Neil Young, Roger Waters and The Musical Boycott of Israel

Last week Neil Young was scheduled to play a concert in Tel Aviv. The show was cancelled due to the continuing conflict in the region.

The reports still differ as to who cancelled the show, Young or the government, but it was done because it was thought to be too big a target for Hamas rockets. Too many people were at risk. When in doubt, err on the side of safety.

It became the latest in a series of cancelled concerts in Israel,

roger-waters-2013-650 The musical leaders of the boycott of Israel have been Roger Waters and Brian Eno. Waters, one of the founders of the iconic band Pink Floyd has been the most vocal. He’s asked artists to boycott Israel until it grants full equality to Israeli Arabs and ends its occupation in Palestine.

That’s not likely to happen so the pressure on musicians to not play in Israel continues. A problem is each cancellation looks like a support of the boycott and that’s not always the case.

In 2010, Carlos Santana and Elvis Costello both cancelled shows in Israel after receiving intense pressure from anti-Israel groups. Stevie Wonder cancelled his part in a fundraising concert for the Israel Defense Forces.

In addition to political pressure you can bet the artists were feeling economic pressure. It would have been nice to see these musicians show some stones, but they left that to others.

One such musician is former Beatle, Paul McCartney. He decided to perform in Israel for the country’s 60th anniversary. He received a death threat from militant activist Omar Bakri Muhammad. “If he values his life Mr. McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe here. The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him.”

McCartney responded, “I do what I think and I have many friends who support Israel.”

Although they didn’t get as much publicity as the acts that cancel, among the other musical legends who have played in Israel in recent years include Elton John, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones.

Elton, onstage in Tel Aviv, ” Shalom! We’re so happy to be back here. Ain’t nothing gonna stop us from coming,baby.”

Neil Young Meanwhile, Neil Young was disappointed in the events that caused him to cancel his first Israeli show since the 1990’s.

“We’ll miss the opportunity to play for our fans and look forward to playing in Israel and Palestine in peace.”

He also made donations to two organizations that will help teach Israeli and Palestinian youth to co-exist by playing music together.

Doesn’t sound like Neil is part of any boycott. He was just a victim of circumstances.

Long may you run, Neil. Long may you run.

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