International condemnation has rained down on Israel since the deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla of boats on May 31. But following the diplomatic rebukes, Israel has been hit by a string of concert cancellations as musicians join in the protests by refusing to sing.
The American rock band Pixies cited "events beyond our control" as they explained their decision to call off what would have been their first concert in Israel. And while the legendary rockers have not clearly linked their last-minute cancellation to the deadly raid, there are few reasons to doubt the real cause.
The Pixies are now part of a growing number of musicians who said they would not plug their guitars in Israel this summer, to the bitter disappointment of local show promoters.
“They should have come here and freely said everything they wanted on stage,” said Moran Paz, who works for Israeli concert promoter Shuki Weiss. “It’s a huge disappointment, which comes after months of work.”
Concert cancellations are not new to Israel, but they usually involve security concerns. “For the first time artists are cancelling at the last minute because of a boycott,” says Paz, adding that the same happened with British group Depeche Mode in 2006 over the Israeli-Lebanese war.
Depeche Mode finally played in Israeli a few years later.
A chorus of no-shows
A few days before Pixies made their announcement, two popular British bands struck out their much-awaited appearances at a Tel Aviv music festival: Gorillaz and Klaxons.
Neither band explicitly explained why they would stay away.
British rocker Elvis Costello had no such qualms when he claimed the "intimidation and humiliation of Palestinian civilians" had persuaded him not to honour his concert date in Israel. Before Costello, legendary guitarist Carlos Santana had also decided to heed calls by pro-Palestinian organisations to boycott the Jewish state.
Israeli fans also reach out to Pixies
Yet, the request for Pixies to boycott Israeli stages did not come only from Palestinians. A group of leftist Israeli academics, some of whom say they are Pixies fans, reached out to the band in a March 1 open letter, asking the musicians to honour the lyrics of their 1988 title River Euphrates: "Stuck here out of gas / Out here on the Gaza Strip / From driving in too fast" .
"Whether you meant to construct a metaphor or referred to previous gas shortages, we can't help notice the resonance to what is taking place in Gaza today,” the academics wrote.
While it is too early to tell whether the Pixies’ surprise cancellation marks the beginning of a broader trend, Paz is hopeful Israeli music fans will not be forced to travel abroad to listen to their idols. “I sincerely hope that it does not come to that,” she says.
The opening band scheduled to appear ahead of the Pixies has confirmed its presence; and according to the concert’s promoters, the next big star scheduled to play in Israel -- Elton John on June 17 -- has no intention of opting out.