Elvis and the apartheid state

The British singer-songwriter was booked to perform in Israel on 30 June and 1 July. He has issued a statement on his website which makes it unambiguously clear that he is now withdrawing from the bookings.

He says: “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 announcement follows lobbying of the singer by supporters of justice for Palestine, who were dismayed at his initial agreement to perform in Israel. It also follows another recent victory in the campaign for a cultural boycott of Israel: Gil Scott Heron’s cancellation of planned gigs in the country.

In his statement Costello says he has listened to different perspectives and reflected carefully, before concluding:

“It is a matter of instinct and conscience… 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.”

The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement has had a number of victories recently. Last week, for example, Dublin City Council voted unanimously to boycott Veolia. Councillors objected to plans for the controversial company – which runs the tramline connecting illegal settlements to West Jerusalem – being responsible for the Dublin tram system.

A number of campaigns are on-going, such as the fortnightly Covent Garden pickets of Ahava, an Israeli cosmetics company based in the West Bank colony of Mitzpe Shalem. Trade union-based campaigning has been boosted considerably by last September’s decision by the TUC to support a motion advocating boycotts targeted at Israel.

Elvis Costello’s announcement has been welcomed by Sarah Colborne of Palestine Solidarity Campaign. She says:

“We are increasingly seeing artists taking a stand against allowing themselves to be used by the Israeli state to normalise their occupation and apartheid policies against Palestinians. Principled artists understood it was unacceptable to play under the Apartheid South African regime in Sun City.

Principled artists and performers are holding firm to such principles in the 21st century, taking a clear stand for peace and justice, and not performing under a regime in Israel which is engaged in an illegal occupation and denies Palestinians their basic human rights.

We urged Elvis Costello to respect the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel, and our members and supporters also deluged him expressing their concerns. We are very pleased that Elvis Costello has taken such a stand.”

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