Black Eyed Peas leader defies calls to boycott Israel


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American musician will.i.am, center, arrives for a photo op with his bandmates The Black Eyed Peas at the International Improvate Innovation Forum in Jerusalem on Monday, November 29, 2021. will.i.am a said on Monday that the policy does not. dictate his actions, with pressure from pro-Palestinian activists unable to dissuade him from performing in Israel. (AP Photo / Maya Alleruzzo)

PA

The Black Eyed Peas’ Will.i.am said on Monday that politics did not dictate his actions, with pressure from pro-Palestinian activists unable to dissuade him from performing in Israel and maintaining ties to the high-tech scene in Israel. country.

For years, a Palestinian-led movement has urged artists to boycott Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. Major artists like Lorde and Lana Del Ray canceled appearances under pressure while other stars like Madonna and Bob Dylan challenged him. The movement is known as BDS for its calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

The Grammy-winning group performed in Jerusalem on Monday. Speaking to The Associated Press ahead of the concert, which took place on the occasion of the UN’s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, will.i.am said his personal and professional connections spur him to happen and invest in the country.

“I’m a musician and a tech enthusiast and people love our music,” he said, surrounded by two of the other band members, Taboo and Apl.de.ap. “Am I turning my back on the people who live here because of politics?” No, that’s not the way we were built. So, you know, there are beautiful people here as well as beautiful people in Palestine. And someday we want to go too.

The BDS movement says it is a non-violent campaign against Israeli abuses against Palestinians – both Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians who have lived under Israeli military occupation for more than a half. century. Israel says the campaign is an effort to delegitimize and even destroy the country.

A statement posted on the BDS France website said the concert was “all the more scandalous” as it took place on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. He urged supporters to use the hashtag #WhereIsTheLoveforPalestinians – a nod to the band’s hit “Where is The Love” – ​​to call on the band to cancel their performance.

Will.i.am pointed to his many personal connections with the Israelis as one reason he couldn’t boycott the country. He said his first girlfriend was Israeli, and when they started out in Los Angeles, the group got together to make music in an Israeli friend’s room and enjoyed Sabbath dinners at his home.

One of the group’s major hits, “I Gotta Feeling,” is embellished with Hebrew, and the Black Eyed Peas recently collaborated on a song with Israeli pop duo Static and Ben El.

Resisting boycott calls over the years, will.i.am has deepened its ties to the country with its “main passion” – technology. His tech company i.am + acquired an Israeli start-up in 2016 and he has made repeated visits to the country to connect with its vibrant tech scene.

Will.i.am was in Israel to attend an innovation conference hosted by Improvate, an Israeli organization that works to advance Israeli technology.

In recent years, the musician-turned-innovator has created a series of wearable devices, including a smartwatch and headphones, that haven’t fully taken off. But he said he measures his success not by the amount of sales, but rather by what he learns from experience.

“I’m lucky that I can, you know, go to bat, you know, and stumble up and get up with the same enthusiasm and try to solve another problem,” he said.

With the pandemic in mind and with no end in sight, will.i.am has developed a smart face mask that combines a level of protection against coronavirus droplets with Bluetooth, noise canceling sound and LED lights. The paid mask sells for $ 299.

Some 8,000 people were expected to attend the Jerusalem concert, which was held as part of the country’s “green pass,” which requires attendees to be fully immunized with a booster session or to test negative for COVID-19.

It comes as Israel once again imposes restrictions in light of the omicron variant, closing air travel to international visitors and imposing a quarantine on Israelis returning from abroad, even those who are vaccinated. The country was among the first to seal its border against the new variant.

While Israelis are expected to attend plays and performances during the current Hanukkah holiday week, Israel allows live performances.

Will.i.am, Taboo and Apl.de.ap said their experience of traveling to Israel during the pandemic, where vaccinated travelers must be tested before departure and upon arrival, made them more comfortable. than visits to other countries. The country was among the first to start giving boosters and more than 43% of Israelis have received three doses of the vaccine.

But the group said playing in the middle of the new variant comes with some risks.

“Is that wise? No, “he said.” I hope everyone is vaxxed and wearing a mask in the audience, and thank goodness we are in Israel, where a lot of people are triple vaxxed. “

Like other artists, the group had to adapt when the pandemic hit. They put on virtual shows amid early blockages and collaborated online when in-person meetings weren’t safe.

Live shows in the shadow of a new variant raise new questions. Will.i.am said the group was thinking twice about how to piss off the crowds and whether it was safe to blackmail them with the possibility of spreading the infection.

“Usually when we sing songs, we tell the crowd to sing the words. Is it safe? ” he said. “You have to think about it. “

Despite the challenges of the pandemic – people close to him have died after being infected with the virus – will.i.am feels things will get better.

“Humanity, we have overcome a lot. We have conquered the plague. We have overcome so much. You have to believe in humanity. You have to believe in, you know, our resilience.


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