Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cat Stevens' "Peace Train" concert derailed by Israeli bureaucrats

Huh? This Steven Demetre Georgiou comes across as a fuzzy pussy cat, really. But in Israel, he's a persona non grata.

He's now known as Yusuf Islam. Ex-pop star and peacenik. The Cypriot-Brit who used to sing twee songs in the 1970s, under the moniker Cat Stevens, before he converted to the Muslim faith in 1978, was just uninvited to sing at a ten year birthday concert celebrating the Shimon Peres Centre for Peace. He did not clear the IDF's security check. The singer, shown above palling around with a certain leftist Prince, was forced off a Washington DC-bound plane from London four years back because his name was on an American "no-fly" list. Apparently, he had been anticipating such a response, as rumours that he is a Hamas-booster have dogged him for years. Eight years ago, Yusuf Islam was prevented from entering Israel.

Another performer did not want to undergo such a name check,perhaps, and he also has cut out. Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash, who had planned to perform at the same event, called off his performance due to sudden "schedule changes."

According to Yediot Aharonot news:

The Shimon Peres Center for Peace, 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.

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