Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Elvis Costello: I don't want to go Tel Aviv

Elvis Costello has decided that he won't play his Israel gigs after all:

It is after considerable contemplation that I have lately arrived at the decision that I must withdraw from the two performances scheduled in Israel on the 30th of June and the 1st of July.

One lives in hope that music is more than mere noise, filling up idle time, whether intending to elate or lament.

Then 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.

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.

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.

Some will regard all of this an unknowable without personal experience but if these subjects are actually too grave and complex to be addressed in a concert, then it is also quite impossible to simply look the other way.

I offer my sincere apologies for any disappointment to the advance ticket holders as well as to the organizers.

My thanks also go to the members of the Israeli media with whom I had most rewarding and illuminating conversations. They may regard these exchanges as a waste of their time but they were of great value and help to me in gaining an appreciation of the cultural scene.

I hope it is possible to understand that I am not taking this decision lightly or so I may stand beneath any banner, nor is it one in which I imagine myself to possess any unique or eternal truth.

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.

I have come to the following conclusions.

One must at least consider any rational argument that comes before the appeal of more desperate means.

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.

With the hope for peace and understanding.

James M raises two cheers:
Having committed some crass errors in recent years (appearing in a car ad on US TV, signing up to an exclusive deal with a credit card firm for his US gigs --if you didn't have that card, you couldn't buy a ticket, etc.), it's time to commend Costello for his decision. However, some may ask what took him so long to reach his decision when Israeli policies & actions in the Palestinian Territories have long been reported, even in the US media.

Agreed. It's curious why he needed "contemplation" to come to this decision and couldn't have come to it before booking the gig and selling the tickets.

A generous view might be that Costello thought that simply avoiding playing Israel would gather no press, while booking the events and cancelling them would offer a platform for him to offer a view on the Middle East.

A cynic might just think he hoped he could get away with it, and only weaseled out when he found out it wouldn't fly.

Given that the first time I ever heard the word Palestine was in a Costello song, it seems unlikely that he simply hadn't realised there was a problem in advance.