Tom Jones admits it’s not unusual to boycott Israel

Tom Jones in concert.

Tom Jones in concert.

Burns! Flickr

Singer Tom Jones knows the Palestinian-led campaign to boycott Israel is on the march.

Wales’ golden oldie said this month: “a lot of singers won’t go” to Israel now because of the boycott campaign. “I don’t agree with that,” he said.

Jones played a gig in Tel Aviv in October, despite calls by solidarity campaigners for him to observe a Palestinian campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.


Sir Tom Jones is a singer whose career spans the decades, all the way back to the valleys of 1960s south Wales. Hits include “Delilah,” “It’s Not Unusual” and his 1988 come-back cover version of Prince’s “Kiss.”

In the weeks leading up to the gig, BDS campaigners asked Jones to cancel the show.

They set up a Facebook page called “It’s Not Unusual to Boycott Apartheid,” punning on one of his most famous hit songs.

Cardiff Palestine Solidarity Campaign set up a petition calling on him not to “play in apartheid Israel.”

The Facebook page received over 900 “likes” and the petition was signed by over 2,100. And Jones’ comments makes it plain that although the campaign’s message was ultimately spurned, he heard it loud and clear.

Since the BDS call was formally-issued issued in 2005, more and more singers, pop stars and other artists have canceled shows in Israel – or refused to play there in the first place.

One of the most vocal advocates of cultural boycott has been Pink Floyd star Roger Waters, who in August published a long-awaited open letter on the subject to fellow artists:

I write to you now, my brothers and sisters in the family of Rock and Roll, to ask you to join with me, and thousands of other artists around the world, to declare a cultural boycott on Israel.


Jones’ comments were made in an interview with Jewish News, reported by The Telegraph yesterday.

In the interview, he said “entertainers should entertain … I don’t see why anyone would mix up the two things – entertainment and politics.”

This is the refrain of performers who have crossed the boycott picket line. As many have observed, this is an amoral position – one living under the delusion that art or popular culture can be separated from human rights.

The fact that Jones is acknowledging that the boycott is taking hold and that this is now a subject of mainstream media attention shows that such a separation does not exist.

With thanks to Sarah Colborne for the headline.




Sadly, one of my favorite performers (Tom Jones) has ignored a plea to refrain from performing in the Middle East state of Israel. Jones is most well known for his big musical hit, "It's Not Unusual." He is also known for another major hit, "Delilah," which reminded me of the story in the Bible about Samson and Delilah.

As the story goes, Samson has been given great powers by God to get His message out to the masses. Samson shows his strength by slaughtering many Philistines. Eventually an army of Philistines demands that 3000 men of Judah deliver them Samson. With Samson's consent, they tie him up to hand him over to the Philistines when he breaks free. Using the jawbone of an ass, he slays 1000 Philistines. At the conclusion of Judges 15 it is said that Samson had "judged" Israel for twenty years. He then falls in love with a woman, named Delilah The Philistines approach her to find the secret of Samson's strength. Not wanting to reveal the secret, he, tells her that he will lose his strength should he be bound with fresh bowstrings. She does so while he sleeps, but when he wakes up he snaps the strings. She persists, and he eventually tells her that he will lose his strength with the the loss of his hair. Delilah calls for a servant to shave Samson's seven locks. Since that breaks the Nazirite oath, God leaves him, he is then captured by the Philistines, who blind him and brought to Gaza. One day the Philistine leaders assembled in a temple for a religious sacrifice. They summon Samson. Once inside the temple, Samson, his hair having grown long again, asks the servant who is leading him to the temple's central pillars if he may lean against them.
"Then Samson prayed to God, "remember me, strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at avenged of the Philistines for his two eyes. He pulls on the pillars and thousands of Philistines are killed.

Hopefully, when Jones sings in Israel, he doesn't lose his musical gift from God.

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and co-host of our podcast.

He is author of the bestselling book Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn (OR Books, 2023).