Ynetnews reports that a performance by Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) that was scheduled to take place in Israel at an event marking the 10th Anniversary of the Peres Center for Peace has been cancelled. The event is still taking place on October 27 at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center with guest artists such as Andrea Bocelli and others.
Eight years ago, Yusuf was denied entry into Israel at an airport’s security check point. Because of that experience, Yusuf was unsure whether he’d be able to participate in this event when he was originally invited.
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?”
Irit Tenhangel also addressed the last time he was not allowed to enter Israel.
“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.
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.”
(Thank you to Bridget for spotting this!)