US rock band The Pixies cancel Israel gig

US alternative rock group The Pixies on Sunday cancelled their first-ever performance in Israel, the promoters said in a statement, with the band blaming the last-minute decision on "events beyond our control."

The group was to have performed a single gig on Wednesday as part of five-day music festival in Tel Aviv, but pulled out just days after a deadly Israeli naval raid on a foreign aid flotilla, which has provoked a huge international backlash.

"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 a statement, which also included an apology to fans from the band.

"The decision was not reached easily, and we all know well the Israeli fans have been waiting for this visit for far too long," the band members wrote.

"We'd like to extend our deepest apologies to the fans, but events beyond all our control have conspired against us."

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.

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.

Promoter Shuki Weiss, one of Israel's top music promoters, has been responsible for bringing many international stars to Israel over the last 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.

"The picket line might not always be visible; yet it is there. Are you prepared to perform in Tel Aviv while, just under your nose, millions of human beings are suffocating under a cruel Israeli military regime, denying them elementary human rights?"

Three weeks ago, Costello called off two gigs which were due to have taken place in the coastal city of Caesaria on June 30 and July 1, citing Israel's "intimidation" and "humiliation" of Palestinians.

However, singer-songwriter Diana Krall, who is married to Costello, is still expected to go ahead with a performance in Israel in August.

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