Johnny Rotten to play in Israel despite receiving hate mail.

An Engage reader emails :

I just heard an interesting interview with Johnny Rotten (original Sex Pistols front man) on BBC 6 music website where he discusses his band PIL’s upcoming concert in Israel. Mentions some interesting things about the hate mail he has been getting trying to get him to cancel. He dismisses the idea of boycotting Israel in an interesting way. Says he will be making his usual anti-all governments stance clear when there, but that it is ignorant to suggest boycotting fans and that he will be making his trouble musically:

Looking elsewhere, it seems like he is coming under a lot of pressure. Bristol PSC are planning to picket his gig in Bristol next week for example:

Hat-tip to A.S.

29 Responses to “Johnny Rotten to play in Israel despite receiving hate mail.”

  1. Lynne T Says:

    It’s one thing for the BDSers to fail to appreciate the error in principle that underlies the boycott, but you’d think they’d know they were taking on someone who has made a career out of giving the finger to authority figures.

  2. Evan Says:

    In celebration, I’ll be digging out my copies of Never Mind the Bollocks and Metal Box for a couple of spins…

  3. Harold Tobin Says:

    Music like sport should have nothing to do with politics. As a jazz and big band fan I never thought I`d ever say this Well done Johnny Rotten

    • justquoting Says:

      Am I missing some details? — Wasn’t the point of the music boycotts of South Africa was that they didn’t allow playing to mixed venues? How would that apply in Israel, with its Arab citizens? Are musicians demanding the right to play in Ariel concert halls with Palestinians (non-Israeli) in attendance?

      • Rebecca Says:

        I’m not sure what your point is, but musicians here in Israel don’t discriminate against anyone who’s willing to pay for the ticket, as far as I know. There’s certainly no official discrimination as you mention happened in South Africa.

        • Ron Says:

          More then that…

          The conflict between Israel and the Arabs is not based on race, but on nationality. For that reason it can never be called ‘Apartheid’.

  4. Cardo Says:

    I’ll be getting rid of all my Sex Pistols and PiL albums; the man is an idiot. At least some musicians still have principles – well done to Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron and the Pixies.

  5. Absolute Observer Says:

    Your in good company, Cardo.

  6. jackslucid Says:

    The monumental hypocrisy of this is underwhelming …

    On paper, it would seem that there are mechanisms whereby Palestinians and Arab israelis can attend these gigs – incidentally, sponsored, via the israeli tourist board, directly by the israeli criminal state plus free or reduced price tickets for serving members of the armed forces – but let them try.

    If the road blocks don’t stop them, if the promoters don’t actively discriminate, if the fanatical zionists don’t bar there way with their usual display of mass intimidation and if the enforced poverty of their disenfranchised community allows them to pay to view a performer who insists on flipping the finger at their desire for international solidarity … then perhaps the idea of supporting the ‘normalisation’ of israeli apartheid will put them off.

    We all know what would happen if the Palestinian authorities stopped a while from supporting their communities through life and death struggles imposed on them by a racist supremacist and armed colonial enterprise and organised a ‘pop’ concert – with or without Mr Rotten – not only would the preformers not make it into Palestine, but those that gathered in the hope of this temporary diversion would be subject to brutal collective punishment.

    Fuck you rotten, you are now part of the problem.

    I hope you pay for your abandonment of justice, and I hope that those ‘fans’ that want to ‘not get involved in a political row, after all its only a bit of fun and music innit’ end up getting the typical shit performance that we have come to expect from this washed up hollywood ‘punk'[sic] primadonna.

    Punk lives, but do you know where?

    • Lynne T Says:

      lacking lucidity:

      The suffering Palestinians endure is now and has long been largely imposed on them by their own leadership, for the most cynical of purposes.

      When Jewish immigration came from eastern Europe, it posed a threat to the prevailing economic and social order under the Ottoman empire that was hardly benevolent to most of the existing population, which is why, even today, Bedouins and Druse serve in the IDF.

