Stevie Wonder awarded prestigious Israeli prize despite caving to BDS pressure

Wonder had cancelled a scheduled fundraiser concert organized by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), saying it would be inconsistent with his status as a UN “Messenger of Peace.”

By AP and World Israel News Staff

Music legend Stevie Wonder on Tuesday was awarded Israel’s Wolf Prize, headlining a group of laureates in the arts and sciences receiving the prestigious recognition.

Wonder was recognized for “his tremendous contribution to music and society enriching the lives of entire generations of music lovers,” according to a statement from President Reuven Rivlin’s office.

In the summer of 2012, Wonder was among celebrities who canceled performances in Israel, caving to pressure from the anti-Israel Boycott-Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. As reported at the time by Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Forbes, “Some celebrities who have caved to pressure—such as Meg Ryan, Carlos Santana, Elvis Costello, and Stevie Wonder, Snoop Dogg—gave the excuse of ‘scheduling conflicts.’”

Wonder’s scheduled concert in Israel was organized by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF).  Upon canceling, he said it would be inconsistent with his status as a UN “Messenger of Peace.”

The Wolf Foundation is a state-owned entity that issues the award to promote excellence in science and the arts. About three dozen Wolf Laureates have gone on to win Nobel prizes.

Wonder, who has received more than two dozen Grammy Awards, has produced a string of hits over a long career that began when he was a youngster who performed as Little Stevie Wonder. His classic hits include “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Superstition,” “I Just Called to Say I Love You” and “Living for the City.”

Wonder will share the music award with Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth.

“Each one of them can bring us out of the depths and lift our souls in a way that sometimes we don’t even fully understand,” said Rivlin, who announced the awards.

Rivlin said the laureates were selected “for their achievements on behalf of humanity.”

The prizes are usually awarded later in the year in a ceremony at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. But due to the pandemic, the awards will be given at the laureates’ place of residence.