One of the things I admire about Haim Saban is that he's fearless.
Saban is not afraid of anybody. In fact, he is that rare person who is so singularly powerful, he has the luxury of saying whatever he darn well pleases about whoever he darn well likes (or doesn't like, like Mitt Romney, for example).
So why wouldn't he comment when I emailed him about Stevie Wonder's cancellation on L.A.'s annual Friends of the Israel Defense Forces dinner, which Saban and his wife, Cheryl, will host next week? Why would he not even say, 'I'm really disappointed'?
According to a press release issued by the FIDF national office earlier today, “Representatives of the performer cited a recommendation from the United Nations to withdraw his participation given Wonder’s involvement with the organization."
Wonder is a U.N. Messenger of Peace, a ceremonial post held by "distinguished individuals, carefully selected from the fields of art, literature, music and sports, who have agreed to help focus worldwide attention on the work of the United Nations," according to a description on the U.N. Website. Author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel is a Messenger of Peace, along with celebrities George Clooney, Charlize Theron, Edward Norton and Michael Douglas. "Messengers of Peace," the Website notes, "through their public appearances, contacts with the international media and humanitarian work, help expand understanding of how the ideals and objectives of the Organization demand everyone’s attention." Will the other messengers speak out on Israel's behalf and encourage Wonder to change his mind? It seems peace ought to be apolitical. But we'll see.
It's also a little ironic that Wonder canceled on Saban -- but really, Israel -- on the same day the U.N. voted to upgrade Palestine (by which is meant the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza) to a non-member observer state in an overwhelming vote: 138 to 9, with 41 countries abstaining.
But it is, perhaps, even more ironic, that the intrepid Saban, who told The New Yorker's Connie Bruck in 2010, “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel” will not utter a single word about Wonder's cancellation, ostensibly related to Wonder's role with the U.N., a mere two months after President Obama nominated Saban's wife, Cheryl, to the U.N. General Assembly.
If it really is the U.N. that's getting in the way of Wonder performing next week, one would assume Cheryl Saban, another U.N. representative, might also be compromised for chairing the dinner?
But I suspect Wonder is really capitulating to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and using the U.N. as his excuse. And Saban may be hesistant to protest since his wife is now U.N.-attached. Knowing the Sabans, they likely see the U.N. post as a way of helping Israel from the inside, a position not worth risking.
Meanwhile, former Universal Music Group executive David Renzer, who created the nonprofit Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), an organization that seeks to counter artist boycotts of Israel, and who has previously spoken out against campaigns that pressure artists to boycott Israel, is now working for Saban.