carnegie logo

Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

« Previous | Babylon & Beyond Home | Next »

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)

It takes a great deal of guts to make a significant moral stand. Kudos to Mr. Costello. Hopefully more morally conscious performers will do the same. I'm sick and tired of reading and hearing about the Israeli / Arab conflict, and I'm particularily troubled that my country, the USA, continues to pour billions of our hard earned tax dollars to support Israel's hatred of another people, and the same can be said about the Arab's hatred toward Israel. In our current economic maelstrom, that is, the USA's, we need to keep our money at home.

I really do envy Elvis Costello. What does he think the US & EU are doing differently in Iraq and Afghanistan? Or Russia in Chechnya for that matter. Apropos Russia and to paraphrase Shalom Alechem's Tevia: May god bless all the naive self-righteous, and keep them far away from us. Or perhaps Goucho Marx: I don't want to attend any concert that will except me as an audience.

Costello made the right decision. It's usually artists who are on the forefront of momentous moral issues. The continuing maltreatment of Palestinians by Israel is an insult to all human beings. We need a two state solution as soon as possible. The hardliners in Israel will stall for as long as possible and sadly our own leaders here are unable to disengage from their deep enmeshment with the Israeli state. The mess in the Middle East will linger on and on. Again, it's worth mentioning that the Palestinians were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. They had nothing to do with the Holocaust, one of the worst human crimes ever committed, yet they are bearing the brunt of it. This will eventually boomerang on the Israelis but like unstable Pakistan they have the nuclear bomb. The future looks bleak on this front.

Costello would do well to move to Palestine! Please do so, you will fit right in with the other no talent jokes calling themselves musicians...

The foolish emotional holocaust guilt trip that led to the partition of Palestine has created an Israeli monster and after half a century of chronic war can only be viewed as a historical U.N. blunder of cosmic proportions. It has created a nuclear power determined to seize land because of religious beliefs that the land was given to them by their god, a position that can only be defined as them believing in their religious supremacy. Not only has the U.S. become embroiled with such religious fanaticism it has linked itself to a poor ally. Let's face it, Israel has become a huge liability. As far as cooperation, it has gone rogue, concerned more with its own demographic disaster then with any viable peace. Soon Jews will be outnumbered by non-Jews therefore settlements must continue. This desperate paradox has engendered even more desperate acts. Israel is willing to insult its primary ally (America) and defender in order preserve its ethnic majority. Our Israel can do no wrong mentality and unwavering support for its land grab has radicalized moderate Arabs who then fill the coffers of jihadists. Israel has decided that it has the military and economic strength to go it alone so why cooperate with the United States. Time to cut loose and give Israel its real independence, I suspect that without U.S. pressure continually moderating its actions, Israel would show its true colors. Why do we link ourselves to a country that causes us more harm then good; that will violate any partnership to assassinate someone it views as an enemy, and that does not seem to value our support?

The Jewish/Israeli lobby and media covered up the Israeli attempt to kill every crew member aboard the USS LIBERTY on June 8, 1967. It remains the only major maritime incident in US history not investigated by the US Congress. Numerous studies show that people who were victims like the Jews during the Holocaust often treat other minorities the same way if not worse. What they are doing to the Palestinians is an example of this flaw in human nature. The Jewish/Israeli lobby, many of whom were well positioned in the Bush administration, were responsible for our invasion of Iraq. The invasion had nothing to do with Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). It's about time the U.S. does what is morally right and not be controlled by the Jewish/Israeli lobby and media.

And finally, the dual loyalists in this country who put Israel's interest above our American ones should be arrested for treason, and hung from lampposts to serve as reminders for all others who have allegiances to foreign nations above their own country. If they are so worried, they can leave their American citizenship at the door on their way out to their armpit of a "State", so true Americans can get to the business of running our own country for the benefit of Americans and not Israelis.

By all means, go play in Ramallah and Gaza City to soothe your conscience.

Oh, wait: you can't. And not because Israel won't allow you.

Israel can withdraw tomorrow to the Green Line (not international boundaries, mind you) and it won't make a difference at all. Not to suggest keep the status quo, of course, but let's stop kidding ourselves: when one speaks of "Palestine," one does not mean the West Bank and Gaza.

