Demi Lovato visited Israel, which should be no big deal. But, there’s obviously a gap between what should be and what is.
As I wrote last year, the same series of events happen when a celebrity posts about being in Israel: Step one: non-Jewish celebrity visits Israel. Step two: said non-Jewish celebrity posts a picture of them in Israel on Instagram, and geo-tags “Israel” or writes something Israel-related. Step three: backlash.
Lovato took a trip to Israel in mid-September, but recently started sharing some snaps from the time she spent there.
“I am an American singer. I was raised Christian and have Jewish ancestors. When I was offered an amazing opportunity to visit the places I’d read about in the Bible growing up, I said yes,” Lovato wrote on Instagram. “This trip has been so important for my well-being, my heart, and my soul. I’m grateful for the memories made and the opportunity to be able to fill the God-sized hole in my heart. Thank you for having me, Israel.”
View this post on Instagram
I am an American singer. I was raised Christian and have Jewish ancestors. When I was offered an amazing opportunity to visit the places I’d read about in the Bible growing up, I said yes. There is something absolutely magical about Israel. I’ve never felt such a sense of spirituality or connection to God…something I’ve been missing for a few years now. Spirituality is so important to me…to be baptized in the Jordan river – the same place Jesus was baptized – I’ve never felt more renewed in my life. This trip has been so important for my well-being, my heart, and my soul. I’m grateful for the memories made and the opportunity to be able to fill the God-sized hole in my heart. Thank you for having me, Israel 💗
She seemed to have turned off comments on that post shortly after sharing.
The images included Lovato being baptized in the Jordan river, praying at the Western Wall (her cross tattoo on her hand visible), a selfie at the Western Wall, and her posing at the Tower of David, next to the Western Wall. Lovato has previously talked about her Jewish ancestry, saying she has distant roots on her father’s side.
Then she did a second post, just dedicated to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, captioned,”My heart was absolutely broken in Yad Vashem. This was such a beautiful tribute.”
She did not turn the comments off on this one. While some are good — Scooter Braun wrote “Thank you for never forgetting,” for example — most are your classic comments on a celebrity Israel post. What are those classic comments, you ask? As I laid out, they fall into four camps: correcting the celebrity (“Palestine, not Israel”), flag spam (Palestinian flags or Israeli flags), yelling at others (self-explanatory), and pro-Israel messages (“Israel loves you!”).
Some screenshots for you, to illustrate…
Correcting the celebrity:
Honestly, the fact that this is all happening on images from Yad Vashem — the world’s foremost tribute to the Holocaust — is frankly very upsetting. But, it’s what happens literally every single time a celebrity posts about Israel. (Educational sidebar: Most conversations around Israel and Palestine revolve around the idea of Zionism, which you can read more about here. And you can read about what people mean when they say Palestine today here.)
Demi Lovato’s third and (we assume) final post about Israel is an image of her with a little girl at the Shalva National Center. The Shalva National Center in Jerusalem is “dedicated to providing transformative care for individuals with disabilities, empowering their families and promoting social inclusion.”
Same shit went down in the comments. I don’t even want to screenshot, but know that they also suck.
When she visited the Shalva Center, she also met the Shalva Band, a band made up of people with disabilities who performed at Eurovision this year. The Embassy of Israel shared a video on Twitter:
#Inspiration: Superstar #DemiLovato paid a special visit to the @Shalva_Center in Jerusalem and met the #ShalvaBand! The band, made up of people with disabilities, performed as guests at #Eurovision this year in @TelAviv pic.twitter.com/Y3CpONnff4
— Embassy of Israel (@IsraelinUSA) September 22, 2019
And so people on Twitter are also mad at Demi, just for existing in Israel. Many called out the fact that she turned off the comments as a sign “she knows what’s happening” and is “choosing to ignore.” One called her a “crackhead” for thanking Israel, others expressed their disdain for her and declared her “cancelled.”
when you gotta unfollow demi lovato because she is pro israel pic.twitter.com/D25ZZnCY1t
— Hiba (@Hibster15) October 1, 2019
demi lovato turning off comments on her “israel is magical” post, she’s fully aware of the situation but she really just thought fuck palestine huh
— el (@elissarr_) October 2, 2019
Celebrities like Demi lovato really visiting ‘israel’ in 2019 literally fuck them all I’m so tired of them ignorant fucks who don’t give a shit because it doesn’t affect them
— mister, call me letchen (@zipzapmalik) September 20, 2019
Not great, Bob!
The conversation about Israel-Palestine online is notoriously without nuance, which is why many people are quick to jump to assume that “omg Demi Lovato in Israel equals Demi Lovato is pro-Israel and hates the Palestinians.” This is a false assumption! Multiple things can be true at once. Demi can visit Israel because it has biblical significance, get baptized in the Jordan river, and pay her respects to the victims of the Holocaust. None of this means anything about her political beliefs on Israeli policies, no matter how much people want to project them onto her. It’s frustrating and disappointing.
In conclusion: Go read Alma’s guide to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Educate yourself. Educate others. And maybe don’t flood a celebrity’s comments on a photo of Yad Vashem with flags.
Update: On October 3, Demi posted an apology to her Instagram story, saying, “”This was meant to be a spiritual experience for me, NOT A POLITICAL STATEMENT & now I realize it hurt people and for that I’m sorry.”
Demi Lovato apologizes for Israel trip after critics accused her of taking a political stance amid the country's ongoing conflict w/ Palestine:
"This was meant to be a spiritual experience for me, NOT A POLITICAL STATEMENT & now I realize it hurt people and for that I'm sorry.” pic.twitter.com/s6HsvdUACX
— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) October 3, 2019
Main image of Demi in header Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for dcp; backround images via @dlovato on Instagram.