultural censorship. “We are clearly against all forms of censorship,” he said. “As individuals we are socially liberal, open and progressive. We have nothing to do with censorship, and I think people who want to attack us, try to associate us with this, and we are completely against it. Israel is a state that is an enemy of Lebanon. And we are in a state of war… Can you imagine a pro-Hezbollah superstar singing in Tel Aviv?”

In her post announcing the concert’s cancellation, titled, “Love letter to my Lebanese friends,” Fabian writes: “Only music can erase differences and break mental, religious and cultural barriers… Those who make a distinction are a minority of scared people… They are living with hatred because they weren’t loved enough. I won’t sing under the threats I’m a victim of… I don’t want to deal with Hatred… I believe in tolerance, generosity and truth.”

The singer also hinted that, while she won’t be in Lebanon physically, she plans on broadcasting a “unique show” on the night her performance was supposed to have taken place. Her publicist could not be reached before publishing time to elaborate on this statement.

“She should reconsider her actions and join this global movement that many artists are joining. If she makes a statement at least distancing herself from Israel, we have no problem welcoming her next time. We’ll throw a red carpet down for her,” Ghsoub said.

  • The Enchantress

    I just want to thank you for the boycott because it introduced me to Lara Fabian, who I never heard of beforehand. I am going to go out and buy one of her CDs just to support her and support freedom of speech. And I am going to enjoy listening to her music. So - to the haters/pro-Hezbollah people/anti-freedom monsters (I am being redundant, I know), again - thank you! Because of you I know of a great artist I will support!

    February 8, 2012

  • ali daoud

    Zina, we are happy you support us too, thanks.

    January 24, 2012

  • zina

    i am happy there are still people in this world working against the normalization of the Israeli state and its advocates. Enough artists have recognized the colonial and racist entity that is Israel, let us not forget that or deny it in the name of "liberalism".

    January 22, 2012

  • ali daoud

    should we receive that singer in order to prove we are open minded? come on guys, no one justification is valid so that we receive and invite a singer who openly expressed her support for our enemy, and here i ask those who admire the west practices to recall how badly treated are all the academics who dare to question the Holaucost or its size. Lara is not welcomed in Free Lebanon, she can sing in Tel Aviv.

    January 21, 2012

  • ThisisMk

    on the other side of the mirror, enemies of Lebanon also keep lobbying against progress of Lebanon. There always been activists against this and that, but when we cared about them when in hand we have millions of dollars deal?

    January 21, 2012

  • alex

    It's law that's it.... Israel has the same policy....

    January 21, 2012

  • leyla

    Good riddance to any zionist , Israel has done enough damage to lebanon , its infrastructure , and taken away enough lives , and caused enough pain to many families over the years , it is difficult to forget . some victims wounds have not healed yet (cluster bombs victims ) and israel continues to view lebanon as an enemy , so a friend of Israel continues to be an enemy of ours . Bravo to the brave Lebanese people , those with dignity .

    January 21, 2012

  • Henricanan

    to "Sense of Freedom" 1) Is there a single superstar who sings the glory of Hizballah? If there are singers strange way, they are anything but superstars 2) A Greek singer, famous and popular in Israel (I forget his name and I do not like it at all!) Held in his country of harsh words, similar to anti-Semitism against Israel and its policy. The deep crisis in Greece and the loss of most of its revenue was forced to turn to the public abroad. You can guess where I want to come? He eventually traveled to Israel, stating boldly: "Culture is the culture and politics is politics" (sic transit ...) And you know what happened? He has performed everywhere, giving interview to the Israeli Channel 2 without anything happening. Take in lessons!

    January 21, 2012

  • Marcel

    My eyes caught Lara's letter to her Lebanese friends, so that I remembered Marcel Khalife speeches about music, in western media and sometimes in Arabic interviews, and how important it is to eliminate differences and bring people together of all kinds. Strange.

    January 21, 2012

  • Joy

    bravo. I wish | had the guts to do the same as Asad. The singer's actions does indeed have consequences.

    January 21, 2012

  • MO

    this is what they refer to in arabic as putting poison in the honey .. in trying to make a point about free speech and censorship you are also throwing in normalization with israel it is pathetic that you find it regrettable that a pro-israeli artist is not welcomed in lebanon

    January 20, 2012

  • Abou Ali

    Walla ya Chabeb,... You really believe that this is gonna change anything? You want to boycot Israel, then throw away your computers, your phones and all other tech gadgets as most of their components were invented/made in Israel...

    January 20, 2012

  • Bill

    If Music is sang by such people then let it die. Palestinians have been dying for more than 60 years Miss Nassar.

    January 20, 2012

  • Ahmad Beiruti

    I dont get the headline. Did music die because a zionist who celebrates war crimes isent allowed to perform in lebanon?

    January 20, 2012

  • Munis

    She said that she won’t sing under the threats She is a victim of… She doesn't want to deal with Hatred… She believes in tolerance, generosity and truth.” Hahaha......Does she know the siege of Gaza, The sufferings of women and children...hahaha ...

    January 20, 2012

  • Laurent

    she is not a pro-israeli. she sings for everyone and she says :'je vous aimes' i.e. I love you +mentioning the name of the country in every concert. so now if she says 'I love you Lebanon" israel should boycott her lol

    January 20, 2012

  • ahamed63

    There are many pro-Hezbollah artists in Lebanon, the Arab world and all over the world. In Lebanon. Come on guys: a bit of objectivity.

    January 20, 2012

  • R

    true if this gets out of hands it could be for anything else after israel, but that this the exrvise we face, democracy and human rights r not an easy subject we hav to live by them and think of their ethics and purpose constantly...if fabian really ddnt want to deal with hatred she wouldn't have sung for israels creations bday and answered the call of more than 170 civil soc organizs

    January 20, 2012

  • Sense of Freedom

    "Can you imagine a pro-Hezbollah superstar singing in Tel Aviv?” .. a Pro Hizbollah Superstar???? now that's something i would like to see because so far, i haven't seen ANY..

    January 19, 2012

  • ali daoud

    why should the music die if that singer was banned? what meaning does culture have in case we will not respect our history and our grievances and our sacrifices against our enemy? let the singer express explicitly its stance against israel`s occupation and atrocities and apartheid regime and then shoe could come in. culture cannot be detached from politics, in the West that many here admire it is forbidden for any academic to discuss the Holocaust issue for example negatively, the western laws punish every academic who dares to question the size of the accurate numbers of Holaucost victims, so we don`t need anybody to preach us here, israel is our enemy and we have the right to ask that french singer to denounce israel`s actions in order to be welcomed in Free Lebanon.

    January 19, 2012