I vividly recall the first time I saw Sinéad O’Connor live. She looked shy and fragile as she walked onstage. And then she began her song “Troy,” whispering to us one second, screaming at us the next. It was enchanting and haunting.
That was 26 years ago. Ever since then, I’ve admired O’Connor as a woman of talent and courage. So I felt a bit hurt when she rejected me in a distinctly 21st century manner last month: by blocking me on Twitter.
All I had done was to ask politely that she cancel a gig in Israel.
This morning my admiration was fully restored when I read in the Irish magazine Hot Press that O’Connor had decided to withdraw from her Israel show.
“Nobody with any sanity, including myself, would have anything but sympathy for the Palestinian plight,” she said. “There’s not a sane person on earth who in any way sanctions what the fuck the Israeli authorities are doing.”
O’Connor’s interview suggests that concert promoters are offering enormous fees to musicians willing to ignore the Palestinian-led call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. O’Connor was promised “100 grand” (she didn’t specify the currency) to play Caesarea — a town between Tel Aviv and Haifa — in September. Normally, she would only expect one-tenth of that amount for a show.
Her decision is a timely gesture of solidarity. Caesarea (known as Qisaryia in Arabic) was conquered by Zionist forces headed by Yitzhak Rabin, a vicious military commander who later became prime minister, in 1948. Benny Morris, the Israeli historian, has written that the Palestinians of Qisaryia suffered from “outright expulsion.”
Today, the Palestinians are still being terrorized by Zionist forces. Israel is bombing schools, mosques and hospitals in Gaza.
To its eternal shame, the Irish government abstained from a vote in the UN Human Rights Council calling on Israel to respect international law this week.
With a few exceptions, I have long been ashamed of Ireland’s politicians. I would prefer not to share the same nationality as these lickspittles, so eager to please their masters in Brussels and Washington.
I am proud, though, to hail from the same island as Sinéad O’Connor. Her cancellation of a gig in Israel is by no means the first time that she has put principles ahead of financial considerations.
In the US, she is best known for tearing up a photograph of Pope John Paul II on the television program Saturday Night Live.
That protest undoubtedly had adverse consequences for her record sales. Yet she has been vindicated in moral terms: it has been proven that the Catholic Church’s hierarchy engaged in a massive cover-up of child abuse.
Later in that 1988 gig, she performed a duet with Christy Moore, a balladeer with a deeply soulful voice. Unaccompanied by musical instruments, they delivered a poignant version of “Irish Ways and Irish Laws.”
Their message was readily understood: the oppression that Ireland has endured gave us some insight into what the black majority in South Africa was experiencing. One verse reads: “Eight hundred years we have been down/The secret of the water sound/Has kept the spirit of a man/Above the pain descending.”
A “die-in” held outside the Irish foreign ministry this week made a similar point. No matter how supine our government may be, ordinary Irish people empathize strongly with the Palestinians.
Thank you, Sinéad O’Connor, for boycotting Israel. You have given the Palestine solidarity movement a boost at a very depressing time.
And I have forgiven you for blocking me on Twitter.