Israeli rock star cancels settlement concert… after right-wing criticism

Ehud Banai’s manager says ‘rowdy, fiery and crazy comments’ from hawkish activists prompted singer to bow out

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Ehud Banai performs in 2008 (photo credit: CC BY-SA Whistling in the Dark/Wikimedia Commons)
Ehud Banai performs in 2008 (photo credit: CC BY-SA Whistling in the Dark/Wikimedia Commons)

After sustaining harsh criticism from both left and right, Israeli rock star Ehud Banai has decided to officially cancel a scheduled concert in the West Bank settlement of Sussiya.

Banai’s plan to perform at the settlement, which has been the locus of an ongoing land dispute between settlers and local Palestinians, prompted protests from a number of left-wing organizations. However, his manager, Ossi Shiloah, told Channel 2 late Monday that the decision to call off the gig only came after he received “rowdy, fiery and crazy comments” from right-wing activists — which were the result of a Facebook post by the singer meant to calm the protests from the left.

In the post, on Banai’s official page, the singer’s team wrote that his “opinions against the occupation in particular and against injustices in Israeli society in general were well known.” Banai’s decision to perform in the West Bank, the post said, came about “despite his disagreements with the settlers” and as part of his belief that boycotting people was counterproductive.

“There is no doubt the performance in Sussiya won’t solve the dispute, won’t correct the injustices and won’t solve the problem of the occupation,” the post stated. Rather, it said, Banai and his crew were hopeful the gig would “allow for a small step in the direction of seeking peace.”

The statement elicited a slew of verbal attacks from right-wing activists against the 60-year-old singer. Among the commenters were people who called for a cultural boycott of the musician, others who accused him of being a “terrorist lover,” and one who suggested that he “go live in Gaza [and] help them aim rockets at Tel Aviv.”

The right-wing NGO My Israel, which was founded by Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, published a statement in which it called on Banai to apologize for “besmirching the entire settler population” and “distorting the facts” about the Jewish presence in the area.

Shiloah, Banai’s manager, said “the left-wing organizations used pressure, but the heavier pressure came from the right.” She added that the singer and his crew were afraid the audience would be hostile toward Banai and therefore made a “joint decision” with local authorities to cancel the concert.

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