Marcus Mumford to play at controversial Israeli-Palestinian memorial concert

The Mumford and Sons frontman has pre-recorded songs for the event


HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 08: Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons performs onstage during A GRAMMY Salute to The Beach Boys at Dolby Theatre on February 08, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

(JTA) — Marcus Mumford, the lead singer and guitarist of Mumford and Sons, will perform in a pre-recorded music video at a joint Israeli-Palestinian memorial service in Tel Aviv next week.

Mumford has been involved with one of the event’s organizers, the Parents Circle-Families Forum, which brings together bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families, since 2014 when he met its Jewish cofounder, a mother whose son had been killed by a Palestinian sniper. He has visited Israel and the West Bank and performed in events promoting coexistence in Israel and the United States, including with his longtime friend, the Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar.

The April 24 event, which marks the beginning of Israel’s Memorial Day, or Yom HaZikaron, has drawn backlash in Israel for commemorating Palestinian victims of the conflict alongside Israelis killed in war and terror attacks.

This year, as in previous years, Israel’s defense minister has declined to issue permits to allow Palestinians to cross from the West Bank into Israel to attend the event, citing “the complex security situation” in the West Bank.

The defense minister, Yoav Galant, issued his decision at an especially tense time in Israel, which has experienced escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence alongside weeks of protests against the government’s proposal to sap the Israeli Supreme Court of much of its power. Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Gallant — and subsequently reversed that decision — after Gallant called for a pause in the court reform.

The other group organizing the memorial, Combatants for Peace — which is comprised of former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants who now advocate for nonviolence — attributed Gallant’s decision to his near-sacking.

“Gallant is frightened by the threat of dismissal & has fallen in line with the silencing of voices,” Combatants for Peace said in a statement on Twitter. “The ceremony is how hundreds of bereaved families remember their loved ones. It represents the future that is possible here – a joint future of dignity & human rights for ALL.”

In the past, decisions like Gallant’s have been overturned by Israel’s Supreme Court, which has allowed West Bank Palestinians to attend the event. The groups organizing the event will be petitioning the Supreme Court to overturn this decision as well.

Mumford is not the first celebrity to participate in the Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony. Actor Richard Gere appeared via video in 2021, and last year’s ceremony featured popular Jewish Israeli actress and comedian Rivka Michaeli and Arab Israeli actor George Iskandar, along with live and recorded musical performances.

“Today more than ever it is important to recognize that two peoples call this place their homeland, and it is time to act together to realize this partnership and create a better future here for everyone,” Combatants for Peace said in a statement thanking Mumford for his appearance. “When we collectively remember our loved ones lost in conflict, we do just that.”

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