California-based folk artist Devendra Banhart on Monday canceled two shows he had been set to play in Tel Aviv this week mere hours before his scheduled arrival in Israel.

Banhart, who told The Jerusalem Post last week that he loved Israel and appreciated his fan base here, said he and his band decided to cancel the shows on June 16 and 17 due to pressure and political considerations.

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“We love the land and people of Israel, and have been looking forward to our third show there with unimaginable anticipation. Unfortunately, we tried to make it clear that

we were coming to share a human and not a political message but it seems that we are being used to support views that are not our own,” Banhart and the band said in a message posted on their Myspace page late Monday night.

“We will be overjoyed to return to Israel on the day that our presence is perceived and reported on as a cultural event and not a political one. We truly hope that day comes soon,” they added.

The producers handling Banhart’s shows said in a statement that they were not only disappointed by the cancellation, but also “surprised by the timing, especially as the artist and his agents made it clear that a cancellation was not on their agenda and that they would be coming to Israel as planned.”

The production team added that ticketholders would be reimbursed.

Popular Israeli indie musician Geva Alon, who was to open for Banhart on both nights, announced on Monday that he would be playing a free show at the Barby club on Thursday.

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