Elvis Costello has withdrawn from concerts in Israel over the plight of the Palestinians.
Well there goes my plan to buy Elvis Costello's 174th or so album.
His announcement that he's boycotting the Israel concert stage, citing the country's treatment of the Palestinians, means I'm boycotting Elvis. After 30 years (holding my nose for about 15), I'm no longer helping to finance Costello's career. My tiny gesture in depriving myself of Secret, Profane and Sugarcane is not fair, but I don't believe Costello is being fair.
No, I'm not Jewish, I'm not Israeli, I'm not an apocalyptic Christian; I'm not allied with any religion or political movement. It seems incumbent to mention these things when Israel is the subject. I'm a boring Australian-born journalist. I'm part of no lobby and I support the right of the Palestinian people to their own state.
But I can't help wonder why the left, where most artists adhere, should be so keen to paint (or sing) Israel as the bogey of the world stage, to the extent that Israel is now the target of cultural sanctions not seen since the boycott of South Africa in the 1980s.
The movement includes British filmmaker and activist Ken Loach, who withdrew his film Looking for Eric from last year's Melbourne Film Festival in protest against Israeli government sponsorship of the event.
In most cases, political activism is no friend of artistic endeavour. At least it generates as many misses as bullseyes. Take protest songs.
With the odd exception (Biko by Peter Gabriel was profound and timely in 1980), protest songs have reduced artists such as John Lennon, U2 and Bruce Springsteen to their least listenable. Even Bob Marley was better at love songs (notwithstanding his tirades against 'Babylon').
I grew up in the 1970s when Israel (a creation of socialists as much as anyone else) was still seen as part of the family of enlightened nations. Young people wanted to live on a kibbutz. The worlds of comedy, cinema and music were full of liberal Jews who backed Israel even if they didn't want to live there. A peace deal with Egypt was cause for optimism.
Obviously things have changed. Israel is now a full-blown security state and it has built a separation wall that encroaches onto Palestinian land holdings.
Orthodox Jews impose themselves on the secular sphere and Americans from the craziest outreaches of Christianity swarm over the place and claim Israel for the religious right.
And the bad news never seems to stop: the bulldozer death of US activist Rachel Corrie in Gaza in 2003, Israel's Operation Cast Lead offensive in Gaza in 2008-09, Mossad's theft of foreign passports, including Australian, to cover their hit of a Hamas operative (Australia retaliated over the passport thefts by expelling a diplomat), and Israeli's secret nuclear dealings with apartheid-era South Africa were exposed.
None of this makes Israel very appealing when viewed from afar.
Its politicians a succession of elderly white men with either American or thick eastern European accents, have presented a stern, unyielding face to the world. Yet at the risk of sounding like an Israeli government parrot, I also see the only real democracy in its region, a country that hosts people committed to its destruction, and a state with a free media that exposes government malfeasance (viz the scandals surrounding prime ministers such as Yitzhak Rabin in the 1970s and Ehud Olmert now). But Israel remains pretty well the only place where the left unabashedly wants Western values to be upheld.
Granted, Israel, as a project of the West, needs to be held to Western standards and too often it falls short. But judged by the circumstances of its birth and the wars it has had to fight for its survival, and the virulent anti-Israel propaganda that sweeps the Arab world, it's difficult to see it being anything but a security state with a lethal intelligence service and a hardbitten streak in its people. Not pretty or fashionable, but that's a fate that befalls nations at different times. Cuddly Sweden was a major European belligerent in the 17th century. And, of course there is the national memory of the Holocaust.
The left's intense focus on Israel's behaviour with stunts such as the flotilla off the Gaza Strip is manna for the media. But I have long suspected that the Israel-Palestinian "peace process" is a comforting fantasy for those of us in the media who indulge it. Israel wants security ahead of peace; the Arab world, and alas a lot of us in the non-Arab world, want no Israel.
And no singer, and no song, will change that.
Mark Sawyer is a Sydney Morning Herald journalist.