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Sam Smith concert in Israel cancelled

Boycott campaigners cry victory as Sam Smith concert in Tel Aviv cancelled
Kim Petras and Sam Smith hold the award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, on 5 February 2023 (AFP)

A concert in Tel Aviv by the British singer-songwriter Sam Smith that had long been the target of criticism by Palestinian activists has been cancelled due to "unforeseen technical and logistical issues".

With less than a week to go, the Summer in the City festival organisers said there would be no concerts taking place on 31 May, "including that of Sam Smith."

"Ticket holders are invited to contact their ticket agency to receive a full refund," they said in a statement.

The move was welcomed by Palestinian and pro-Palestinian campaigners.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) said it was happy that the non-binary artist would not be "artwashing or pinkwashing" Israel's reputation by performing in the city.

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It noted that Smith's support act, nu metal band Papa Roach, had already confirmed in March that that they would not be performing.

"We urge remaining performers to withdraw from Summer in the City in apartheid Israel, and join 1000s of artists worldwide endorsing our nonviolent struggle for human rights," tweeted the organisation.

Although Palestinian campaigners and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement had been calling for Smith to cancel their appearance, it is unclear whether this played a direct role in the decision.

Aswat, a Palestinian LGBTQ rights organisation, told Middle East Eye that performances like Sam Smith's helped laundering the country's reputation as a "modern, democratic society" as it continued to oppress Palestinians.

'It may sound benign, but it is what allows Israel to continue its wholesale theft of Palestinian life, land, and dignity'

- Gadir Shafie, Aswat

"[They support] the idea that maintaining business-as-usual relations with it, despite the call from Indigenous Palestinians, is perfectly acceptable," said Gadir Shafie, co-founder of Aswat.

"It may sound benign, but it is what allows Israel to continue its wholesale theft of Palestinian life, land, and dignity."

A number of musical artists have withdrawn from scheduled appearances in Israel following outcry from pro-Palestinian groups.

Lorde and Lana Del Rey are among those who have cancelled concerts in Israel following a backlash, including from fans.

"I've received an overwhelming number of messages and letters and have had a lot of discussions with people holding many views, and I think the right decision at this time is to cancel the show," Lorde said in a statement at the time.

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