What Boycott? Major Musicians Rock Israel

Yet another star ignores widely publicized demands to cancel and performs in Israel. Tom Jones even adds a second show. Like Alicia Keys this summer and Rhianna in October, Jones joins the vast majority of musicians in standing up to the pressure of boycotters. In spite of boycott hype, only rare exceptions like Jello Biafra and Elvis Costello have counted themselves supporters.

Costello nixed his show in June 2010 although his wife, singer Diana Krall, performed later that summer. Biafra flew to Israel anyway, watched Israeli punk band Useless ID play without him, and published his mixed feelings about Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS). In fact, even among the few musicians who have canceled, giving into pressure or postponing a show does not mean supporting boycott. When Marc Almond cancelled, his management announced, “Marc would like to make it absolutely clear that this is not for any political reason. We are very sorry for any inconvenience to fans who have bought tickets.” 

Carlos Santana’s management said, “We are sorry that our schedule has forced the postponement of certain dates previously scheduled. We look forward to performing in the many historic places that Santana has long wanted to return to.” Yet, these names appear in publicity about BDS as if they protested against Israel. Even included are some–like Jon Bon Jovi–who simply have never played in the Jewish state. When asked earlier this year by BBC’s, Jo Whiley, “Is there anywhere in the world you’d like to play but haven’t yet?”

Bon Jovi immediately answered: “Israel.” In recent years, many major musicians have played in Israel, legends like Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Elton John, and Leonard Cohen, and performers that are big draws in every genre, including: Punk–Marky Ramone, New York Dolls, Buzzcocks, Gogol Bordello; NOFX; Metal–Anthrax, Judas Priest, Ozzie Ozbourne, Megadeth; Pop–Lady Gaga, Madonna, Justin Bieber, Alanis Morissette; Rock— Red Hot Chili Peppers, Aerosmith, Linkin Park, Jethro Tull, Guns N’Roses, Rod Stewart, 30 Seconds to Mars; Blues—-KM Williams, Lucky Peterson, Robert Belfour; Indie–Yo La Tengo, Deerhoof, Silver Jews, Why?; Reggae–Ziggy Marley, Steel Pulse, Easy Star All-Stars; Grunge–The Jesus and Mary Chain; Jane’s Addiction, Faith No More; New Wave—-Depeche Mode, Peter Murphy; Electronica—-Pet Shop Boys, VNV Nation; R&B–Rhianna, The Black Eyed Peas, Pitbull, and Alicia Keys. Responding to boycotters, Keys told the press, “Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show.” 

Elton John, on stage in Tel Aviv, raised a clenched fist and shouted, “Shalom! We’re so happy to be back here! Ain’t nothing gonna stop us from coming, baby!” Actually, rather than boycott Israel, well-known musicians especially appreciate the country. Tablet Magazine’s Liel Leibovitz writes that Israel’s top security offers the famous a brief holiday in which to see the sites, and the closely connected, relaxed Israeli music scene creates opportunity for A List artists to enjoy night life in Tel Aviv, where locals usually just “see celebrities as people.” Speculation about whether or not stars will cancel, or the latest commentary from Roger Waters (formerly of Pink Floyd and now a boycott spokesman) can give the impression that musicians teeter on the verge of agreeing with BDS. But BDS does not argue particular policies; they advocate for the elimination of the Jewish state, demanding all of Israel for Palestine.

Some with this view send death threats, like Islamist cleric Omar Bakri who broadcast before Paul McCartney’s concert, “If he values his life, Mr. McCartney must not come to Israel.” In Tel Aviv, Sir Paul told the press, “My little bit is to try to bring people together through music…It seems to me that most of the people are quite moderate and would like a solution…They want the governments to decide quite quickly on two states, on two nations rather than this conflict.” After all, how likely is it for musicians, who include Israel on a world tour, suddenly to align themselves against a goal of peace for two nations and boycott their own show?

Want to read new articles when they are new?

There's no chance of mailbox overload.