Acclaimed soul singer Stevie Wonder has changed his tune. Slated to headline the Friends of the IDF fund-raising gala in Los Angeles on Dec. 6, Wonder canceled his appearance, claiming it would conflict with his role as a "U.N. Messenger of Peace."
Wonder reportedly came under intense pressure from online activists who circulated at least two petitions that garnered thousands of signatures apiece.
"You were arrested in 1985 protesting South African Apartheid," read one petition. "Please remember that apartheid is apartheid, whether it comes from White Afrikaaner settlers of South Africa or from Jewish Israelis in Israel."
"Please be a ‘full-time lover’ of justice by standing on the right side of history and canceling your performance for the Israeli army,” read a second petition, sponsored by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
Wonder's representatives did not cite these petitions, but said that the U.N. had recommended he withdraw his participation due to his involvement as a "Messenger of Peace," a role he has filled since 2009.
“We regret the fact that Stevie Wonder has decided to cancel his performance at an important community event of the FIDF," FIDF National Director and CEO Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak (Jerry) Gershon said in a statement. "[The FIDF] is an American organization supporting the educational, cultural, and wellbeing needs of Israel’s soldiers, their families, and the families of fallen soldiers. FIDF is a non-political organization that provides much-needed humanitarian support regardless of religion, political affiliation or military activity.”
The gala is expected to attract over 1,200 attendees and raises millions of dollars for the IDF. Last year, singer Barbra Streisand performed at the event. Wonder previously performed at a 1998 event celebrating Israel's 50th anniversary.