Wednesday 23 March 2011

Gene Simmons kisses Israel

Israeli daily Ha'aretz recently reported that Kiss' Israeli-born lead singer Gene Simmons (above) has called fellow artists who refuse to perform in Israel "fools".

The legendary bassist spoke to The Associated Press in Jerusalem on Tuesday, after he arrived in Israel for what he described as an emotional homecoming.

"I'm Israeli. I'm a stranger in America. I'm an outsider," he said. "I was born here and I'm proud of it."

Simmons said artists who avoid Israel - such as Elvis Costello, the Pixies and Roger Waters [see my blog for Friday 18 March], who joined the movement after appearing in Israel in 2006 - would be better served directing their anger at Arab dictators.

"The countries they should be boycotting are the same countries that the populations are rebelling," he said. "People long to be free ... And they sure as hell don't want somebody who's a ruler who hasn't been elected by them."

Simmons was making his first visit to Israel since he left the country more than 50 years ago.

Earlier this month Roger Waters of the iconic Pink Floyd voiced support for a cultural boycott of Israel.

While situations on the show are generally lighthearted, he said his stop in Israel has deep personal significance. "Coming back to Israel is a homecoming."

Simmons was born Chaim Witz and spent his childhood in northern Israel before moving to America. He recalled his father, a carpenter, taking his assault rifle and heading off to military service on weekends. His mother, a Holocaust survivor, taught him that "every day above ground is a good day."

The family was "dirt poor," scraping by on meagre bread and milk rations available in what was then an underdeveloped country. He earned money by selling fruits he collected from cactuses.

Simmons moved with his mother to the United States but still considers Israel his home.

He made local headlines during Israel's 2006 war against Lebanese guerrillas by sending a televised message to a wounded Israeli soldier, calling him a "hero."

Simmons insisted that his busy schedule has been the only reason he never made it back to Israel before.

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