What I do know, having hung out with him for an afternoon, is that he's still always spoiling for a fight. As we're about to say our goodbyes, he pulls a sheaf of faxes out of his pocket. They are complaints, e-mailed to his manager, John "Rambo" Stevens, who lives in Arkansas, complaining that PiL will shortly be performing in Israel. One, from a fan called Lawrence Casin, declares: "I will destroy all my albums and paraphernalia that I have collected over the years if you bastards play that hell hole."That's funny. It wasn't that long ago that Rotten was saying that non-appearance in Israel was a betrayal of the fans. Now apparently Palestinians deserve ethnic cleansing, occupation, relentless aggression, slaughter of innocents, segregation and occupation because of the absence of democracy in Arab and Muslim states, where that is the case. This is the "they suck" argument that people will recognise from Gabriel Ash's list of classic Israel apologetics. I wonder if Rotten would be so "spoiling for a fight" if he wasn't being paid to perform for the racist war criminals of the State of Israel.
Most musicians, particularly those who have been around for 30 years, wouldn't let hate mail upset them. They probably wouldn't even read it. But John's anger is genuine. He wants me to record it, for posterity. "I really resent the presumption that I'm going there to play to right-wing Nazi jews," he tells me. "If Elvis-fucking-Costello wants to pull out of a gig in Israel because he's suddenly got this compassion for Palestinians, then good on him. But I have absolutely one rule, right? Until I see an Arab country, a Muslim country, with a democracy, I won't understand how anyone can have a problem with how they're treated."
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