British musician Elvis Costello has pulled out of two concerts in Israel, saying in a statement that he did not want his performance to be a “political act”.
The move contradicts his comments in an interview with the Jerusalem Post two weeks ago when Costello said that he did not approve of cultural boycotts, and that he believed that “dialogue is essential” to resolve the conflict.
Mr Costello, who was supposed to play the Caesarea Amphitheatre on June 30 and July 1 with his new band The Sugarcanes, had been a target of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign who urged him to boycott the gigs.
In an announcement on his website, he said: “It is after considerable contemplation that I have lately arrived at the decision.
“One lives in hope that music is more than mere noise, filling up idle time, whether intending to elate or lament. 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.”
He added: “It is a matter of instinct and conscience. 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.
“Sometimes a silence in music is better than adding to the static and so an end to it. 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.”
Mr Costello had previously told the Jerusalem Post: “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 then compared boycotting Israel to boycotting George Bush’s America or Margaret Thatcher’s Britain.
Sarah Colborne, Director of Campaigns and Operations at Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “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.”
Israel’s Culture Minister Limor Livnat said: “An artist boycotting his fans in Israel is unworthy of performing here.”
No statement has been made yet by the Israeli promoters and no refunds have yet been offered.