Australia/Israel Review

Asia Watch: The Same Old Song

Jul 3, 2024 | Michael Shannon

Siti Nurhaliza hitting the high notes with Canadian composer David Foster (screenshot)
Siti Nurhaliza hitting the high notes with Canadian composer David Foster (screenshot)

What happens when a mega-successful composer and record producer invites to the stage one of South-East Asia’s most beloved singers? A flawless performance – of course – that had the packed arena in raptures. Yet, some (not present at the concert) still had a problem with it.

Online activists have expressed displeasure with Malaysian singer Siti Nurhaliza following her performance at Canadian composer David Foster’s concert in Jakarta on June 15 – “The Hitman Returns: David Foster & Friends”, which included appearances by Katharine McPhee, Brian McKnight, Josh Groban and Indonesian R&B singer Afgan. English singer Jessie J was originally scheduled to perform at the concert, but a last-minute cancellation led to Siti being invited to step in for her. 

Leading up to the concert, Siti posted on Instagram thanking Foster for inviting her on stage. “I’m so honoured to share the stage with such a musical legend,” she said.

The “problem” some found with all this is that Foster – the winner of 16 Grammy Awards and the mastermind behind massive hits for Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, Céline Dion, Madonna and Barbra Streisand, among others – is a staunch supporter of Israel. 

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Malaysia saw an opportunity to weigh in, announcing it was “very disappointed”. 

“This show is organised by the famous Canadian composer David Foster. He is also a very strong supporter of the Israeli Zionist regime. He is often involved in efforts to contribute funds to the army of the Zionist regime of Israel in events organised by Friends of Israel Defence Forces,” said the statement.

It urged artists, business people, athletes, the government, and members of the public to show greater sensitivity to the suffering of the Palestinians by distancing themselves from any party associated with Israel.

“The most minor action that can be taken is to boycott the Zionist regime of Israel as well as organisations and individuals who are directly involved in supporting the atrocities that are happening in Palestine,” it added.

BDS Malaysia chairman Dr Nazari Ismail said Siti should check the background of the artist before deciding to collaborate.

“We didn’t call for a boycott on Siti but we demanded she withdraw from performing. We were disappointed that she went ahead with the concert… As a renowned singer, they should have carried out background checks if the organisers were Zionist and if they were, Siti and her manager should have called it off,” Nazari said.

Dr Nazari should perhaps have done his own background checks, as this was not the first time that Siti had shared the stage with David Foster. In August last year, she performed at Foster’s concert at Mega Star Arena in Sungei Wang Plaza, Kuala Lumpur. 

One can only wonder at how the 45-year-old singer, songwriter, actress and businesswoman – the winner of more than 300 awards in Malaysia and neighbouring countries whose chart-topping success in the region has gained her honorific titles including the “Voice of Asia” and “Asia’s Celine Dion” – would take to being lectured about who she can perform with. Thus far, she has maintained a dignified silence.

Siti is not only on record for expressing sympathy for Palestinians – including during the current war – but has raised money for their humanitarian needs through her charity, the Nurjiwa Foundation, which she co-founded with her husband. 

The concert appearance has divided Malaysians on social media, with one section supporting Siti and another lambasting her. 

Siti is now trending on Twitter, where Malaysians are calling out the singer’s fans for defending her participation in the concert. Some cried double standards, as other local celebrities and influencers have received intense backlash for being associated with brands or people who are pro-Israel.

In May, the international #BlockOut24 movement – a campaign where social media users block influencers or celebrities who have remained silent on the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel – landed in Malaysia, with numerous Malaysian stars put on a block list for their silence. The list includes stars such as Oscar-winning actress Michelle Yeoh, comedian Sheila Rusly, influencer Ruhainies and actress and singer Janna Nick. 

The list was posted on Facebook and has since been shared on other platforms. The post has met a mixed response, with some endorsing the boycotting of these celebrities while others have criticised the movement as being extreme.

Malaysian singer/songwriter Naim Daniel reportedly said in a now-deleted post on X that Malaysians should not be condemning these celebrities as religious etiquette calls for them not to be excessive, according to the Straits Times. The post was reportedly criticised and Daniel filed a police report against someone who threatened to “slaughter” the singer’s parents if he met them.

Perhaps some would benefit from connecting with the sentiments in one of David Foster’s biggest-hit productions: “The Power of Love”.

Tags: , ,


This placard expresses the ultimate purpose of the anti-Zionist movement – a world without the collective Jew (Image: X/Twitter)

Essay: The Placard Strategy

Jul 4, 2024 | Australia/Israel Review
A far-right graphic makes caricatured Jews responsible for everything the far-right hates

Deconstruction Zone: The conspiracy trap

Jul 4, 2024 | Australia/Israel Review
The “encampment” at the University of Sydney (Image: X/Twitter)

The Last Word: What is a university?

Jul 4, 2024 | Australia/Israel Review
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah: Threatening not only Cyprus but all maritime activity in the Eastern Mediterranean (Image: X/Twitter)

Cyprus and the Hezbollah maritime threat

Jul 4, 2024 | Australia/Israel Review
IDF Lt. Col. Dotan Razili, a home front brigade commander, guarding the evacuated northern community of Kibbutz Eilon (Image: Charlotte Lawson)

On the frontlines in Israel’s north

Jul 4, 2024 | Australia/Israel Review
New York Times columnist Bret Stephens speaking to AIJAC in Melbourne: “There will never be any long-term peace in the region as long as the Islamic Republic rules Persia”

Bret Stephens on Israel’s War for Survival

Jul 4, 2024 | Australia/Israel Review