A few months ago, Radiohead found itself in media trouble for performing in Tel Aviv, Israel. Roger Waters, Thurston Moore and over fifty other artists signed an open letter condemning the band for crossing the picket line of a cultural boycott. Thom Yorke’s response criticized Waters and his colleagues’ approach in writing a public letter instead of coming to him personally. Yorke added that the letter’s insinuation of their lack of knowledge on the subject most insulted Jonny Greenwood, who is married to an Israeli-born artist, Sharona Katan.
Nick Cave, who plans to end his tour with two dates in Tel Aviv, proved today that the picket line has not blurred. Waters, Thurston Moore and TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe signed a new letter urging Cave, “don’t go.” Filmmakers Ken Loach and Mike Leigh joined the chorus again in what has become a firm stance among many artists on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Waters and company quote a United Nations statement, “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people.” The letter focuses on the creative suppression that oppression makes inevitable. Writers, creative thinkers and artists of all kinds are the fundamental enemy of any oppressive regime because they are able to change peoples’ minds.
“Literary festivals broken up. Travel bans for actors and musicians. Social media under surveillance. Media centres raided and plundered. The normalized use of military force against a captive population. The steady expansion of illegal settlements.”
Radiohead, who are used to this kind of criticism by now, replied, “We don’t endorse Netanyahu any more than Trump, but we still play in America,” earlier this year. REM’s Michael Stipe backed them up. The music industry is at odds with itself, but it is a creative struggle. Entertainment can at once be a pastime untainted by the world’s wounds and a tool that can heal them. Artists must decide on whether or not they are political. Athletes in many different leagues, including the NFL and NBA, have made the same choice. Perhaps one day politicians will do the same. Waters wondered publicly how Yorke and Cave would feel after “even a day or two” of Israeli detention.
“You can either heed the cry, respect your brothers’ and sisters’ picket line and stand with them in their struggle for the basic human rights we all take for granted, or you can turn your backs on them.”
Cave’s dates in Tel Aviv are November 19 and 20 at the Menorah Arena.
Photography Credit: Raymond Flotat