Truth After 42 Years: Beatles Banned For Fear of Influence on Youth

Photograph: PA

Truth After 42 Years: Beatles Banned For Fear of Influence on Youth

Cliff Richard's concert had shocked Israel authorities

JERUSALEM - Forty-two years after Israel banned John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr from playing to the nation, the truth about its Beatlephobia has finally been revealed.

Still reeling from the sight of Israeli teenagers swooning to the tunes of Cliff Richard in 1963, Israel's publicly appointed guardians of good taste and morality, the interdepartmental committee for authorising the importation of foreign artists, refused their entry.

Determined to prevent another outbreak of mass hysteria, the 13 member committee of politicians and civil servants whose job it was to assess the artistic merit of foreign acts resolved to be "vigilant".

As a result, the 1964 request to bring to Israel, the Rhythm Beatles - as they were called in Hebrew - was roundly rejected in the committee's resolution 691, which reads: "Resolved: Not to allow the request for fear that the performances by the Beatles are liable to have a negative influence on the [country's] youth."

The promoters appealed against the decision, so the committee launched a global investigation of the awesome foursome.

After soliciting information from Israeli embassies and the foreign ministry's cultural relations department, it discovered that the world was afflicted with Beatlemania.

Israel's media lambasted the group, urging the committee to protect the nation's youth as Cliff Richard had already given them "a bad name". One paper reported that committee members had been listening to the "yeah-yeah-yeah howls which are capable of striking dead a real beetle".

Another reported the head of the education ministry as saying: "There is no musical or artistic experience here but a sensual display that arouses feelings of aggression replete with sexual stimuli."

At the conclusion of its inquiry, the committee wrote, in resolution 709, that it would refuse entry because "the band has no artistic merit" and its performances "cause hysteria and mass disorder among young people".

Several versions of the story, blaming the then prime minister, Golda Meir, a former education minister who had never heard of the Beatles, a jealous promoter who regretted turning down the Beatles for Richard, and even the finance ministry for allegedly refusing to allot the foreign currency required to underwrite the performance, have lingered.

But when the Israeli ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor, gave an official letter of apology to John Lennon's half-sister this year, Alon Gan, a history professor at Tel Aviv University, was inspired to investigate.

Gan, who revealed the story in the daily newspaper Haaretz, one week before McCartney is due to perform for the first time in the country, said the true story was that "Israel in the early 60s was afraid that from the west would come a bad wind of sex, alcohol and rock'n'roll".

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