paul mccartney tel aviv 224 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Sometimes it seems like the desire by Israelis to just live normal lives without constant drama is an unattainable dream. A case in point is the performance tonight by Paul McCartney at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv.
The show is cause for genuinely joyous celebration by the 40,000 fans who will fill the grassy field, as well as by anyone who was touched by the remarkable musical and cultural magic that McCartney's former group The Beatles created in their relatively short existence.
However, there are those who would attempt to snatch the good will and messages of brotherhood that McCartney's music represents, and turn it into a political message, thereby elevating a tremendous culture story and event into yet another Israelis vs. Palestinians issue.
British-based organizations The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign both launched campaigns after the show was confirmed to urge McCartney to cancel his performance in solidarity with the plight of the Palestinians at the hands of aggressor Israel.
"Performing in Israel at this time is morally equivalent to performing in South Africa at the height of the apartheid era," the PACBI wrote in a letter to McCartney.
And in a further attempt to prevent Israeli fans from seeing and hearing McCartney sing "Hey Jude" and "Yesterday," Omar Bakri, a Syrian-born Islamist who broadcasts sermons out of Lebanon, warned that if McCartney valued his life, he would cancel the show. "He will not be safe there, sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him," threatened Bakri, who has been called a friend of al-Qaida by CNN.
The resultant headlines around the world have shifted the focus from a positive story about McCartney hand picking Tel Aviv to join Quebec City as the only venue he's chosen to perform in during the second half of 2008, to yet another story focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
An opinion piece that appeared earlier this week in the UK's Daily Mirror, by McCartney's former press agent Geoff Baker, was entitled 'Willing to risk it all in Israel', implying that McCartney's life would be on the line from the second he stepped onto the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport.
While security insiders have discounted the threats, saying that Bakri is a notorious media attention seeker who is more talk than action, the warning certainly must have rattled McCartney's nerves. To his credit though, McCartney has steadfastly refused to cave in to the pressure, saying that the show would go on as planned.
"I was approached by different groups and political bodies who asked me not to come here. I refused. I do what I think and I have many friends who support Israel," McCartney said earlier this month.
In a more recent interview, with The Jerusalem Post last weekend, McCartney chose to compare the threat to criticism he received when he played in Quebec for performing in English at the time of a French Canadian celebration. "I tend to just ignore those things and think there's always a voice in a crowd that will say that," McCartney told the Post, adding "You have to realize that any high profile event brings with it some worries... And I think that most people understand that I'm quite apolitical and that my message is a global one and that it is a peaceful one. So I just have faith in that aspect of what I do."
McCartney should be lauded for not caving in to the boycott calls or the threats, and we welcome him and his message of tolerance with wide, open arms. Israelis should take pride in the fact that the world's most successful musician, according to the Guinness Book of World's Records, is going to perform here tonight.
Promoter Dudu Zarzevsky's assertion that this is the "biggest cultural event that Israel has ever seen" is not just hyperbole. The Beatles broke barriers, established musical and fashion trends, expanded horizons and forever altered Western culture's axis. And as drummer Ringo Starr said in the late 90s Beatles Anthology documentary series, "it was all for love, and bloody peace. It was fabulous."
Instead of issuing threats and calling for boycotts of the show, why doesn't the Arab world organize concerts in which friendship and harmony are the main themes? What if tens of thousands of Palestinians or Syrians gathered in Ramallah or Gaza City or Damascus, and sang along to songs like "All You Need is Love" and "Let it Be"?
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