Israel: British musician defied death threats by militants



British musician defied death threats by militants

British musician Paul McCartney defied death threats by religious militants in the Middle East before his concert in Israel where he performed in Tel Aviv for 40,000 fans on 25 September 2008 — 43 years after Israeli authorities banned the Beatles from performing there.

“Paul McCartney survives landmark Israel gig,” headlined the British newspaper The Guardian on its post-concert report. Despite threats for his safety from religious militants, pro-Palestinian groups who asked him not to come, and right-wing Jewish activists who threatened to cause a riot and disrupt the concert to protest against what they perceived as British anti-Semitism, Paul McCartney refused to cancel his concert which celebrated Israel’s 60th anniversary.

He greeted his audience in Park Hayarkon in Tel Aviv with “Shana Tova” to mark the Jewish New Year as well as “Ramadan Karim,” marking the Muslim month of fasting.

Warnings and threats
According to the UK-newspaper Sunday Express, the radical Islamist cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed had warned Paul McCartney that he would earn the enmity of the Muslim world for playing the gig in Tel Aviv. The cleric declared McCartney to be “the enemy of every Muslim” and warned that Paul McCartney’s concert could become “target of suicide bombers” because of the singer’s patronage of Israel.

“If he values his life, Mr McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there. The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him,” Omar Bakri told the Sunday Express two weeks before the concert, and an Israeli security analyst was quoted as stating that the threats on McCartney’s life were real.

The 66-year-old rock star was said to be “shocked but not intimidated” by the comments. He told Israeli reporters: “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.”

Banned in 1965
McCartney was scheduled to perform in Israel some 43 years ago with the Beatles, the legendary British band of which he was a founding member. But government officials refused to grant the necessary permits, citing concerns that the tousled-haired British band and its strident, amplified music could corrupt the morals of Israeli youth.

Israel made an official apology to the two surviving members of the band this year, when Ron Prosor, the country‘s ambassador to United Kingdom, sent a letter describing the ban as a “misunderstanding”, saying that the tight budget available to music promoters in Israel at the time was as much to blame as fears that Beatlemania could distract the nation’s youth.

Ahead of the McCartney concert, newspaper columnist Yossi Sarid, son of the Israeli official who allegedly banned the Beatles in 1965, went on a campaign to clear his father’s name. Yossi Sarid claimed his father had nothing to do with the decision, and that it involved a more mundane feud between two Israeli concert promoters.

Bring people together
Asked by the Guardian if he was concerned that his visit would become politicised, Paul McCartney said: “Music is a great international voice for getting people together. I will do my best to speak to Palestinians and Israelis and get an idea of what the solution might be and support that. But my little bit is to bring people together through music. ”

Varying reports on security
The Paul McCartney show in Israel was said to have costed upward of eight million US dollars to produce, requiring a 100-person production team, and an extensive security of 5,000 officers and guards.

One security source was quoted by the UK’s Daily Mirror as saying: “No one is taking anything for granted. The level of security is unlike anything we’ve seen. Everything is being done to ensure that this passes peacefully and without incident.”

The security army included 20 agents from Israel’s elite Mossad intelligence organisation, officers from Britain’s MI6 and Israeli police officers, at a cost of about 2.8 million US dollars, according to the Mirror.

But the Associated Press reported that only hundreds of police and private security guards were deployed at the concert, quoting police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld as saying that there were no concrete threats against the singer, and no extraordinary security precautions had been taken.


Weekly Telegraph – 24 September 2008:

‘Paul McCartney threatened over Israel concert’

Google News – continously updated:

Search: ‘Paul McCartney’ + ‘threatened’

Sunday Express – 14 September 2008:

‘Sir Paul: Terror Target’

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