Radiohead's Thom Yorke

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 15.39.17Radiohead’s upcoming gig in Tel Aviv has run into lots of controversy. Whilst their recent UK shows have been astounding, with rave reviews here and here, the proposed show in Israel is causing all kinds of protest – from Palestinian flags in crowds, demos outside stadiums by the BDS campaign and online protests.

For some playing a gig in Israel legitimises the state and its oppressive treatment of the Palestinians and it’s created a big online debate. The band have so far kept out of the row apart from some remarks from Thom Yoke on stage at their recent Glasgow gig and some quotes in Rolling Stone where Yorke described the situation as “offensive” and “an extraordinary waste of energy,” saying: “I don’t agree with the cultural ban at all, along with J.K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky and a long list of others…
There are people I admire [who have been critical of the concert] like [English film director] Ken Loach, who I would never dream of telling where to work or what to do or think.”

Yorke called it “patronizing in the extreme” to presume Radiohead is unfamiliar with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, pointing out that guitarist Jonny Greenwood’s wife is an Israeli Jew.

What’s your view on Radiohead playing Israel?

What do you think? should the band pull out of the show in Israel and uphold the boycott or should they play like John Lydon, Jello Biafra, The Fall and the Stranglers all recently did? Or do you disagree with the boycott along with Naom Chomsky and JK Rowling? Should bands not play any countries with oppressive regimes or is Israel a particularity bad one? Will the band not playing make any difference or if they did play would it inspire the more liberal citizens of that nation? Or do you agree with the campaign that if all bands didn’t play Israel it would create an isolated South Africa type situation and help contribute to big changes?

Ken Loach: Why won’t Radiohead meet me to discuss the cultural boycott of Israel?

Award-winning film director Ken Loach writes in The Independent to ask why Radiohead won’t meet with him and Palestinian artists to discuss the band’s “ill advised” concert in Tel Aviv, scheduled for 19 July.

Loach also contradicts earlier comments from Thom Yorke given to Rolling Stone, that critics of the group’s decision to play in Tel Aviv despite the Palestinian call for the cultural boycott of Israel are simply “throwing shit” at the band in public without attempting to engage privately.

“This is both inaccurate and – even if it were accurate – quite irrelevant. Whether in apartheid South Africa in the past or apartheid Israel in the present, when an oppressed community asks renowned international artists not to lend their names to their oppressors’ attempts to whitewash their human rights violations, it is our moral obligation to heed their appeals. It should be about them and their human rights, not about us and our sense of pride.”

The I, Daniel Blake director continues: “I approached Radiohead’s management with an offer to meet, along with Palestinian artists. That offer was repeated several times over the past three weeks. To date there has been no response at all from the band or their management.”

“This is deeply disappointing. I don’t know who is advising Radiohead, but their stubborn refusal to engage with the many critics of their ill-advised concert in Tel Aviv suggests to me that they only want to hear one side – the one that supports apartheid.”

Ken Loach also writes that, “Thom Yorke chides us for ‘throwing around’ the word apartheid. The definition fits, all too well. Palestinian men, women and children are forced from their homes only to see Israeli settlers move in, they watch their homes being demolished as illegal construction of Jewish-only homes proceeds on confiscated Palestinian land, they travel on racially segregated roads and face humiliation at Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks.”

Loach again repeats his offer to meet with Radiohead, writing, “I and others are still willing to meet Thom Yorke and his colleagues, together with Palestinian artists.”

He concludes by paraphrasing Desmond Tutu: “There is no neutrality in situations of grave injustice. Radiohead need to decide if they stand with the oppressed or with the oppressor. The choice is simple.”

Last week, activists with London Palestine Action handed in petitions signed by nearly 14,000 people to Radiohead’s record label XL Recordings. The number has now reached nearly 20,000.

One of the petitions, launched by US group Jewish Voice for Peace, says:

“Palestinian civil society, in an effort to bring worldwide attention to injustice and inequality in Israel/Palestine issued a call for cultural boycott in 2005. We ask you to honor that call.”

In April dozens of artists including Ken Loach, Thurston Moore, Roger Waters and Young Fathers, as well as anti-apartheid veteran Desmond Tutu, signed an open letter calling on Radiohead to cancel the scheduled show in Tel Aviv, which read: “Please do what artists did in South Africa’s era of oppression: stay away, until apartheid is over.”

Israeli musicians wrote to Radiohead last month urging the band to cancel their Tel Aviv show. They said: “Every international artist who plays in Israel serves as a propaganda tool for the Israeli government. International performances in Israel serve the government’s agenda of whitewashing its war crimes against Palestinians by creating a ‘business as usual’ atmosphere wherein the status-quo, a reality of colonization and military occupation for Palestinians, becomes normalized.”

Protests have been held in cities across Europe during Radiohead’s recent tour, including in Paris, Dublin, Manchester and Florence. During Radiohead’s set at the TRNSMT festival in Glasgow, Thom Yorke could be heard repeating the phrase “some fucking people” and was seen on camera giving the middle finger towards the crowd, apparently in the direction of fans waving Palestinian flags.

One of those fans, Struan Mearns later said, “When Thom Yorke swore at us I was shocked but given that they’re willing to break the cultural boycott and help the state of Israel whitewash its crimes, that kind of arrogant attitude is actually not that surprising”.

Many Palestinian flags could also be seen in the crowd during the band’s headline set at Glastonbury Festival last month.

