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ISRAEL: Elvis Costello cancels Tel Aviv concerts as 'matter of conscience'

Elvis Costello What's so funny about peace, love and understanding? Nothing for Israeli fans of Elvis Costello who will not see the legend perform in Tel Aviv this summer after he canceled all scheduled shows there, citing concerns over the treatment of Palestinians.

"There are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act ... and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent," Costello wrote on his website.

"I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security," the statement continued. "I hope it is possible to understand that I am not taking this decision lightly. ... It is a matter of instinct and conscience."

Reactions in Israel have ranged from disappointment to outrage.

Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat lashed out at Costello, saying: "An artist boycotting his fans in Israel is unworthy of performing here," according to Ynetnews, the website of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

Ariana Melamed, also writing for Ynet, said that although she understood and even respected artists who chose to boycott Israel over the occupation, to pull out after the contracts had been signed and tickets had gone on sale was hypocritical.

"After all, the occupation and oppression did not start all of a sudden, exactly in the period between the start of ticket sales and the show, right?" she wrote.

"The belated discovery of the local reality shows that the boycotters-cancellers actually have no ongoing interest in the state of human rights around here, but rather, a momentary interest in a politically correct label," she continued, adding that Costello did not call off shows in the United States and England after the start of the Iraq war.

Costello is one of several high-profile artists to cancel appearances in Israel this summer, including Gil Scott-Heron and Santana.

Scott-Heron and Costello, in particular, are known for their socially conscious lyrics and activism, making them vulnerable to accusations of hypocrisy for playing in Tel Aviv while Israel continues to occupy Palestinian lands.

Scott-Heron, who wrote the well-known "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," was one of the leading proponents of the boycott against apartheid-era  South Africa, which many pro-Palestinian activists had likened to Israel.

The artists may have been influenced by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, a broad movement calling for a boycott of Israel that has gained momentum since 2005 and persuaded a number of artists, universities and institutions to sever ties with Israel.

Sarah Colborne of the U.K.-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told the Guardian that Costello's decision was a sign the movement was working.

"We are increasingly seeing artists taking a stand against allowing themselves to be used by the Israeli state to normalize their occupation and apartheid policies against Palestinians," she said, according to the Guardian. "Principled artists understood it was unacceptable to play under the apartheid South African regime in Sun City."

– Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: Elvis Costello performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on April 29, 2010. Credit: Rick Diamond / Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (109)

I have to laugh at the folks here who have chimed in to say the Costello is "talentless," has a "dying career," is a "so-called musician," etc.

Costello is arguably the most talented songwriter of the past 35 years. Regardless of his decision to pull out of the Israel concert, his stature as an artist is not up for questioning.

rapx999 wrote, "Jimmy Carter, Man From Plains"--films no American was allowed to see in the United States.

Dude, I saw this a movie the United States.

A person who does not wish to be with us, Jews, and come to the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel, probably doesn't deserve to be with us, Jews, and come to our national homeland of nearly 4,000 years. The lost is his/her only!

PWM. your fervour in returning that Israeli made product to the Home Depot is the same as when Jewish stores in Nazi Germany were marked so that no one would buy from them. Your a rabid anti-semite. One more thing though, Home Depot is owned by a Jew, lol

Classy. Courageous. Conscientious.

Canadians too must stop turning a blind eye to the crimes against humanity that the state of Israeli and its apartheid system continues to visit upon the Palestinian people. Israel's bullying and cries of anti-semitism whenever its policies are criticized have ruled the roost for far too long. For heaven's sake, the man has taken a stance based on his beliefs. Instead of criticism over why he agreed to the concert in the first place, let's give the man some credit for having the guts to change his mind. The last time I checked we all still had that right. Mr. Costello is clearly an intelligent, thinking individual who has of late become educated regarding the real facts on the ground in Gaza and the West Bank. A year ago, courtesy of our biased Western media, I too was ignorant of the truth of what's going on in the Middle East. Mr. Costello, you set an example of a willingness to learn and perform due dili9ence and research that many spouting off on this blog would do well to emulate.

Thank you. Thank you. And bless you. Take heart from all of us who support you and who applaud your decision not to help legitimize a rogue, occupying state. For every one who has written on this blog in your support know that there are many, many more standing with us who have not written here.

