Boycotted by Israel?!? Tommy Sands has gig cancelled

Ireland Israel Friendship League tells singer time not ripe for Ramat Hasharon show.

Tommy Sands 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Tommy Sands 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
We’re getting used to international musical acts canceling their shows because they don’t agree with Israel’s political and diplomatic actions. But now, in an unusual twist, the cultural boycott has become double-edged: An Israeli venue has called off the performance of an artist because of his political views.
Veteran Irish folksinger Tommy Sands, who is here in the midst of a two-week tour that has taken him from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to Ramallah and Gaza, is the artist in question, and the show in question was to have taken place on Sunday in Ramat Hasharon. It was called off by the sponsors – ironically, the Ireland Israel Friendship League.
“Due to extenuating circumstances, we decided for all parties concerned, it would be best to cancel the show,” the president of the IIFL, Malcom Gafson, said on Thursday, declining to comment further.
An e-mail sent to the mailing list of the league earlier this week provided similar terminology in announcing the cancellation.
However, Sands said he had been told that due to the recent sailing of the Irish ship the Rachel Corrie as part of the Gaza flotilla, and the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat from Dublin in retaliation for the Mossad’s alleged use of Irish passports in Dubai, the IIFL felt that the atmosphere was not ripe for the show by the 64-year-old entertainer, who has been called the Irish Pete Seeger.
Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that a Sands song, “Sails of Gaza,” was adopted by the Rachel Corrie passengers as their theme song for the voyage.
After reading about the song in a Jerusalem Post story ahead of Sands’s arrival, the IIFL received complaints from some members protesting his appearance, Sands said he had been told.
“My songs are about making people think, not to offend them,” said Sands Thursday, adding that there was nothing “anti-Israel” in the lyrics of “Sails of Gaza” or in his concerts.
“I came here despite pressure I received to stay away from those that aren’t friends of Israel. Having said that, everybody else we’ve met here – both Israeli and Palestinian – have been great,” he said.
“One of the reasons I came was to learn, and I’ve learned an awful lot,” added Sands.
“The idea of the bard in Irish tradition is someone with a coat of many colors, the colors of all the tribes but under the thumb of none. This enables him to move between the various peoples and bring messages from one side to the other.”
Sand said he had found that most people he’d met in Israel and the PA were serious about peace and against violence, and added that shows in the Palestinian cities had been well-received and had not descended into anti-Israel rallies.