Thursday, 27 May 2010

Pop idol Elvis blasted over Israel insult

JEWISH leaders this week slammed British rock icon Elvis Costello for turning his back on Israel.

The Liverpool-born singer on Tuesday cancelled two shows in Israel - and blasted the Jewish state.

He cited Israel's "intimidation" and "humiliation" of Palestinians in calling off the gigs.

Israel's Culture Minister Limor Livnat said: "An artist boycotting his fans in Israel is unworthy of performing here."

Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman said: "He has ignored both the complexities of the situation and the severe challenges facing the people and the government of Israel."

And Manchester Zionist Central Council president David Berkley said he was worried that Costello's cancellation might be part of an orchestrated cultural boycott of Israel.

He told the Jewish Telegraph: "For Costello it is a missed opportunity to spread his word of peace in a region which needs as much encouragement as possible.

"He had the chance to perform to an ethnically mixed and religiously diverse audience to an extent unparalleled in the region."

Costello's concerts were due to take place at the end of next month in Caesarea.

He 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."

Zionist Federation co-president Joy Wolfe told the Jewish Telegraph: "If people really want to help the Palestinians, then people like Elvis Costello should do something positive rather than make an empty gesture."

Costello, who has worked regularly with American Jewish songwriter Burt Bacharach, was set to make his Israeli debut with his new folk/bluegrass band The Sugarcanes.

The singer-songwriter is the latest music star to cancel performances in Israel after Mexican guitarist Carlos Santana and rap forefather Gil Scott-Heron also called off their shows.

However, just two weeks ago, Costello claimed he had given "much thought" to playing in Israel - but decided that he was against efforts to boycott performances.

"The people who call for a boycott of Israel own the narrow view that performing there must be about profit and endorsing the hawkish policy of the government," he said at the time.

Only two weeks Costello told The Jerusalem Post that the only answer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is "dialogue and reconciliation".

He posted an announcement on his website explaining his decision to join the boycott of Israel.

Costello, famous for such songs as Oliver's Army and Alison, said: "There are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent."

Costello, whose real name is Declan Patrick MacManus, wrote that since the conflict was "actually too grave and complex to be addressed in a concert, then it is also quite impossible to simply look the other way... sometimes a silence in music is better than adding to the static."

Israeli concert promoters Alive Productions, who were dealing with Costello's two shows, claimed there were never any clues that he was considering cancelling.

A spokesman said: "There can be no doubt that cancelling a performance for political reasons, and refusing to perform in Israel, can only be interpreted as a strong political statement."

Costello's wife, vocalist and pianist Diana Krall, is due to appear on August 9 at the Ra'anana amphitheatre. It is not known if she, too, will pull out of the Israel gig.

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