Activists advocating a cultural boycott of Israel scored a major victory this weekend as musician Elvis Costello announced he was canceling his scheduled performances in Israel due to Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians.
In a statement published on his official website, Costello said that “after considerable contemplation” he had decided to withdraw from the two concerts he had planned in Israel, on June 30 and July 1. The shows were scheduled to take place at the Caesarea amphitheater, and tickets had been on sale for several weeks.
“It is a matter of instinct and conscience,” Costello wrote.
In a lengthy explanation he provided, the rock musician said that merely having his name added to those appearing in Israel this summer “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 said in his statement that many of the Israelis who would have attended his concerts are people who question the policies of the Israeli government on the issue of settlements “and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security.”
Activists with the U.S. Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel — a group that is seen as part of the broader Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement — launched a drive in early May to pressure Costello not to perform in Israel. Ads on the group’s website called on the British-born artist to cancel his planned concert, stating that just as Costello was a leading voice in fighting against apartheid in South Africa, he should now take action against Israel. “Don’t be silent about apartheid Israel,” the ads read.
The cultural boycott movement saw yet another success earlier in May when political poet and singer Gil Scott-Heron announced he had was dropping Israel from his planned summer concert tour.
In his statement, Elvis Costello offered his apologies to ticket holders and organizers of his concerts in Israel and expressed his hope for peace and understanding.
“I cannot imagine receiving another invitation to perform in Israel, which is a matter of regret, but I can imagine a better time when I would not be writing this.”
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.