OVER Christmas the Auckland-born musician Lorde made what she saw as an informed decision to cancel a summer concert in Tel Aviv, in the wake of an online campaign by activists hostile towards the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The fall-out, however, has been bitter. The 21-year-old was the subject of a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post, which said that “21 is too young to become a bigot” claiming that she had joined “a global anti-Semitic boycott of Israel”, while pointing out that she would still play dates in Russia, “despite Putin’s support for Assad’s genocide in Syria.” The ad was paid for by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach's pro-Israel organisation, This World: The Values Network.

Roseanne Barr, the US sitcom star and Trump supporter, also tweeted criticism: “Boycott this bigot: Lorde caves to BDS [Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement] pressure, cancels Israel concert,” she wrote on Twitter, linking to an article in the Jerusalem Post article on the controversy.

The crusading documentary-maker Michael Moore, however, was equally outspoken in his support for Lorde, amidst widespread concern that she was being bullied for her decision. He tweeted: “Good Lorde. She was probably taught the 7th commandment (Catholic): 'Thou shalt not steal. And 'Thou shalt not bulldoze innocent people's homes.' Oh, & this old chestnut: 'Thou shalt not build walls 2 imprison people.' This is what we who truly fight anti-Semitism believe. TY [thank you] Lorde.”

Lorde, who was born Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor, had originally announced the June date for Tel Aviv as part of her Melodrama world tour. But a fan drew her attention on Twitter to an open letter to her, written by a Jewish New Zealander, Justine Sachs, and a Palestinian New Zealander, Nadia Abu-Shanab, two young women who said they worked with others “for peace and justice in the Middle East and an end to Israeli apartheid”.

The letter, on a New Zealand website The Spinoff, said millions stood opposed “to the Israeli government’s policies of oppression, ethnic cleansing, human rights violations, occupation and apartheid” and also detailed some recent Palestinian experiences. It added: “In this context, a performance in Israel sends the wrong message. Playing in Tel Aviv will be seen as giving support to the policies of the Israeli government, even if you make no comment on the political situation.”

Lorde tweeted to the original fan: “Noted! Been speaking w many people about this and considering all options. Thank u for educating me i am learning all the time too.”

Announcing her decision to cancel Tel Aviv, she said: "I've received an overwhelming number of messages and letters and have had a lot of discussions with people holding many views, and I think the right decision at this time is to cancel the show. I pride myself on being an informed young citizen, and I had done a lot of reading and sought a lot of opinions before deciding to book a show in Tel Aviv, but I'm not too proud to admit I didn't make the right call on this one.”

Israel’s right-wing culture minister, Miri Regev, called on her to reverse her decision, saying: "Lorde, I'm hoping you can be a 'pure heroine', like the title of your first album, be a heroine of pure culture, free from any foreign – and ridiculous – political considerations.”

Rolling Stone magazine said Lorde was the latest artist to cancel an Israel concert following pressure from the BDS movement, joining Roger Waters, Elvis Costello, Thurston Moore, Lauryn Hill and others. “Conversely,” it added, “both Radiohead and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds proceeded with planned Israel shows in 2017 despite criticism from the BDS-aligned artists.”

From seemingly nowhere, Auckland-born Lorde has become one of the biggest-selling music acts in the world today; her fan-base is substantial, as evidenced by her following on social media – 5.9 million on Instagram and 7.22m on Twitter.

She is one of four children. Her parents, Sonja Yelich and Vic O’Connor, announced on Twitter last May 6 that they had got married that very morning.

Lorde showed distinct musical talent while in her early teens and she caught the attention of Universal Music. Her first EP, The Love Club, sold very well in Australia and New Zealand in 2012. The following year saw the release of her debut single, Royals, a crossover hit that really made her name, establishing her as a genuine star in the making. The song topped the US charts and led to Lorde making numerous appearances on TV, while paving the way for her debut album, Pure Heroine. (The video for Royals currently has 68,239,115 views on YouTube).

In a 2013 Guardian interview, Lorde – still only 16 – spoke of the thinking behind her stage name: “I wanted an aristocratic title, but I wanted it to look feminine, like, aesthetically".

She recorded the title track, Yellow Flicker Beat, and curated the soundtrack for the 2014 hit film, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1. Her second album, Melodrama, came out to critical acclaim and huge sales. She also played a high-profile slot on Glastonbury’s Other Stage last summer.

She and Taylor Swift have been seen as feminist icons, Teen Vogue noting in 2014 that the duo had become the new faces of feminism, “empowering girls pretty much every time they step outside”. Lorde’s decision over Tel Aviv has proved to be controversial but the influential New Zealand Herald has given her its backing, saying her stand on Israel “does her credit.”