For myself, I boycott artists who do perform in Israel and I will continue to boycott all goods made in Israel until they recognize and adhere to International law as sanctioned by the UN. What hypocrites the Zionists are and what harm they are doing to the Jewish people. I pray it is not irreparable.

My friend, you have just gained a new and loyal fan.

He was a known enemy of Israel before this happened. This was basically a preplaned event to sign the contract and then cancel it as an "an act of conscience". He is another Brit Jew hater, much like the royal family.

I am a huge fan of Elvis Costello and am heartbroken to hear that I will not be able to see his show. If in fact the reason that he canceled his show in Israel is mistreatment of the Palestinians in the name of national security, than it would be consistent to cancel his shows in the U.S., Britain and other NATO countries. In the name of national security these counties (mainly the U.S) are responsible for the deaths of at least 30,000 civilians in Afghanistan alone (this does not even include up to 1,000,000 deaths in Iraq. Obviously, the Jewish State is once again held to a different set of standards, than those applied to the U.S. or Elvis' own county. This is a hypocritical decision to say the least. What a shame.

Hey, Pete.

As a 'Jewish person', you should know better. Read up on your history and politics:

To thetruth (or whatever your name is) :

Stop with the ad hominem attacks against Jean from Texas - and the preposterous comparison to concentration camps.

Go to these site (if you dare) for images of REAL concentration camps.

Way to go, Jean from Texas!!

Shouldn't Mr. Costello be boycotting countries that commit REAL offenses, say for example some of the Muslim countries where hangings, beheadings, and clitorectomies are de riguer???

courageous? not really

2 weeks before he canceled, this is what elvis had to say to israeli tv

if elvis really believes what he now says, then what he said 2 weeks ago is bs

i am an elvis fan...have been since the late 70s

but in this case...he is wrong

and if he really had principles, he would cancel all of his scheduled shows in an america that has yet to close gitmo and is still occupying and killing people in afghanistan and iraq.

it's interesting to me that some of you are telling elvis how he should feel. he has voiced his opinion regarding the situation in israel. that is his right. so because you don't agree you tell him how he should feel about other issues. elvis is simply saying that he does not want to play in israel. that's all. no-one is free of hypocrisy, not you not me so don't judge elvis costello. and need to learn to spell if you are going to type in english.....the word is schmuck!!!

Way to go Costello. Israel is denying Palestinians basic human rights. The Gaza strip is no different then the Warsaw ghetto. I think what is really hypocritical is that a country that was found to escape persecution and oppression have now become the same type of oppressors they once denounced.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."-Martin Luther King Jr. Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

Why did he make the engagement in the first place? He wasn't concerned about Palestinians when he thought he was going to make a lot of money in Israel. Seems he knuckled under to Left Wing pressure groups. Nothing like a little black mail to change your mind.

@Reed Gunderson
call them what ever you want Arabs Palestinians ,but DO NOT deny these humans their basic rights.
israel is occupying the west bank ILLEGALY -even in the eyes of it's closest ally (US)-since 1967 long before hamas and radical Islam came to power,actually Israel helped hamas to counter the popular and secular PLO in the early 1990's.
all what the Palestinians want is the land that Israel took after the 1967 war in exchange for peace ,and if Israel keep denying those ARABS that land ,no Israeli will ever live a normal peaceful life

Obviously Costello has never spent much time educating himself about the history of the conflict. As was pointed out in the article, this situation has been ongoing since 1948 and is not at all the same situation as South Africa. Is he acting out of a new found conscience, or is he conforming to political pressure for career purposes?

Way to go Elvis. You did a courageous thing against, what I'm sure you figured would have been, a tremendous amount of pressure. It may have been unpopular, but it was certainly the right thing to do given the relenting systematic human rights abuses that Palestinians have been living for over 60 years.
I hope this gives a bit of clarity to other artists. Don't play in today's Sun City.

Dear theTruth,

For some reason you completely reverse the picture. Israel only GIVES Arabs electricity, health care, employment and money. All they get as a return on their "investment" are rockets and suicide bombers.

So please, let's stop talking about "poor" and "occupied" Palestinians.

Just Once (and everyone else): If you criticize the policies of Israel while remaining silent about the policies of the U.S., U.K, China, Russia, Iran, Sudan, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, etc., than you are anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.

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