#Rihannagate (Updated at the end with a partial retraction by Ha’aretz)
Rihanna played Tel Aviv’s huge Hayarkon Park on Tuesday night. It’s the same place I saw Sir Paul McCartney play a few years back. Just like Sir Paul, Rihanna faced a barrage of boycott calls from the usual BDSM suspects. She ignored them and made it clear how pleased she is to come to Israel.
Stand With Us’s Michael Dickson has all the details at the Times of Israel on how Ha’aretz’s reporter, Amy Klein, alone amongst 55,000 people managed to “hear” Rihanna say Palestine in one of her songs. No need to link to Ha’aretz: let’s take a section from any one of countless Arabic world sources now repeating this poisonous lie (Naharet in Lebanon repeating Ha’aretz’s story via Huff Po):
According to reports, Rihanna changed a portion of the lyrics of hit song “Pour It Up” from “All I see is signs / All I see is dollar signs” to “All I see is Palestine.”
The singer made mention of Tel Aviv multiple times during the show, shouting out to the crowd, “You know I love my friends all over the world, but it’s been too long since I’ve been back here in Tel Aviv,” without mentioning Israel itself.
Here are some other Arabic and Middle Eastern sites gleefully repeating Ha’aretz’s false reporting:
Even more egregious than claiming she heard the word Palestine inserted in the song (easily refuted by video and the memory of 55,000 people and the fact that not one other journalist or tweeter heard that) is the claim that by saying “Tel Aviv” in the concert, she was somehow not saying Israel.
She obviously doesn’t recognise Turkey either as she started her concert there with the words: “Istanbul. What the fu*k is up!”.
I’ve been to a few gigs in my time and I’m racking my brain to remember when an artist greeted a whole country. My recollection is artists nearly always mention a city. In very famous venues I remember them naming the specific venue. “Hello Hammersmith” or “Hello Wembley” I remember hearing frequently at concerts I went to at those venues in London.
And when Sir Paul McCartney played this same venue in Tel Aviv in ’08 I remember him clearly saying “Shalom Tel Aviv”. No biggie. We all know Tel Aviv is in Israel.
So we have some utterly “lethal journalism” (as Prof Richard Landes) calls this. First from a reporter and then from the entire chain of editors at Ha’aretz.
Once the entertainment reporter at the Jerusalem Post called this as false, why didn’t they take down the article and apologise?
Well that would be possible online, but by the time this hit the front page of the printed edition, well, they’ve got a bit of a problem.
This should result in people being fired. There is no excuse for this. They’re lying. Unless Ha’aretz issues a huge front page retraction and takes visible steps to censure the people responsible for this, they’re not fit to be regarded as a journalistic enterprise any more.
And then are they going to follow up with Huffington Post and the entire Arab world that has, once again, reprinted their malicious lies? I think we know the answer.
Update 11:45, 24th October
Ha’aretz have finally issued an online retraction. They don’t address the completely pointless references to some significance of her saying Tel Aviv rather than Israel, that’s still in the piece:
Nor did they care when she just kept inserting calls of “Tel Aviv!” in every song – never once saying the word Israel.
We will wait to see if the paper copy tomorrow will carry a prominent printed retraction too.
The original headline for this article has been changed (from “All Rihanna sees ‘is Palestine,’ but Israelis didn’t seem to care”) and part of a sentence was removed from the story (“Nor did they care when in “Pour it Up” instead of “All I see is signs / All I see is dollar signs,” she subbed in “All I see is Palestine.”) Upon reviewing video footage of the show posted after publication, it is clear that the change in lyrics attributed to Rihanna was mistaken. The footage can be found here: