Ian Anderson to boycotters: “Don’t fucking tell me what to do”

Jethro Tull are playing Israel. Their multi-talented musician and vocalist Ian Anderson was forced to respond to “some very hateful communication from people representing different sides of this ongoing issue – from supposed human rights supporters to individuals, bodies and groups … some pretty nasty stuff”.

Some artists seem to find threats persuasive, but Ian Anderson writes on Jethro Tull’s website that they will play Israel and moreover that he personally will be playing for its own sake, not for the money:

“Having performed concerts in the Middle East region many times over the last few years, I am well aware of the ethnic and religious tensions existing, not only in the countries concerned, but in the broader international diasporas representing the various groups and their interests.

Having long maintained the position that culture and the arts should be free of political and religious censorship and a distance kept between them, I took a decision in February of 2009 that any future concerts in Israel by me or Jethro Tull would result in charitable donations to bodies representing the development of peaceful co-existence between Muslims, Jews and Christians, and the fostering of better Palestinian/Israeli relations. A number of potential charitable beneficiaries have now been identified and are under consideration.

I speak only for my own share of concert profits here – I am not about to tell the rest of the musicians or crew what views they should hold or what to do with their remuneration. Nor do I feel pressured by human rights groups, national interests or any individuals to perform or not to perform in Israel or anywhere else. I make up my own mind in light of available facts, with my own experience and a sense of personal ethics.

To those who tell me I should “boycott” Israel (or, for that matter, Turkey or Lebanon), I can only point out that on my travels around the world I am continually reminded of atrocities carried out historically by many nations who are now our friends, and it serves to strengthen my resolve that some degree of peace and better understanding may result from my and other artists’ professional and humble efforts in such places. If I had the opportunity to perform today in Iran or North Korea, hell – I’d be there if I thought it would make a tiny positive net contribution to better relations.

It’s a long time since Pearl Harbor, Auschwitz, Hiroshima and the firestorm of Dresden and I hope that, one bright day sometime in the future, it will seem a long time since the blockading of the supply flotilla to Gaza and the bombing of Israeli citizens by Hamas and Hizbolla.

So, I decided many months ago not to profit from my work in this troubled region and hope that interested parties on all sides will understand and respect my decision and resolve. The details of recipients of my charitable donation will be posted for the benefit of the doubters, as usual, on this website later in the year.

Ian Anderson, June 2010.”

And since then, he says, nobody has uttered a peep. He’s also made it impossible for Jethro Tull to be co-opted for the Israeli governing coalition’s public relations. It’s really that straightforward – take courage, Elvis!

Next door neighbours got 14 year-old me into Jethro Tull and I love them still.

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