1. The hashtag #RihannaGate is quick to report the diva’s latest dramas, like when she was kicked out of a mosque in Abu Dhabi earlier this week.
2. So when Rihanna announced she would be playing in Israel as part of her Diamond tour, the pro-Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement was quick to # and call on her to cancel.
October 19, 2013
The BDS movement is a “global campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights,” according to the group’s official website. These campaigns take different forms to varying impact, but often target high profile figures to attract media attention. The Israeli government has repeatedly denounced the BDS movement as delegitimization of Israel and Israeli citizens.
4. Rihanna did not cancel, and the pop star came to Israel to pose in a bikini in the Dead Sea and sing and dance before 50,000 people.
5. She was late for her concert. But many still loved the show.
6. As per usual, there were also some haters.
October 24, 2013
7. Then the Israeli newspaper Haaretz brought #RihannaGate back when they reported in their English language edition that the singer replaced the phrase “dollar sign” with “Palestine” in her song “Pour It Up” during her Tel Aviv concert.
October 23, 2013
8. The claim immediately went viral on Twitter, making its way into Israeli news and U.S. media like the HuffingtonPost and BuzzFeed, as well as the English-language Arab press.
9. But, the Haaretz reporter heard it wrong.
October 24, 2013
10. Lahav Harkov, a journalist with the Jerusalem Post who was at the concert, was the first to call into question what Haaretz English, the Post’s competitor, wrote.
@MiriamElder I was there and I didn’t hear her say it. Only Haaretz reported it. I really don’t think it’s true.— Lahav Harkov (@LahavHarkov) October 23, 2013
11. But the false claim had already inspired a pro-Palestinian Instagram theme like these.
13. And contentious Twitter conversations like these.
October 22, 2013
Palestinians aren’t asking for a shoutout while you perform in an apartheid state, they’re calling on artists to respect the boycott. #BDS— Remi Kanazi (@Remroum) October 24, 2013
16. Part of the tweet’s controversy came from Haaretz’s position in the Israeli media: as the stalwart leftist paper, critics are quick to point out when Haaretz gets Palestine wrong.
October 24, 2013
17. It was also largely an online, English speaking controversy: While Haaretz published the story on their front page the next day, the Hebrew language edition, which has a larger print circulation, did not include a translated version.
The latest #RihannaGate controversy became yet another reminder of how polarizing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains. In this instance, no other news sites corroborated Haaretz’s claims, and rather than advance the conversation, Twitter users largely fell along traditionally polarized lines.
As the Washington Post concluded:
The whole episode was pretty silly. So why are you reading about it? Because this is a reminder of how remarkably sensitive the politics of the Israel-Palestinian conflict can get, and indeed always are. The mere hint of a one-word political statement by a 25-year-old Barbadian pop star, during a highly non-political event, was enough to generate controversy and debate in multiple countries.
Love or hate Rihanna, she got Americans talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — albeit in 140 characters or less.