Photo: Reuters
Cat Stevens. Won't sing 'Peace Train' in Israel
Photo: Reuters

Cat Stevens' Israel visit called off

Controversial British singer's performance at event marking 10th anniversary of Peres Center for Peace cancelled for security reasons

British singer Cat Stevens (also known as Yusuf Islam) is still considered a security threat to the State of Israel. Eight years have passed since the last time he denied entry to Israel following a security check at the airport, and it appears that nothing has changed.


This time Stevens' performance was canceled in advance, after he was scheduled at an event marking the 10th anniversary of the Peres Center for Peace.


The Center, which is currently in the midst of the last preparations for the celebration, invited Stevens to take part in the central event. The singer was enthusiastic and even asked to add words in support of peace between Israel and the Palestinians to the song "Peace Train" which he was slated to perform.


"The truth is that he was afraid and asked if they would let him enter the country this time," said the show's producer Irit Tenhangel. "I calmed him down and told him there was no problem because, after all, he had received a personal invitation from (President Shimon) Peres and was coming here for purposes of peace.


"But several days later, the Center's director, Uri Savir, told me it was unequivocally impossible, as this visit could cause too much of a mess, and that they decided to call it off for security reasons.


"This put me in a very embarrassing situation with Stevens and his personal manager. What am I supposed to tell them now, that the State of Israel doesn’t want him to come and talk about peace voluntarily?"


'He is a great peace activist now'

The last time Stevens was denied entry to the Jewish state, the Interior Ministry had said that "Stevens is transferring donations and funds to Islamic elements which are hostile to Israel."


At the time Stevens did not deny the allegation, but today, Tenhangel says, the situation is different.


"All this was 10 years ago. Time has passed and things have changed. I watched a documentary film about him not so long ago, and the man is a great peace activist now.


"He may have supported Hamas once, but the fact that a singer who converted to Islam wants to come to Israel and express his support for peace and we're not letting him do so infuriates me," she adds.


Stevens has said in the past that he feels like a victim for being considered dangerous by certain countries. It's crazy because everyone knows me from my charity activities, he noted.


The musicians who were authorized by the Israeli defense establishment and will take part in the event include Argentine singer Mecedes Sosa and Italian operatic pop tenor Andrea Bocelli, who will perform a song written by Peres for the first time.


Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash, who was also slated to take part in the event, called off his performance due to schedule changes.


Uri Savir said in response, "The idea to bring Stevens to Israel sparked a huge row the moment it was made public, and we sent his passport number to a conventional security check. We took the matter into consideration and decided to cancel this idea. Cat Stevens will not arrive in Israel at the moment."


Or Barnea contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 10.23.08, 12:13
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