JERUSALEM — Israel is falling victim to "cultural terrorism," a top music promoter charged on Sunday, after US alternative rock group The Pixies cancelled their first-ever gig in the Jewish state.
The band was to have performed a single gig on Wednesday as part of a five-day music festival in Tel Aviv, but pulled out just days after a deadly Israeli naval raid on a foreign aid flotilla that left nine activists dead.
"It is with great regret that we announce today The Pixies' decision to cancel their appearance in Israel on June 9," promoter Shuki Weiss said in an initial statement, which also included an apology to fans from the band.
But Weiss himself later issued a second statement lambasting moves to boycott the Jewish state, which has seen a growing number of international acts pull out of planned appearances in Israel.
"I am full of both sorrow and pain in light of the fact that our repeated attempts to present quality acts and festivals in Israel have increasingly been falling victim to what I can only describe as a form of cultural terrorism which is targeting Israel and the arts worldwide," he wrote.
"Fans cannot be punished for the deeds of their governments."
The Pixies pulled out of this week's gig in a decision which the band said "was not reached easily."
"We'd like to extend our deepest apologies to the fans, but events beyond all our control have conspired against us," the group said.
The move came just days after two British bands pulled out of the same music festival, Pic.Nic 2010, which started on Saturday and runs until June 9.
London-based indie punk band Klaxons and Gorillaz, a hiphop project fronted by Blur's Damon Albarn, were supposed to headline Pic.Nic 2010 but pulled out on Thursday in a move believed to be linked to the aid flotilla storming.
"These 'sudden' decisions affect thousands of Israeli music lovers turning them into victims and robbing them of a handful of hours of joy, adrenalin, and culture, in the name of suffering they have neither caused nor wish for," Weiss wrote.
The show, he said, "must go on in the name of pluralism, camaraderie, and mutual respect. It must go on to remind people that this world has more to it than violence and disaster."
In recent months, Israel has been hit by a string of cancellations by high profile musicians, including Britain's Elvis Costello, rock guitarist Carlos Santana and rap forefather Gil Scott-Heron, after they came under pressure over Israel's policies towards the Palestinians.
Weiss, one of Israel's top music promoters, has been responsible for bringing many international stars to Israel over the past few years, including rock legend Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame, and Madonna.
Moran Paz, a spokeswoman for the producer, told AFP the ongoing cultural boycott was "a state affair" and that it was up to the government to take steps against those trying to sway foreign artists from coming to Israel.
"The Israeli authorities must do what they can to fight against those who are doing everything they can to prevent artists from performing in Israel," she said, without elaborating.
In recent months, various local and international groups have stepped up a campaign for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel to protest its occupation of Palestinian territory.
The Pixies' decision to cancel comes three months after the band received an open letter from Israeli human rights activists urging them not to come to the Jewish state.
"As much as some of us are huge fans and would love to hear your show, we won't cross the international picket line that is growing in numbers steadily nowadays to come and see you," the group Boycott! wrote in an open letter to the band sent on March 1.
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