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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Legendary Beatles star Paul McCartney said he was pressed to cancel his upcoming performance in Israel, but reassured Israeli fans in comments published on Thursday he would go ahead with the planned concert.
"I was approached by different groups and political bodies who asked me not to come here. I refused. I do what I think, and I have many friends who support Israel," McCartney said in an interview with Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth.
Pro-Palestinian groups have frequently called on international academics and prominent cultural figures to boycott Israel over its occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Jewish groups have condemned cultural and academic boycotts as anti-Semitic.
McCartney will perform hits from his Beatles days and his solo career during a September 25 concert in Tel Aviv as part of a series of shows that has taken McCartney to cities he never visited before.
Asked about how members of the Beatles, one of the most popular bands in rock history, felt when the Israeli government scrapped their concert in 1965 on the grounds it could corrupt the nation's youth, McCartney said it was "a bit insulting, the thought we could corrupt the youth."
"The Beatles had a pretty positive influence on the world and only regimes that wanted to control their peoples were afraid of us. We mostly laughed at the Israeli government decision," McCartney said in comments translated into Hebrew.
Another account in Israel's Haaretz newspaper last month pinned the cancellation of the 1965 Beatles concert on a rift between two concert promoters.
McCartney said in comments published on his Web site last month he looks forward to this chance to perform in Israel. "I've heard so many great things about Tel Aviv and Israel, but hearing is one thing and experiencing it for yourself is another," he said.
Writing by Avida Landau