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Sinéad O’Connor: 'I won’t play in Israel'

Sinéad O’Connor has spoken exclusively to Hot Press about a show she was reportedly due to have played on September 11 in Caesarea, a town located half-way between Tel Aviv and Haifa.

The Hot Press Newsdesk, 24 Jul 2014

“There was an offer which I was only prepared to entertain if Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, whoever, were welcome at the gig,” she explains. “The other acts on the bill also had to be from across all those divides. That was a bit of a hot potato and not settled, when someone who had no business doing so sneakily released the information saying it was confirmed, which it never was. It was conditional on those terms.

“At the same time, musicians are notoriously stupid/ignorant people and I didn’t realise – nor was I told by my booking agent or anyone else – that if I stepped foot there I would in fact be breaking this cultural boycott and may as well be shitting all over the Palestinian people. They were very well aware of the situation but they didn’t fill me in when they were trying to convince me for a year to do the gig.

“Anyway, the next thing I’m the subject of abuse from everybody left, right and centre because I’m somehow sanctioning what’s happening to the Palestinian people – which I’m not. I’m not going to go there because it’s a shithole, but in a way I feel sorry for the young people on each side of the situation who, because of a conflict that they did not cause, cannot have any type of normal life including music and musicians.”

Sinéad says that she objects to being dragged into politics.

“Let’s just say that, on a human level, nobody with any sanity, including myself, would have anything but sympathy for the Palestinian plight. There’s not a sane person on earth who in any way sanctions what the fuck the Israeli authorities are doing.”

The Caesarea gig, had it gone ahead, would have been relatively lucrative for the singer whose I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss album drops on August 8.

“Normally I get paid about ten grand for a gig, this offer was for a hundred grand,” she reveals. “I was refusing and refusing for a year, and a certain amount of pressure was put on me and then it became apparent a few months ago that frankly I could do with the money. We’re all in trouble financially and I’m no different. I had a bit of a worrying meeting with my accountant and afterwards said, ‘Oh fuck it, let’s do this gig’.”

In 1997, O’Connor backed out of the Sharing Jerusalem: Two Capitals For Two States concert after receiving death threats.

“I’ve been accused of somehow being a supporter of the Israeli authorities, which is nonsense – nothing could be further from the truth,” she reiterates. “It was a gig that had been organised by a bunch of Palestinian and Israeli women to campaign for this idea of sharing the place basically, and right-wing Jewish groups threatened to kill myself and my band. I’m not prepared to die for anyone else’s bullshit, nor am I prepared to put my band at risk, so we didn’t go.”

Sinéad did get to perform two gigs in Caesarea in June 1995 when, as she puts it, “There wasn’t a boycott and it wasn’t what you might call ‘a big deal’ and you weren’t fucking anyone over if you went. I actually hated the place so fucking much. I found it one of the most aggressive places I’ve ever been. I still have quite a scar from a photographer shoving his camera right into my chest. It’s the only place I’ve ever been that I never wanted to go back to. Consequentially for the last 25 years whenever anything about Israel came on the news, I’d literally turn it off. As far as I was concerned Israel did not exist. So I didn’t keep up at all with anything that was going on there. It’s just a bad word to me, ‘Israel’.”

We’ll be talking music with Sinéad in our next issue.

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