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(Wissam Nassar / Maan Images)

No evidence of “threats” that prompted The Animals’ Eric Burdon to cancel Israel gig

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Eric Burdon, former lead vocalist of the 1960s British band The Animals, has canceled a scheduled performance in Israel amid claims of “threats” to his life.

But no evidence has emerged to substantiate the claims of threats, or accusations by a Jewish Agency propagandist that activists in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement made them.

Claim of “threats”

“We are under increasing pressure, including many threatening emails that we are receiving on a daily basis. I wouldn’t want to put Eric in any danger,” his manager, Marianna Burdon, wrote in a letter to Israeli members of Tislam, the band Burdon was scheduled to perform with, Haaretz reported on 23 July.

Burdon is currently on tour promoting his recent solo album Til Your River Runs Dry. The Animals’ best-known songs include hit singles “The House of the Rising Sun,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “We Gotta Get out of This Place.”

Burdon’s song “Monterey” (see video above) is an ode to the legendary 1967 music festival in Monterey, California, which is remembered for some of the earliest major American appearances by iconic artists of the era, including Hugh Masekela, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who and Ravi Shankar.

While other Israeli media, such as The Times of Israel website, have also reported that Burdon “caved to threats,” no details of the alleged threats have come to light.

The Independent reported, “The nature of the threats is unclear, but according to Israel Radio … Mr Burdon was not willing to risk his life to come to Israel.”

According to the blog Kadaitcha, Burdon’s cancelation came after an advocacy campaign by activists, including the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Don’t Play Apartheid Israel.

No information from Burdon’s camp

The Electronic Intifada reached Elizabeth Freund, Burdon’s New York based press agent, by telephone this morning to ask about the nature of the threats and whether they had been reported to any law enforcement agency.

Freund told The Electronic Intifada she had no information and referred further inquiries to Burdon’s “management.” Freund said that she would forward The Electronic Intifada’s emailed inquiry to Burdon’s manager.

Two additional emails sent to Marianna Burdon, at an address posted on Eric Burdon’s official website, have received no response.

Jewish Agency operative’s accusations against “BDS” activists

As Kadaitcha noted, Israeli propagandists have been quick to seize on the story.

In a series of tweets Avi Mayer, a propaganda operative for the Jewish Agency, directly accused BDS activists of making the threats.

The Jewish Agency is an Israeli-government sponsored organization that implements discriminatory policies to promote Zionist colonization of Palestinian land.

One of Mayer’s tweets stated: “#BDS thugs threaten 72-year-old. // @EricBurdon of The Animals cancels concert in Israel, citing threats” and links to the Haaretz story which does not support his claim.

Mayer repeated the accusations in other tweets:

on Twitter

on Twitter

on Twitter

But Mayer offered absolutely no evidence to back up his claims that anyone associated with the BDS movement or any known Palestine solidarity organization had anything to do with the alleged threats.

Israel has an interest in representing the BDS movement as working by threats, as more and more artists take principled stances and voluntarily heed Palestinians’ call to refuse to perform in Israel.

Just last week, for example, acclaimed Indian-American director Mira Nair joined a growing list of cultural figures that includes Roger Waters and Alice Walker, endorsing the cultural boycott of Israel.

Nair explained that she would not travel to the country until “apartheid” had ended.

Boycott activists respond

USACBI, the US campaign for the cultural and academic of Israel, has forcefully rejected any suggestion that it uses threats in its work:

The Organizing Collective of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel celebrates the increasing number of international artists who are cancelling performances in Israel. Accompanying this success are allegations that artists receive threats that lead them to cancel their performances. To counter these charges, USACBI wants to be clear about the work we do, and how we do it.

The statement adds that, along with its allies, including PACBI, USACBI “contacts artists scheduled to perform in Israel. We actively appeal to these artists and inform them about the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. We make sure these artists know that boycotts and divestment initiatives are non-violent strategies of global solidarity.”

“Although we and our allies urge artists not to cross the international picket line by performing in Israel, and although we make sustained efforts to educate performers about the reason for boycott, we have not and never will issue any threats against anyone who does not heed the boycott call,” the statement adds.

USACBI called the reports of threats against Burdon “vague and unsubstantiated” and added: “We do not know if they are made up by media hostile to the BDS strategy, or by artists and/or their agents, or if they are inflated reports of remarks made by individuals who do not represent the movement.”

Comments

Surely the main threat to the Geordie boy that many of us responded to as youngsters in the sixties was that nobody would ever take him seriously again if he played modern apartheid Israel?

Your list of best-known songs omits "Sky Pilot," which though subject to misinterpretation criticizes the smugness of chaplains (and other armchair warriors) who send young men off to bloody wars -- in this case the U.S. invasion and occupation of Vietnam: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

(It might be a more appropriate song to post here than "Monterrey".)

"Sky Pilot" was revered as an anti-war song. So as commenter Paul suggests, for Burdon to implicitly endorse a bloody regime like Israel's would contradict his earlier apparent values.