In the wake of Grammy-winning singer Stevie Wonder's decision to pull out of performing at a Los Angeles fundraiser for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, pro-Israel groups are circulating an online petition calling for a stand against the boycott movement.
Wonder was scheduled to headline the Los Angeles Friends of the IDF annual gala on Dec. 6, an event that raises millions of dollars to support the Israeli military.
According to a news release from the group's public relations firm, Wonder's representatives cited a recommendation from the United Nations to withdraw his participation given his involvement with the U.N. Wonder is a "Messenger of Peace" of the world body.
“We regret the fact that Stevie Wonder has decided to cancel his performance at an important community event of the FIDF, an American organization supporting the educational, cultural, and wellbeing needs of Israel’s soldiers, their families, and the families of fallen soldiers," Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon, national director and CEO of Friends of the IDF, said in the release. "FIDF is a non-political organization that provides much-needed humanitarian support regardless of religion, political affiliation, or military activity.”
Wonder had come under intense social media pressure to cancel his event. An online petition at change.org had more than 4,800 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
"You were arrested in 1985 protesting South African Apartheid, now we ask you: please remember that apartheid is apartheid, whether it comes from White Afrikaaner settlers of South Africa or from Jewish Israelis in Israel," the petition reads. "Desmond Tutu has recognized that Israel’s Apartheid is worse than South Africa’s -- will you stand with us against apartheid and cancel your performance at the IDF fundraiser."
A second petition, launched by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, calls on Wonder to "(p)lease continue your legacy of speaking out for the oppressed. Please be a 'full-time lover' of justice by standing on the right side of history and canceling your performance for the Israeli army."
In response, pro-Israel groups also turned to social media for support. An email from the international StandWithUs and Los Angeles-based Israeli Leadership Council urged readers to join them in standing up for "the State of Israel, the Jewish people and the free world. We will no longer sit idly as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activists attempt to bully the world into boycotting Israel." The email linked to a petition at westandforisrael.com, which claimed 11,800 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
Wonder's agent at Creative Artists Agency did not return a request for comment. The spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general also had no comment on the matter.
The United Nations does not impose restrictions on its goodwill representatives. Wonder most recently performed at a U.N. concert commemoratiing its 67th anniversary. Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust memoirist who is also a staunch defender of Israel, also is a U.N. Messenger of Peace.
Wonder performed at a 1998 gala honoring Israel's 50th anniversary.