Radiohead’s recent performance at the TRNSMT Festival in Glasgow, Scotland, turned into an argument between Thom Yorke and protesters of the band’s upcoming tour date in Tel Aviv, Israel. Three groups, the Glasgow Palestine Action, Glasgow Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and Radiohead Fans for Palestine, all showed up to chastise the group for allegedly showing complicity with Israel’s treatment of Palestinians by agreeing to do the show. The groups, who have called for a cultural boycott of Israel, believe that Radiohead’s performance in the capital is as good as an endorsement of the regime.
Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, are among fifty artists who have collectively signed a letter which argues that “by playing in Israel [Radiohead will] be playing in a state where, UN rapporteurs say, ‘a system of apartheid has been imposed on the Palestinian people.’” The letter goes on to argue that, since Radiohead has taken stands “against the politics of division, of discrimination and of hate” in the past, the Palestinian issue should be no different. The band was met with a sea of Palestinian flags and shouting protesters as soon as they took the stage.
However, Radiohead, especially Thom Yorke, won’t budge. Yorke appeared frustrated with the protesters, treating them as any old hecklers despite their political motivation. Yorke exclaimed, “Some fucking people!” as he gave the middle finger to protesters and fans alike.
Yorke, in a recent interview with Rolling Stone, said, “I’ll be totally honest with you: this has been extremely upsetting. I don’t agree with the cultural ban at all.” Yorke is also dissatisfied with the way in which his musical contemporaries chose to address the issue.
“It’s deeply distressing that they chose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public. It’s deeply disrespectful to assume that we’re either being misinformed or that we’re so retarded we can’t make these decisions ourselves. I thought it was patronizing in the extreme.”
Yorke goes onto discuss that the accusations against his band are especially offensive to guitarist Johnny Greenwood, who is married to an Arab Jew.
For every person who views Radiohead’s decision to play the concert in Tel Aviv as unethical, there will be someone who thinks the opposite. Yorke and his band are entitled to think that there is nothing wrong with the concert, as are those who do not agree. Radiohead will play the concert either way, alongside the Jewish Arabic band, Dudu Tassa & the Kuwaitis on July 19th. Yorke and his bandmates, while they don’t agree with the cultural ban, do agree that their fellow musicians did not go about their criticism in a constructive way.
“Part of me wants to say nothing because anything I say cooks up a fire from embers. But at the same time, if you want me to be honest, yeah, it’s really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years.”
Photography credit: Raymond Flotat