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McCartney prepares for Israel gig
24 September 2008 06:58 am
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Sir Paul McCartney has landed in Israel ahead of his first concert in the country on Thursday. He told fans at Ben Gurion airport that he wanted to bring "a message of peace and love" to the Middle East, according to Israeli Public radio.

The 66 year old is due to rehearse at Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park on Wednesday, and might also hold a news conference.

Protesters had asked Sir Paul to cancel the one-off gig over Israel's occupation of the West Bank.

"A lot of Palestinians who adored The Beatles are let down," said Lisa Taraki, a professor at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank and an activist on the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

"Despite appeals, he has not made a single gesture to the Palestinians," she added.

Ms Taraki's group believes that Israel should be subject to a boycott similar to those imposed on South Africa during the apartheid era.
But Sir Paul has refused to heed calls to scrap his show, saying: "I do what I think, and I have many friends who support Israel."

"I like to think that if I go to a place it becomes evident that my message is a peaceful one, and I hope that the idea will spread," he added.

Beatles ban

Israel's radio stations are flooding the airwaves with classic Beatles tracks ahead of the show, which is dubbed Friendship First.

The Fab Four had been due to play in Israel at the height of their fame in 1965, but the country's government pulled the show over fears it could corrupt the nation's youth.

Speaking before his arrival in Tel Aviv, Sir Paul said the band were "very amused" by the incident - but had felt sorry on behalf of their Jewish manager, Brian Epstein.

"His family in Liverpool, I'm sure they were mortified, but we didn't really mind," he said.

In January, Israel apologised for the cancellation of the 1965 concert in letters to the two surviving members of the Beatles - Sir Paul and Ringo Starr - and the families of deceased members John Lennon and George Harrison.

Thursday's show is expected to draw up to 50,000 fans, even though the most expensive tickets cost almost 800.

Sir Paul has promised a few surprises, saying: "We've been rehearsing some songs we've not done for a while but that's all I'll tell you.

"We always try and custom-make the show to the people we are playing to.

"What I normally do is meet with a translator before the show and try and get some local phrases, local dedications, hopefully I've got to learn them yet though!"

Security around Sir Paul is likely to be tight. On Monday night a Palestinian man rammed his car into a crowd of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem, injuring 19.

The driver was shot dead. His relatives have denied it was a deliberate attack.