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Monday, November 12, 2018

Pharrell Williams criticised for singing 'Happy' to Israeli soldiers as part of army fundraiser

Pharrell Williams has been criticised on social media for performing in an annual fundraiser for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). Organised by the New York-based Friends of the Israel Defence Forces, the pop singer joined fellow musician Ziggy Marley on stage at the November 1 gala, performing to a crowd that included Israeli soldiers in uniform.

Several Hollywood stars, including Gerard Butler, Ashton Kutcher and The Nanny actress Fran Drescher, also attended the Los Angeles event, which raised a record $60 million (Dh220 million) for the IDF.

Remember: more than 200 Palestinians have been killed in the past seven months. And in just one week in May this year, 64 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers.

Williams took to the stage to perform his global hit Happy to a room full of Israeli soldiers and their supporters. This was only days after Williams tweeted to demand that United States President Donald Trump stop using the same song as part of his US midterm elections campaign.

The irony of him then performing it at the IDF fundraiser was not lost on those on social media, who went online to label his actions hypocritical.

Palestinian-American hip-hop producer Fredwreck - real name Faird Nassar – also called out Williams for his performance.

The US based think-tank, The Institute for Middle Eastern Understanding also denounced the move, claiming it was contrary to the spirit of Williams's song.

This is not the first time Palestinian activists have expressed their dismay at Williams. Hundreds of protesters from the South African chapter of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement demonstrated outside his Cape Town concert in 2015 over his plans to perform in Tel Aviv the following June. Williams eventually scrapped the date, citing a "scheduling conflict".

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Read more: Does the cultural boycott of Israel work?

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While none of the stars above posted their fundraiser appearance on their respective social media channels, news of their participation spread on social media, with fans immediately making their feelings known.

Butler, who recently starred in the crime caper Den of Thieves, has also been lambasted online, particularly from fellow fans of the Scottish football club Celtics – a team that has a long history of supporting Palestinian human rights and independence.

Meanwhile, reggae star Ziggy Marley has also been facing heat from fans, several of which accused him of disrespecting his father’s legacy by attending the event.

In a recent interview with The National, Marley said the songs in his latest album Rebellion implore listeners to look beyond politics of division and focus, instead, on our common humanity.

“What I am trying to get across is that as a humanity, we want to live in peace and love no matter what religion you are,” he said. “But we have to go and make the world and leaders know that. Only the willing will achieve their dreams.”

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Read more:

The hefty price of expression in Palestine

Hope is found in hip-hop for Middle East rappers MC Gaza and Chyno

Remembering Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish 10 years after his death

10 women who are shaping the Middle East cultural scene

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