Sir Tom Jones is at the centre of a row between rival campaigners over his plans to play a concert in Israel amid growing calls for musicians to boycott the Jewish state.
The 73-year-old singer became the latest high-profile act to come under pressure not to perform in Israel after activists in his native Wales used the title of one his most famous songs, It’s Not Unusual to urge him to cancel the show at Tel Aviv’s Nokia Arena on October 27. The Cardiff Palestine Solidarity Campaign said its petition, “It’s Not Unusual To Boycott Apartheid” had attracted more than 1,000 signatures. It provoked a sharp response from Israel’s consulate in New York, which used the same song in the title of a mass email campaign, “It’s Not Unusual To Love Israel” that calls on pro-Israel activists to swamp Sir Tom with messages on social media encouraging him to go ahead with the concert.
Jones is scheduled to return to the UAE next month on September 19, to perform at the du Forum on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. He’s touring his latest album, the highly-acclaimed Spirit in the Room.
Last week, Roger Waters, the former Pink Floyd singer and a long-time Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) activist, issued an open letter urging fellow rock stars not to perform in Israel.
“I write to you now, my brothers and sisters in the family of rock and roll, to ask you to join with me, and thousands of other artists around the world, to declare a cultural boycott on Israel,” he wrote, in an open letter posted to his Facebook page and the Palestinian activist website Electronic Intifada.
“Please join me and all our brothers and sisters in global civil society in proclaiming our rejection of apartheid in Israel and occupied Palestine, by pledging not to perform or exhibit in Israel or accept any award or funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.”
Waters has been a frequent advocate of the movement regarding Israel, BDS< encouraging institutions to withdraw investments there, among other tactics. In the letter, he said he drew inspiration from British violinist Nigel Kennedy’s criticism of Israel, the successful boycott of South Africa during apartheid, and Stevie Wonder’s recent rejection of states with “Stand Your Ground” laws.
Elvis Costello and Annie Lennox are among the musicians who have expressed similar support for a musical boycott of Israel.
Last year, Wonder, the American singer, cancelled a concert to raise funds for the Israeli Defence Forces after an appeal from Mr Waters. Other artists have resisted pressure to cancel engagements. Eric Burden, the former lead singer with The Animals, went ahead with a show this month even after his manager said he would cancel because of “threatening emails” from anti-Israel campaigners. Alicia Keys, the American singer, performed in Tel Aviv in July despite receiving an open letter from Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, asking her not to play. Keys is also set to return to the UAE to perform at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre on November 15. R&B sensation Jason Derulo, who has also performed in Dubai, will join her as a special guest.
(With inputs from Los Angeles Times)