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Middle East

Elvis Costello pulls out of 'political' gigs

Elvis Costello has become one of the biggest names in music to join a cultural boycott of Israel by cancelling two planned concerts there at the end of next month.

The British singer-songwriter announced on his website that he was pulling out of two dates in Caesarea on 30 June and 1 July, saying: "Merely having your name added to a concert may be interpreted as a political act... and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent."

In a highly personal statement, Costello said he was conscious that many of those who would have come to hear him "question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security".

At the same time he said – in what appeared to be an oblique reference to suicide and other attacks on Israeli civilians – that he was "keenly aware of the sensitivity of these themes in the wake of so many despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation". But he added: "Sometimes a silence in music is better than adding to the static."

Costello's decision follows an earlier concert cancellation this year by guitarist Carlos Santana but contrasts with those of Paul McCartney in 2008 and Leonard Cohen last year, both of whom played dates in Israel. McCartney made a point of visiting the West Bank during his trip, while Cohen offered to play in Ramallah and donated the proceeds of his Tel Aviv gig to co-existence projects.