In the growing tide of support for the cultural boycott of Israel, New Zealand music star Lorde’s decision to cancel her Tel Aviv concert is precedent-setting in many ways.

Lorde cancelled the Israeli leg of her 2018 world tour only days after it was announced. With commendable modesty and openness to engage moral questions of our times, she welcomed appeals from her fans who are active in challenging Israel’s oppression of Palestinians through Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

Exhibiting the political maturity of a truly “informed young citizen”, she recognised why the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, including artists, have called on international cultural figures not to entertain apartheid Israel, and she acted on her conscience to make the “right call.”

At 21, Lorde is arguably the first artist of her generation and calibre (she has won two Grammy awards), to cancel a performance in Israel. According to the Jerusalem Post, she was “by far, the biggest contemporary name to announce a 2018 show in Israel.”

Lorde’s cancellation touched a raw nerve in Israel’s regime of oppression, with the foreign ministry shifting to damage control mode. Their panic was apparent when the Israeli ambassador to New Zealand tweeted to Lorde a desperate public invitation for a meeting.

The ambassador’s involvement is a clear signal that the Israeli government views these cultural events as part and parcel of its global public relations efforts to art-wash its regime of occupation, colonisation and apartheid against Palestinians, and to use culture as a propaganda tool to present Israel’s “prettier face”, as a senior Israeli official once admitted.

Lorde’s cancellation is not the only source of cultural boycott anxiety for Israeli officials. In 2017 alone, many scheduled gigs in Tel Aviv were cancelled following appeals from Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights activists.

In April rapper Princess Nokia cancelled her headline performance at Kalamazoo festival in Tel Aviv, after calls from fans and campaigners. In August, eight artists cancelled appearances at the Pop-Kultur music festival in Berlin, including headline act Young Fathers, to protest the festival’s partnership with the Israeli embassy.

Young Fathers, winners of the UK’s Mercury Prize, wrote that they “support the principle of a peaceful solution that allows Palestinians the right to return to a safe homeland and that allows Israelis and Palestinians of all faiths (and none) to live together in peace.”

Other artists who withdrew from Pop-Kultur included Finnish metal band Oranssi Pazuzu, Tunisian singer and songwriter Emel Mathlouthi, and Syrian rap band Mazzaj. Thurston Moore, who performed at the festival in 2016, tweeted his supportof the artists’ boycott of the 2017 edition and called on the organisers to end Israel’s sponsorship.