As someone who grew up in Liverpool, I read with sadness your announcement that you were playing a gig in Tel Aviv, Israel on September 25th.
Your announcement is headed ‘My message is a peaceful one…’ yet the very people who are the victims of unrelenting violence, house demolition, aerial bombardment, land confiscation and water shortages are opposed to you coming to Israel. I refer to the Palestinians.
Forty-three years ago, when the Beatles were banned from playing in Israel, I like most people thought of Israel as some kind of socialist experiment in the making. As someone who grew up as a Zionist, I believed that Israel had made the desert bloom and was surrounded by those whose only wish was to destroy it. Successive wars of conquest demolished these myths and in particular the relentless bombing of civilians in the Occupied Territories and Lebanon.
If we are honest Paul, where John Lennon led you followed. When John Lennon gave back the MBE you were forced to do likewise. When he was dead and buried you were happy to accept a gong, a Knighthood, from Her Majesty. When John wrote in support of the struggle for Irish freedom, with songs such as Bloody Sunday and Luck of the Irish, you penned Give Ireland Back to the Irish. When John paid the fines of demonstrators against the Springbok Tour, the South African Rugby squad, you kept quiet, your hands in your pockets.
It was always understood by most artists and entertainers that to play in South Africa was to endorse the Apartheid regime. Just like the Palestinians today, Black South Africans asked that foreign musicians boycott the country not play in it. The same arguments apply today in relation to Israel. Or have you not heard of the Jewish only roads in the West Bank or the land confiscations or the denial of water to the Palestinian inhabitants?
It is therefore inexplicable that you should now decide to play in Israel, which like South Africa is also an apartheid state. As someone who is Jewish, I have the right any time I want to ‘return’ to that country, unlike Palestinians who were born and brought up there before being expelled.
Are you aware that discrimination against the Palestinians is not only systematic but the official policy of the Israeli Government in its attempt to preserve a Jewish majority in a Jewish state? That every aspect of public life – education, housing, social services – is divided into Jewish and non-Jewish? Even today, more than half of the Palestinians who weren’t expelled in 1948 live in ‘unrecognised’ villages which are liable to immediate demolition as part of the programme of ‘Judaification’ in the Negev and Galilee? Some 93% of Israeli land is deemed ‘national land’ which cannot be sold, rented or leased to non-Jews.
As you yourself admit on your web-site, the original idea behind you playing came, not from the Palestinians or even Israelis opposed to the occupation, but the Israeli Ambassador in London, Ron Prossor, the official representative of a Government whose military enforces a ruthless regime of occupation in the West Bank and which has engaged in a starvation siege of Gaza. When Ronnie Kassrills, the Jewish minister in the ANC government, visited recently, he remarked that the situation of the Palestinians was far worse than anything that Black South Africans had experienced.
The only conclusion that can be drawn from your decision to play in Israel, especially given that your tour was cancelled only a few weeks ago, is that the most important question in your mind was the money you would receive for playing rather than any notions of peace. As recent publicity made clear, you have far more money at your disposal than any human being could spend in one lifetime. Do you really need the money that this concert will provide you? Has it not occurred to you that not only could you have afforded to make a small sacrifice, as have many other artists have done who are far poorer than you, but that you would have made a positive contribution towards bringing about a peaceful solution?
Perhaps the best comment that could be made about your decision to play in Israel is the title of a song which was addressed to you on John Lennon’s Imagine.