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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)

Both sides have comitted wrongs against the other, neither has followed the golden rule of Do not do to others that which you would not want done to yourself.
The Israelis say they only want to defend themselves and their families. The Palestenians say the same. I am sure both are honest in their view of their situation, neither is lying about the insecurity they feel.

Both sides have made laws that cheat the other side, both sides say they do it out of insecurity. Both sides react as frightened children insisting ALL the right is on their side and that everything they have done is right.
Like frightened children they are BOTH wrong. Both sides see their frightened children as endangered innocents and the children of the other side as future murderers.
To be honest I see very little difference between the two sides. Neither side is generous to the other side, both will steal from the other side, and do. Both sides are willing to casually kill not only those who have wronged them but those they think might wrong them or those who are allied to those who might wrong them. Both sides are racist in their evaluation of the other and pretend the suffering on the other side does not matter. At this stage I say a pox on both your houses. You both have dehumanized the other. To be honest both parties reflect the worst of human nature.

Well done, EC.

I continue to hope that we can discuss and criticize the repugnant policies of the Israeli government, free from accusations of being anti-semitic or anti-Israel.

@ Jean - Texas

Read the bible again, All men come from Adam and Eve, even Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.

@rich h,

Let me take your house, car, education, business, land, work, hopes, freedom, family, children, away put you in a confined land and lets see how you react.

What an idiot - he wants to "boycott" a country that actually wants to protect its borders. Isn't that something the US needs to do?

Does Costello protest against Jews being depicted as pigs and monkeys in official Palestinian school books? Nope. He has no problems with that. Surely he is against suicide bombings against civilians? No, he is quite indifferent. What about extreme Muslims putting rockets and explosives in civilian buildings and then shedding crocodile tears when these are bombed? What about using mosques as weapon storage sites and then shedding crocodile tears about damage to places of worship? No, nothing disturbs Mr. Costello. What about Palestinians massacring Palestinians? He probably never heard about that as well.
HOWEVER the Jews can do nothing but wrong.

In fact, this blog has inspired the following: just as Steve jobs represents the ultimate symbol of American moxie and enterprising ethos, Noam Chomsky represents a huge symbol the American free-speech ethos. Apple should include a advertising campaign using Noam with his feet propped up at a Jordanian airport reading his iPad while waiting for his flight back to Berkleley, which incidently, Israel also chose to ban!

Again, at the moment that Elvis chose to pull out of this concert, Israel chose to ban Noam Chomsky!

This is from a Ray Charles biography. -
His awareness of racial injustice was not limited to the home front. The same years he fought the war against racial injustice in the American South found in Charles a growing awareness of racial injustice abroad, particularly the notorious policy of apartheid in South Africa. Modest to the point of mum about his humanitarian and charitable activities, Ray Charles made an exception for the State of Israel and world Jewry.

Among the many, the world leader Charles most enjoyed meeting was David Ben-Gurion, with whom he had a conversation of many hours during a concert tour of Israel not long before Ben-Gurion's death. And the award among the hundreds he claimed to have touched him the most is the Beverly Hills Lodge of B'nai B'rith's tribute to its "Man of the Year" in 1976.

"Even though I'm not Jewish," he explains, "and even though I'm stingy with my bread, Israel is one of the few causes I feel good about supporting. Blacks and Jews are hooked up and bound together by a common history of persecution. If someone besides a black ever sings the real gut bucket blues, it'll be a Jew. We both know what it's like to be someone else's footstool."

Yes the same Ray Charles that Mr, Costello referred to as a "blind, ignorant n****r"....

Fact check alert: I don't believe that Carlos Santana canceled his show due to some Brit-sponsored boycott. If I remember correctly, his cancellation was based on his calendar and not politics.

Naturally, expecting the LA Times to use a fact checker for their blogs is a bit excessive. The point of blogs is to make a load of money off of clicks. It is not considered news.

Kind of like comparing Israel to Apartheid South Africa or Nazi Germany isn't really accurate. But it's good enough to get those clicks.

If he doesn't want to come to Israel, he probably doesn't deserve to be in Israel and among some of the most creative people on earth.

But what is ironic is that he speaks of the need to create dialogs with the other, cultural and otherwise, yet when it comes to a dialog with the Jewish people in its own nation-state he prefers to single this people out and stay at home.

What a cynical and dishonest approach to life...!!

And in Tel Aviv I can hear a huge sigh of relief. Elvis Costello is a bad joke and an even worse so-called musician.

This is just another hit piece sponsored by the LA Times and supported by a bunch of Jew Haters who want to get political without knowing the history of the land, region, dispute. Sorry folks, if you are unaware that Jordan was created out of 74% of Palestine (as defined by the Ottoman Empire which ran the region after the Romans who themselves stole it from the Jews), and if you are unaware of the Jewish refugees created with Israel's establishment by Arab countries who kicked out their Jews and confiscated their lands and bank accounts, then you cannot be considered an objective or informed-- or even an interesting-- opinion by those of us who know the history and have some first hand knowledge of the region. The LA Times loves to run articles and then encourage the lowest of the low to add commentary that is, in general, hate based, anti-Semitic, and really dim witted and historically deficient. In short, the LA Times promotes hatred and discord to the point where they will add to the slander of World Jewry and Israel (anyone catch the Mossad connection to Dubai yet?) which itself leads to the venge-laden deaths of many innocents, including the Chabad house in Mumbai.

