PA: Don't Sing of Babylon

Organizers of Ramallah festival told disco group Boney M not to sing 'Rivers of Babylon,' which quotes Psalms.

Gil Ronen , | updated: 19:48

U.S. Marines at reconstructed Babylon ruins,
U.S. Marines at reconstructed Babylon ruins,
Wikimedia Commons

1970s disco group Boney M performed at Ramallah this week, but the local music festival prevented it from performing one of its biggest hits, because it features the Jewish people's yearning for the Land of Zion, the Associated Press reported.

Lead singer Maizie Williams said Palestinian Authority concert organizers told her not to sing "Rivers of Babylon." The organizers said they asked for the song to be skipped, because they found it "inappropriate."

The song's lyrics are a loose paraphrase of Psalm 137. They include the lines:

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down;
yea we wept, when we remembered Zion.

When the wicked
Carried us away in captivity
Required from us a song
Now how shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land.

Spokesmen for the PA, and for Arab countries in general, tend to vehemently deny the connection between the People of Israel and the Land of Israel. Yet the Bible – the book that Western civilization is built around – is rife with thousands of verses that clearly establish the connection without any  doubt. The Jews' yearning for Israel and the Divine commandment of settling in Israel are among the most central themes of the Holy Book, if not the most central one. Repeatedly in the Bible, G-d exhorts the Jews to obey his commandments or suffer banishment from the Holy Land. This week's reading starts with Moses' begging G-d to allow him to enter the land to which he led the Jews before he dies.

Extremist Muslim and Arab culture seems to find this rock-solid fact increasingly unbearable in recent years, and seek to deny it to the world, and to themselves as well, counting on repetition to make their contention believable.

"I don't know if it is a political thing or what, but they asked us not to do it and we were a bit disappointed that we could not do it because we know that everybody loves this song no matter what," Williams said. "I believe you should entertain wherever you are asked to entertain, whether it is Israel, whether it is Palestine, whether it is Lebanon, where ever it is, we go," she added.

The band, which was hugely popular in Europe and Israel some 35 years ago, performed its other big hits for hundreds of fans at the Palestinian International Festival.

The PA has been campaigning with some success to get international artists to stop giving concerts in Israel. The Pixies and Elvis Costello, for example, have canceled concerts in Israel following pressure from pro-PA groups. Others, such as Elton John, who did not cancel his recent concert in Israel, performed to record crowds..