      More recently, the inglorious Yasser Arafat stole billions from his people while he instructed them to give their children up for martyrdom because HE insisted that what was offered to him were unacceptable terms. He used his absolute control over the media to circulated lies about holy sites being threatened and perpetrated hoaxes like the Al-Dura case. The current leadership of Fatah isn’t much less corrupt or dishonest and of Hamas, where does one begin about a leadership that turns a densely populated area into a military target on the orders of its Iranian patron to distract world attention from the assassination of Rafiq Hariri or Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

    • zkharya Says:

      ‘Israeli criminal state…fanatical zionists…a racist supremacist and armed colonial enterprise’

      Go ahead, Punk. Make my day 🙂

  7. NIMN Says:

    “whereby Palestinians and Arab israelis can attend these gigs ”
    “If the road blocks don’t stop them”

    Erm, the road blocks are in the OT and not in Israel proper; meaning that Israeli Arabs would not have their access barred.

    “if the promoters don’t actively discriminate,”
    Please give evidence of this occurring.

    “normalisation’ of israeli apartheid”
    Israel is not an apartheid state

    “racist supremacist and armed colonial enterprise”
    Now you’re just being silly.

    And “JacK calls himself “lucid”.

    Jack, when one opposes something, it is always advisable to know what it is one actually opposing. Slogans are not reality.

  8. David K Says:

    Fittingly enough I’m a young UK fan who was introduced to PiL by the use of “This Is Not A Love Song” on the soundtrack of “Waltz With Bashir” – I love the post-modern cultural existance ;-)…

  9. Absolute Observer Says:


  10. NIMN Says:

    Whilst lucid’s comments are absurd, I realise how tempting it is to respond by saying how terrible the “other side”is. However, that merely replicates the oppositions as they appears to many on the right in Israel and Palestine.
    We need to think outside the box in ways that question the narratives and the positions adhered to by the leading protagonists of both sides; and, in so doing, show there are other ways forward; ways that don’t pander to the and any forces of reaction.

  11. Thomas Venner Says:

    I love the references to “fanatical Zionists” barring the entrances, and the “brutal collective punishment” Palestinians and Israeli Arabs would face for attempting to attend the concert.

    Are we sure this guy is actually for real? The absurd claims and the generally disjointed and semi-literate style of his writing suggest a piss-take.

  12. Isca Stieglitz Says:

    It’s interesting that Rotten wouldn’t even be allowed to play in Gaza.
    I recently saw a video clip on ‘YouTube’ which appeared to show Hamas authorities breaking up a wedding celebration, shooting at random and killing many guests. I would put the link in here, but it’s too upsetting.
    I would love to find out the make up of the attendence at this and other concerts.
    When I lived in Israel, moons ago, we used to go to concerts together and nobody cared that we were a mixed Arab (jewish – mizrachi/christian, muslim, druze) & Ashkenazi group. We were Israelis, non-Israelis & tourists.
    A sweet relief for everyone and a reminder of how we could be. Jumping, singing, dancing and some boozing!

  13. Brian Robinson Says:

    “[W]hat I do know, having hung out with him for an afternoon, is that he’s still always spoiling for a fight. As we’re about to say our goodbyes, he pulls a sheaf of faxes out of his pocket. They are complaints, e-mailed to his manager, John “Rambo” Stevens, who lives in Arkansas, complaining that PiL will shortly be performing in Israel. One, from a fan called Lawrence Casin, declares: “I will destroy all my albums and paraphernalia that I have collected over the years if you bastards play that hell hole.”

    “Most musicians, particularly those who have been around for 30 years, wouldn’t let hate mail upset them. They probably wouldn’t even read it. But John’s anger is genuine. He wants me to record it, for posterity. “I really resent the presumption that I’m going there to play to right-wing Nazi jews,” he tells me. “If Elvis-fucking-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he’s suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him. But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won’t understand how anyone can have a problem with how they’re treated.”

    “That’s our Johnny Rotten. Always lively. Always entertaining. Often wrong. But, whatever you may think of him, never afraid to stick that bog-brush haircut exuberantly over the parapet.”

    — The Independent, “Johnny Rotten: ‘Don’t call me a national treasure'”, talking to Guy Adams, Saturday, 17 July 2010

  14. Blacklisted Dictator Says:

    It’s a shame about Syd and Malcolm.

  15. sara Says:

    This just proves that everything he stood for in the past was just an act…everyone is disappointed in you Johnny
    …then again….he might just do the right thing…perhaps he’s preparing something for that gig that will shock…after all that was the the good old days.
    We will see….

    • Brian Robinson Says:

      I knew little about Johnny Rotten until last week — indeed the boycott campaign has been filling in all the gaps in my knowledge of popular culture (tho’ I knew who Elton John was, and even Mike Cushman can’t tell *him* what to do, which is a cause for great rejoicing).

