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British Singer Elvis Costello Bows to Palestinian demands to Boycott Israel

May 24th 2010

Art Topics - Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello, the British songster who is married to American jazz singer Diana Krall, has decided to join an artists boycott of Israel, having now cancelled two concerts there allegedly in protest at its treatment of Palestinians. Costello had initially said in an interview with the Jerusalem Post that he was against such protests. Costello and his new folk band the Sugarcanes were to have had two concerts in Caesarea on June 30 and July 1. Costello and Krall currently reside in New York City. In a highly personal statement, Costello wrote “It has been necessary to dial out the falsehoods of propaganda, the double game and hysterical language of politics, the vanity and self-righteousness of public communiqués from cranks in order to eventually sift through my own conflicted thoughts.”

Costello offered apologies on his website to advance ticket holders while also expressing appreciation to members of Israeli media. Apparently seeking some kind of balance, he said in his statement “I am also keenly aware of the sensitivity of these themes in the wake of so many despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation.”

This month, Costello told the Jerusalem Post that he did not believe in boycotting Israel. "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. It’s like never appearing in the US because you didn’t like Bush's policies or boycotting England because of Margaret Thatcher."

However, on his website Costello has announced that he has changed his mind. In a statement, entitled 'It is After Considerable Contemplation', Costello said it was "a matter of instinct and conscience... and regret" which had led him to cancel his Israel dates.

"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." The bespectacled singer and guitarist wrote, “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."

Costello predicted that he would not receive another invitation to perform in Israel, adding "sometimes a silence in music is better than adding to the static". Costello is one of several high-profile artists to cancel gigs in Israel in recent months after a concerted campaign from the boycott movement. Among them are Carlos Santana and his band, as well as poet Gil Scott-Heron. However, former Beatle Paul McCartney has played in Israel within the last two years, despite calls to join the boycott.

A spokesperson for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign welcomed Costello’s decision, comparing the boycott of Israel to a similar boycott waged against South Africa in apartheid times. Among the patrons of the PSC are famed British actress Julie Christie, author William Dalrymple, Israeli scholar Ilan Pappe, and Dr. Ghada Karmi – the Vice-Chair of the Council for Arab-British Understanding. The PSC wrote a letter in 2009 to Costello urging him to cancel his concerts in Israel.

The letter to Costello said, in part, “Israel operates an entrenched system of racial Apartheid against its own non-Jewish inhabitants and has been illegally occupying Palestinian land in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights since 1967. It has sought to further annex these lands and has systematically transferred its own civilian population into these occupied territories in contravention of international law. Israel continues to build the illegal Apartheid wall, annexing vast swathes of Palestinian land in the West Bank and creating Palestinian ghettos, despite the ruling of the International Court of Justice that it is illegal.”

“Israel is subjecting 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza to a brutal and inhumane blockade - preventing those needing essential medical help from leaving, and blocking food, medicines and construction materials to rebuild Gaza's shattered infrastructure following Israel's war on Gaza last year. And recently, Israel introduced a new military order, which enables Israel to carry out mass deportations of Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank, categorising them as ‘infiltrators'.”

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