To be consistent, will Elvis also refrain from performing in England till Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are granted independence? They have been under brutal occupation for centuries.

FREE PALESTINE!!! End the Zionist occupation!!!!! Boycott 1isr8ael7 products such as Coke, McDonalds, Starbucks, Motorola, Home Depot, Sara Lee......which directly fund a violent Apartheid in Palestine.

The time is coming you arrogant and evil Zionists!!! You Think you run everything, well You SHOULD just MOVE TO MEXICO if YOU KNEW WHAT WAS GOOD... FREE PALESTINE, NOW!!!!!!

(oh ya, and I am a red, white and blue-blooded AMERICAN from THE WEST COAST... and Im one ONE... KUSH!!!)

Elvis Costello? I don't even know who he is, but I have to say I am an American (first) my heritage is among others, but the strongest influence was Syrian. As an American I was never raised to have bigotry, which is what this is-you might add in racism. Now, I raised a daughter who like me is not biggoted, in fact we love Israel, we love the people who come from Israel and whose roots are of Israel. There is no country that is more compassionate to its people and those from countries that have been chasticized than Israel. I am a proud American with a Syrian background-now what does this performer have over me? A song, a melody? I really dont give a s**t, it will never be close to the integrity that I have. For that I say, must be a reason he isn't on my radar and won't ever be. For anyone who bought his records or thought he was a star he is a LOSER. Go Israel~

he is a shmok. I bought a plain ticket to see him in Boston from Israel! Bought all his albums and dvd's. what an hypocrit

Elvis Costello is a plastic sissy. He's irrelevant and less than nothing.

No great loss.

First of all: I used to like Elvis Costello and his music. Then he got fat, middle aged, cranky and boring. And worse: he married the younger, beautiful, talented Diana Krall after which she started writing and recording songs that sound like Costello songs. (Dear Diana - it's time to find yourself again.)


Let's face it, all of us are all essentially more or less whores and hypocrites. In all fairness, it has become virtually impossible to be a perfect human being or a perfect consumer.

The US is a young nation built on ancient land - she is a charming, creative toddler, but also a drooling and destructive one who will not become fully adult for centuries and may even remain a child forever. Her history is undeniable one of blood, sweet and tears - as is the history of most nations.

I believe that land ultimately belongs to no human being - the concept is simply absurd - but the original dwellers here aka "the Indians" ("we were looking for India so we're just gonna call you guys Indians") were without a doubt thoroughly screwed, to say the least. Furthemore, this nation was built in great part by enslaved people stolen from Africa, poor whites from Europe, laborers from China, etc.

Few, if any, nations in our world can claim to be completely innocent (many nations have participated in slavery to give just one example). If Costello is looking for a an "innocent" nation in which to play a concert, he will have to venture into space because he won't find it on this planet.

In June and July, South Africa will host the soccer World Cup. Rape and violence against women is a huge but mostly taboo issue in South Africa. Two words that should never, ever be in the same sentence are "baby" and "rape". Yet, the unthinkable and unforgivable crime called baby rape occurs frequently in South Africa. The absurd and horrorfying notion held by ignorant men that they can rid oneself of HIV by having intercourse with a virgin is apparently primarily behind these atrocities. Google it! (For the record: I don't care if a crime is commited by a white, black or purple-with-polka dots person.)

I only recently learned of this issue and was shocked. Since then I cannot help but think of this issue whenever I read about the upcoming World Cup in the news. But should the entire nation of South Africa be punished for what some of its people are doing to girls and women? I don't have the answer to that question.

I am part Jewish (good enough for Hitler!), my father has relatives who died in the Holocaust, he was born and raised in Israel, I was born in Israel but raised from infancy in Northern Europe, I have family there and have visited several times. However, I firmly believe that the creation of the State of Israel was a huge mistake for both Jews and Arabs and that there will never be peace in the region in great part because of this epic blunder. I fear for my relatives there, but I also agree with the concept that the abused will often become the abuser - it has sadly happened in Israel. The US and other nations are essentially enabling the victim-turned-abuser by giving money and arms to Israel and adding to the anti-Semitic (or rather anti-Jewish; a more correct term) sentiment that has existed for thousands of years.

Still, I will argue that Elvis Costello must ask himself this question: if I boycott Israel, what other nations should I look into boycotting? In the end, he would have to cancel all concerts, except maybe one held in no man's land somewhere where no blood, sweat and tears have been spilled.

Has he been living in a hole for the last decade? Wasn't he aware of the situation in the Middle East when he booked the concerts? Does he plan on refunding the ticket holders?
I knew he was a racist when he referred to both Ray Charles and James Brown as n*words. Apparently he's suddenly and conveniently grown a "conscience". Congratulations to you and your publicist Mr. Costello. Perhaps jumping on the hip Hollywood Anti-Zionist bandwagon will pump some life into an otherwise dying career.

Costello is both a great musician and a great humanitarian. Hopefully his example will inspire others to do the same.

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