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Rolling Stones to play controversial first Israel gig

The Rolling Stones are to perform in Israel for the first time despite Palestinian calls for BDS
Lead singer of the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger, performs at music festival in Lisbon May 2014 (AFP)

Legendary British rock group The Rolling Stones are to perform their first-ever gig in Israel Wednesday night, despite criticism from pro-Palestinian groups urging them to cancel the concert.

The Stones touched down in Tel Aviv on Monday aboard a private jet emblazoned with their tongue logo, accompanied by some 70 staff, according to local media.

Guitarist Ronnie Wood, drummer Charlie Watts and keyboardist Chuck Leavell travelled to Jerusalem on Tuesday to visit its Old City, but Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards did not join them.

Israeli organisers and media have described the concert, part of the band's European tour, a "historic visit."

The band only resumed a world tour in Oslo last week after interrupting it in March following the suicide of lead singer Mick Jagger's partner, L'Wren Scott.

Israeli promoter Shuki Weiss, once quoted as saying he would retire after bringing the Stones to Israel, had guaranteed the band $6.7 million for a one-night performance at Tel Aviv's Hayarkon Park, according to a newspaper report.

The band has been under pressure from pro-Palestinian activists, including fellow rock stars, to cancel the gig as part of a boycott of Israel over alleged human-rights abuses.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel has urged the Stones to abandon the concert, noting that the band had been vocal opponents of racial segregation in South Africa, comparing apartheid to Israel's policies towards the Palestinians.

"Palestinian organisations urge the Rolling Stones to refrain from playing in apartheid Israel and not to condone Israel's violations of international law and human rights against the Palestinian people," BDS said when the concert was announced in March.

Pink Floyd founders Roger Waters and Nick Mason joined calls for a boycott.

In a letter published on the website earlier this month, they said "to the bands that intend to play Israel in 2014, we urge you to reconsider. Playing Israel now is the moral equivalent of playing Sun City at the height of South African apartheid; regardless of your intentions, crossing the picket line provides propaganda that the Israeli government will use in its attempts to whitewash the policies of its unjust and racist regime."

A growing number of governments and international businesses have said they will not trade with Israeli firms with ties to Jewish settlements, highlighting the creeping success of the Palestinian-led boycott campaign.

British physicist Stephen Hawking pulled out of a Jerusalem conference hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres last year, as part of an academic boycott.

Stevie Wonder did the same over an Israeli army fundraiser in November 2012 after pressure from Waters, and fellow US singer Lenny Kravitz cancelled a Tel Aviv concert in October after being petitioned by activists, citing a scheduling conflict.

However, other big names have played recently bypassed the call for boycott, including Tom Jones, Cyndi Lauper and Justin Timberlake.

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