      It’s mainly sara’s post that reminded me that at least as far as ethics is concerned, an artist should be consistent. It would be a rather large labour, but for an evidence-based assessment of the merits of an artist’s decision not to play in a country one would need to compile a list of all the places they did play and any where they’d refused.

  16. Eric Says:

    Big flippin’ deal.

    Is Mr J. Rotten really going to be bothered if anyone burns or destroys recorded material already purchased?

    He’ll still retain the royalty you provided with the original purchase – it’s a consumer society and you have chosen your own method of consuming…

    PiL playing a piss-pot little gig or two is hardly going to change the political structure of the Middle East, mearly contribute to Lydon’s income – no different to advertising butter from his point of view.

  17. Brian Robinson Says:

    Not about Johnny Rotten, I’m afraid, but about another artist. Here’s an open letter I’ve just sent to her agent.


    sthomson[ AT] imgartists[ DOT]com
    Dear Musician agent S Thomson

    I am writing to you because someone sent me an email asking me to write opposing Ms Ann-Sofie von Otter’s forthcoming concerts with the Israel Phil, but I am NOT doing as requested.

    I believe Ms von Otter, like any artist, must sing, play and otherwise perform where and when she or he is moved to do so.

    The email I received came with a proforma letter, which I could only skim as I found the first paragraph or two both irrelevant and, frankly, disgusting.

    If Ms von Otter goes ahead with her bookings, she will certainly have my full support, as incidentally did Sir Elton John recently.

    I might add that I do not approve of many of the actions and policies of successive Israeli governments, and there are unfortunately many such countries in the same category. But the currently fashionable campaign for a cultural and academic boycott of Israel — and seemingly only Israel — merely serves to isolate what is left of the Israeli peace camp and strengthen the intransigent right wing.

    It also effectuates and amplifies a renascent antisemitism. I am aware that Ms van Otter released a highly regarded album with Elvis Costello, who recently made his own decision to withdraw from an engagement in Israel, as is his right. I am taking it for granted that artistic collaboration is quite different from identity of political opinion.

    Please can I ask you to pass on my sentiments and good wishes to Ms van Otter, and to wish her continued achievement in her career.

    Yours sincerely

    Brian Robinson
    c.c. Ms van Otter’s Swedish agent — maria [AT] goodcompany [DOT] se

    [My full address, affiliations etc in original]

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      Nice letter, Brian.

      • Brian Robinson Says:

        Thank you Mira — I’ll post a reply if I get one.
        all best
        Brian R

        • Brian Robinson Says:

          On her Guestbook
          moshezor has written (8-5-10 US- UK-style?):

          — Dear Mrs. Von Otter
          My name is Moshe Zorman, a composer and pianist from Israel. I was delighted to hear about your concerts with the Israel Philharmonic next season. We are even going to share a concert- My trombone concerto will be performed in one of your concerts!

          We have one more thing in common- In your Terezin record you are singing three of my arrangments.
          I will be delighted to meet you in Tel Aviv.

          Moshe Zorman —

          (I also found the absurd “I had never heard of this woman before but I have just seen this open letter from … I had to google her name and I settled on her entry in the not always very reliable Wikipedia. I don’t have any reason to doubt this bit of her entry” [isn’t that nice of him but it gets better]: “The sad part for me is that her dad tried so hard to let the world know what the nazis were doing to the Jews during WWII. And here is Anna Sofie Von Otter doing her bit to cover up zionist crimes against the Palestinians by normalising the racist war criminals of the State of Israel.”

          Leave aside the ignorance, the self-regarding arrogance of “don’t have any reason to doubt”, the sneering spite and venom, I’d say this was almost libellous.)

          On the website of the Israel Phil, here she is with Zubin Mehta on 15 October 2010 — and indeed several appearances

          Can’t find any follow-up on the BRICUP site, jpuk etc … I’d say she’s going!!

          Brian R

  18. Blacklisted Dictator Says:

    Sid’s girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, was Jewish….so perhaps the Nazi shit was just anti-establishment shock horror.

    But I wonder whether Rotten would be given permission by Amadmaniniran to play Tehran. Or would he be considered too decadent?
    Ironic, in such circumstances, that he must boycott Israel.

  19. Martin Says:

    Good one, Johnny! At least someone who doesn’t ponder to the friggin’ fascist arseholes. Ah, wait, they call themselves anti-zionist these days. Yeah, right…

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