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December 9, 2013 12:45 pm

Why Weren’t the Beatles Allowed to Perform in Israel?

avatar by Gidon Ben-zvi

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The Beatles, pictured here waving to fans after arriving at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York in February 1964. Photo: Library of Congress.

Yesterday marked the 33rd anniversary of the death of John Lennon, the legendary singer and one of the founders of one of the most successful musical groups in history – the Beatles. In commemoration of the event, Israel’s state archives have gone public with documents that shed light on a decision to not allow the band to perform in Israel.

Even today the banning of the Beatles in Israel continues to be a bone of contention for the group’s legion of Israeli fans. It turns out that this fateful decision was made by 12 members of the “Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Authorization of Bringing Foreign Artists to Israel,” which operated under the auspices of Israel’s Education Ministry.

In January 1964, music promoters Abraham Bogtir and Jacob Uri sought approval from the committee to invite the Beatles to perform in Israel. The committee struggled with the issue and ultimately decided to not approve the request for fear that the four lads from Liverpool would have a negative influence on Israel’s youth.

The promoters appealed and in March 1964 the committee published its final decision on the matter, saying that the Beatles had “no intrinsic artistic value and their concerts provoke mass hysteria.”

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  • Jay Wenk

    I mis-wrote. I didn’t intend to indicate that I don’t like the Beatles; their music is wonderful.

  • Topcat

    I remember hearing “Love Me Do” on the juke box when I was about fifteen and thought I’d died and gone to heaven. There was something so New and Original about their music at the time that it gave me a reason to live. An entrepenueral spirit called Mick hired a coach from my Grammar School and two classes went after school to a theatre twent five miles away to scream at them. I still maintain they created the best pop music EVER. How can you not love them?? I even got a Beatle haircut, and I was a girl.

  • Sandy Brown

    Well I never liked them. And I am English. I always thought their music was rubbish. I liked the Moody Blues and other bands of that ilk. New Riders of the Purple Sage. Lots of American bands of that ilk. I could never understand why the Beagles were popular. Didn’t John Lennon compare himself to God once. What a prat he was doing that! I worked for Tony Visconti and the company that was part of the Beatles in around 1977 but I think it went bust. I was temping for them for about a month. It was in South Audley Street in W.1. Gosh that shows you how old I am.

    • Sonny Crockett

      Sandy, stop talking, your pretentious twattle even bores an American such as myself. If you didn’t understand after all these years why the Beatles are still so popular, I would love to sell you some ocean-front property in Aizona; you’ll love it. Nothing against The Moody Blues, NRPS and other bands of that “ilk,” terrific bands, but there is NO comparrison to The Beatles, or the Stones for that matter. As for John Lennon, he said the Beatles were more “popular” than Jesus in an informal interview with a reporter. Lennon was right. Now, go get your shine box…

    • LORI

      obviously you are entitled to your opinion but it is mind blowing to me to not like them.
      when they arrived on the scene they were so fresh and alive and they were just an awesome rock band. Their influence was seen on the groups you like and their cultural and musical innovations changed the world.
      I am sorry you do not like them but since I love them I am just so grateful for them.
      John said, to paraphrase, that right at that moment the Beatles were more popular than God to the young people. He did NOT compare himself to GOD or say he was better or they were better than God. He just simply said that popularity wise they were ahead. He told the truth.
      Regardless it has nothing to do with their music.
      Fab Forever!

  • Moishe

    Let’s face it head on……it was a stupid decision!!!!

  • Bart Callow

    In my view, as a US “ivy league” student in the 60s (and an old, albeit music loving fud of today), I endorsed Israel’s decision years ago. I still do. Most of my fellow alums ,of today probably disagree. But I think it augurs well, especially in today’s times, to see a body of thought leaders sustain a decision made upon principle that came and still comes out of deep reflection and concern for its youth.

  • schm0e

    Is this a bad thing? Recent piece in the WSJ about current culture in America bemoans that, at least when Elvis was swinging his hips and singing sexual innuendos, it was innocent by today’s standards.

    Innocent, in the way an acorn is “innocent” of being an oak tree.

    Would that we could put the genie back in the bottle. But we can’t. What we get as a consolation prize to the destruction of our society by the progressive erosion of standards of decency is some pretty good music along the way….

    That’s just the way it is.

  • Bart Callow

    In my view, as a US “ivy league” student in the 60s (and an old, albeit music loving fud of today, I endorsed Israel’s decision years ago. I still do. Most of my fellow alums ,of today probably disagree. But I think it augurs well, especially in today’s times, to see a body of thought leaders sustain a decision made upon principle that came and still comes out of deep reflection and concern for its youth.

    • Sonny Crockett

      C’mon… made a mistake….man-up and admit it!
      Some of you sound like the miserable old guy in the corner house, still yellin’ at the kids to get off his dead lawn and still blamin’ the Beatles for Miley Cyrus!

  • CSBG

    Actually, they were right. The fact the Beatles have become inculcated onto the public consciousness and the standards of music have so greatly diminished has debased the culture. However, such demunition has occurred in all the arts. Hip-Hop and Rap are not music by any definition, but primacy of Affirmative action had and has taken over. now, the President has elevated these people , many of whom are criminals, into the highest
    echelons. That does not mean Israelis, or Jews, or non-Jews have to subscribe to it. Israel has a primier Musical culture, and it should continue to promote it, and all children in Israel, and everywhere else for that matter, must have access to it in the concert venues, the schools, and on the air.
    The Beatles took American Rock and Roll , were admittedly cute , and had a superior PR machine. In order to broaden their musical scheme , they hired a classically trained composer/ arranger to work with them and produce their recordings. when Paul McCartney wanted to create a legitimate work, his Oratorio, he hired Carl Davis, who
    accomplished an extraordinary feat.I don’t know whom Paul hired for his second Classical piece, but he did not do it. He doesn’t know music, so that is the only way he could do it.
    Kids think, with the synthesizers they can write. It’s ridiculous, of course.
    Shamefully, it was a Jew at Warner Brothers records, I believe, who learning that Hip-Hop and Rap were catching on in the urban areas, decided to pursue it, because it could make money. This executive was just promoted to a head position either at Warners, or another company.
    I suppose, after decades Paul McCartney , who has married two Jewish women and with several Israeli musicians having adopted the lowest form fo non-MUsic, making the Beatles and other groups’ who recorded in the Sixties and Seventies seem very acceptable, approvable.

    • Jay Wenk

      There are lots of people who don’t like Mozart or Bartok or Copland, but that doesn’t mean that those people are witless. If you don’t like the Beatles, as I do, that’s their problem. Speech is free. However, when CSBG gets anti-semitic, that’s another matter, it needs a response. CSBG is, obviously a loser, a person who should get some help in understanding that that sort of belief puts him/her in a position of weakness, someone who has been denied an understanding of what humanity is all about.

      • Sonny Crockett

        Jaw, I would agree with you….
        Give me an hour and I’ll make you a Beatles fan….LOL

  • Bella

    The members of that Israeli Cultural Committee (aka as the Israeli Flat Earth Club) should listen to Ofra Hanoy playing Beatles songs …. or may be on 2nd thoughts, it would be wasted on them.

  • Efram

    THAT is a legitimate criticism of Israel. What a stupid move! Yes, it is nice that Paul McCartney does not hold it against Israel. I would demand an apology, though, were I he.

  • look…I would be happy that McCartney has not held it against you (not that he holds grudges period).