@ PWM: Do you purchase products made in China, which has a far worse human right's record? Do you own a cell phone, with parts mined in Africa? If you do, you are not only a hypocrite, you are an Anti-Semite. While I do not support all of Israel's policies, to single out the country and its people and ignore far greater abuses occurring througout the world is patent Anti-Semitism.

Does anyone have any idea of how much more peaceful the world would be right now if the modern state of Israel had never been created? We would all most certainly be considerably better off and many Jews, (and Christians for that matter) would still be happily living, unmolested, in Arab countries.

Israel is an occupying power pure and simple. While I don't pretend that the Palestinians are complete victims here, history has proven one thing to be true, occupations cannot be sustained indefinitely. Continue to ignore history's lessons and Israel could pay the ultimate price.

This is to "youareuniquelikeeveryoneelse If you have a Bible with maps it is shown. It is also described in the Book of Genesis. It is not nor has it ever been tremendously large but it is the Israelies', who are GOD's people. Whether anyone likes it or not, believes it or not, it is true and has been that way since God made covenant's with Abraham, Issac and Jacob (whose name HE changed to Israel.) I might also add that every prophecy that was made in the Bible (under the direction of GOD) has come true except for the final one. GOD help the U.S.A.

@jean YOUR god did not "give" Palestine to the Jews ,he ordered the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the Jordan valley of its inhabitants Ammonites ,Moabites ,Edomite and CANNAN ,after slaughtering their male population and enslaving their women and children ,on the hands of Moses and Joshua in 1400 BC.the way modern Israelite are doing to the Arab population in Palestine and Lebanon with the help of the west US and Great Britain

Thank you, Mr. Costello.

Can Elvis Costello boycott me? If I never have to hear that talantless man again I will create a border around my living room :)

Good for him. Americans have to stop turning a blind eye to Israeli apartheid against the Palestinian people. For too long opposing Israel's right wing policies have been silenced in the U.S. for fear of being labelled an anti-Semite. That is bull and it is about time that we stand up for equal rights everywhere and for the end of this 50+ year occupation of Palestinian lands.

Any plans for Arizona ?

What a joke! He was vehemently against the US led incursions into Iraq and Afgnanistan but American concerts continued.
Think about it!

Concert in Israel = $250,000

10 year US tour and record sales = $10,000,000+

Great job Elvis!

A matter of publicity, maybe.

What a self-important hypocrite. Let him boycott the USA and UK if he is so morally driven.

Time to boycott Elvis Costello.

Since I am old enough to remember the events that took place at the time, Mr. Agassizii, I know the events. I also know that your "verifiable history" is not really "verifiable" and time and again the "history" books have been changed to suit the politicians. I do not know whether or not you believe in the holocaust or saw the prisoners recovered or the piles of bodies throw in ditches or you saw on your TV the actual giving of God's land back to the Israelies by the British and the United States of America being the first to acknowledge Israel as a nation. If you want some "verifiable" history really dig in for the truth. God (understand that seems to be offensive to you) has said HE would curse them that cursed Israel and you know what? HE has always kept HIS Word.
That is it!

I have been a fan of Elvis Costello's for more than 30 years, but not any more. I've literally just thrown "My Aim Is True" in the trash and I will not listen to it or any of his other work again.

Mr. Costello's refusal to play in Israel is misguided at best. It is easy for those of us who live in the US or Europe to forget that Israelis live under the constant, unrelenting threat of being wiped off the map. Israel's neighbors still refuse to acknowledge her right to exist, still lob rockets every day from the Gaza Strip, and still threaten suicide bombings in Israel's cities.

For more than 100 years, the Arab-Israeli conflict has brought suffering to innocents on all sides, and we all pray for a peaceful and speedy end to that conflict. But demonizing Israel by bocotting her people or comparing her to Apartheid South Africa or Nazi Germany, as Israel's enemies frequently do, will not help to end the conflict. Rather, such tactics merely embolden people for whom the only acceptable resolution is Israel's destruction.

I do not support the current Israeli government's policies on settlement, but I do support the people of Israel. I am sorry to see that Mr. Costello does not.

« | 1 2 3 4 5 6 | »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

Recent News
Introducing World Now |  September 23, 2011, 8:48 am »



About the Contributors