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Elliott and Rotten Keep Israel Gigs

Who is boycotting and who is not

Marc Tracy
July 15, 2010
Missy Elliott.(Joar Jacobsson/Flickr)
Missy Elliott.(Joar Jacobsson/Flickr)

Recently, several musical acts have canceled appearances in Israel to protest government policies. Ur-alt rockers The Pixies and the legendary Elvis Costello were two prominent no-shows; guitarist Carlos Santana nixed a gig earlier this year; actress Meg Ryan reportedly refused to appear at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Earlier this week, meanwhile, the remaining members of Pink Floyd reunited to play a benefit for Palestinian refugees; in 2006, bassist Roger Waters spray-painted “tear down the wall” on the separation barrier in Bethlehem (remember, they did The Wall).

But there is another side to this coin. Despite having received calls to cancel tonight’s Tel Aviv show, hip-hop artist Missy Elliott arrived in Israel yesterday, making visits to Masada and the Western Wall (where she left a note). And Johnny Rotten, of the Sex Pistols, announced that he will not cancel his August show, even though he has received hate mail on account of it.

I think the Pink Floyd/Johnny Rotten comparison is interesting (and, to be clear, I’m not suggesting that Pink Floyd is outrageously anti-Israel—improving Palestinian refugees’ living conditions is a good cause). Floyd—undoubtedly one of the greatest and most important rock acts of all time—pushed the (over)produced and concept-heavy golden age of classic rock to its logical extreme and culmination. In other words, it was acts like Floyd that, in the mid-1970s, provoked the heavily stripped-down reaction embodied by The Ramones, The Clash, Patti Smith, and, of course, The Sex Pistols. What’s my point? Maybe playing Israel—in spite of others’ reservations, or even one’s own—is the punk-rock thing to do.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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