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  1. NO, they should have absolutely zero tolerance for a regime that has been terrorising Palestinian men, women and children for decades. A vicious regime that allows settlers to set up homes on land which has no connection to them, it’s utterly appalling and needs to be called out. I’ve never ever liked Radioheads music, it’s always struck me as self indulgent nonsense, the genre of music and experimentation they supposedly represent as artists has been done much more effectively and much more sonically by other bands such as, Primal Scream, Massive Attack & Mogwai, there’s lots more as you well know but those three are mainstream, always challenging the hypocrisy of our elected politicians and consistently challenging social injustice via their art & music…. would those bands ever play in Israel. NO. So fuck Radiohead & their “shut the door on the way out Theresa”, rhetoric from Glastonbury. If they go ahead with this gig they are complicit in hate and apartheid, something their music purports to be vehemently against.

    • It’s so heartbreaking to see a band that we love and admire to take this shameful path. Actually, it’s also surprising because Radiohead, especially Yorke has always stand against oppression regims like China with Tibet, or for the financial power with Occupy London or for climate change movement..
      So what is it about? Just make a gig? What are their motivations, if they are politic or humanist, with this action, so maybe they could just explain. Because seriously, Radiohead won’t change his mind now. Their pride is depending on it..

    • Agreed! No band should ever play in bullying state that oppresses people like Israel, Russia, USA and the UK – any bully nation that kills civilians in the name of power should be swerved by any free thinking band.

  2. No. I have lost all respect for this band now. Anyone that knows what has been happening in palestine for generations , should be be absolutely disgusted. I won’t be a fan of theirs, even if they change their mind.

  3. Perhaps the band does not feel compelled to meet with Mr. Loach and other “Palestinian artists” to discuss why they may play the gig.

    In light of the negative press they are facing about this, my only question would be “what is the motivation to play there?”

    Forty years ago, the collective punk attitude consisted of “fuck you, we do what we want”. Is this the band’s attitude here? I’ve yet to hear the question, “why do you consider playing there?”

  4. The major problem with the boycott is that it doesn’t punish anyone but the fans. People that want Radiohead to cancel their show in Tel Aviv don’t want to hurt the government – they want to hurt the population, the Radiohead fans that are waiting for years and now are extremely happy for them to come.
    There is another problem, that is the fact that the boycott delegitimizes any kind of conversation and discussion about the occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, because there are actually two sides to the coin – one of them is completely abandoned in favor of the other. When there is a pressure on Israel to fullfil the dreams of a hateful organization like Hamas, you are basically saying that Israel has not a single right to exist and therefore, you are a complete moron.

    Radiohead should play in Tel Aviv. The fans have waited for so long, it’s about time.

  5. Seems Loach and co. are not able to be impartial or see the clear duplicity of the situation and conflict. Israel is a legitimate state and like all sovereign countries has the right to defend its citizens. The victim culture that has been allowed to perpetuate the “plight” of the Palestinian Arabs living outside of Israel has done nothing for them a sorry case has been allowed to persist where by they are the only people’s with their own UN funded organisation and also a growing populous offered refuge status. Let that sink in, even if they have never ever set foot in Israel or the British Mandate of Palestine as it was formerly known. They are included in the untenable notion of “right of return” generations who have at no time ever lived in the disputed areas consider in their homeland. The decades where coexistence and peace were on the table but refused. It is a cherry picked cause by the likes of Loach and those of his mindset and generation. Yesterday’s freedom fighters who carried a copy of Chaiman Maos little red book now carry a copy of the Koran and a toxic Islamist mentality. Hamas and Hezbollah have never excepted Israel’s right to exist, they believe in nonse about the end of days when all the Jews will be gathered together in Israel and slaughtered. Let that sink in! This conflict has never been just about the Land it is Arab nationalistic pride and the fact that once the Turks had been shifted from the region a proposed Jewish state was a betrayal and obstacle to the reformation of the Caliphate. Two sides exist to this conflict and simply ignoring that rational peace loving individuals exist on both sides and desire a peaceful coexistence is adding gravity to a situation if investigated fully riddle with proffer terming from misery and conflict. Indoctrination of generations of young, a culture of shaheed or martyrdom amongst a victimised exploited populous brainwashed into anti Jewish Nazi style propaganda 85% of Palestinians believe suicide bombing is justified. Now peace could have occurred decades ago Rabin was prepared to compromise and ditto the wasted chance at Camp David under Clinton. Why because the likes of Arafat estimated to have close to a Billion dollars in a Swiss bank account and the leaders of the PA, Hamas, Hezbollah have millions of dollars tucked away, they never offer themselves up as shaheed martyrs or their off Spring . Loach and BDS Jew hate front man Roger Waters expose more a suspect approach to a very multifaceted conflict and dispute that despite many other regions of the world at loggerheads or in daily conflict over disputed terrotories get little if no attention. Why no call to Boycott the Saudis or why no protestors out en masse to Stop the Bombing of civilians in Yemen? Why no boycott and sanctions against the upcoming World Cup where people have died in almost slave like conditions an estimate of close to 4000 people will have directly lost their lives in constructing this stadium by the time of its completion. I will tell you why because an unfair set of rules exist wher Israel is held to a higher accountability code of conduct then any other nation. They still are exicuting homosexuals in Gaza and are just doing as they do in Iran and other terror conflict funding Islamist countries. Hypocrisy and selective concerns are inexcusable. Either you care about ALL oppressed peoples or you need some clear reason other than veiled antisemetism to just care about one!

  6. If the Palestinians accepted UN resolution for two states for two people instead of opening a war and trying to destroy Israel we wouldn’t need to worry all about this. They would already have a state since 48

  7. There’s a myriad of issues here. Firstly, I don’t agree with the band playing there personally (before I get accused of being a fanboy again) however, I find it odd that Loach is allowing his film to be shown in the country httpss:// surely he could have it stipulated in his contract that it doesn’t get shown there? Also, the fact Jonny’s wife is an Arab Jew adds further complications. I do feel Yorke has made some poor points when defending the situation and sort of feel he’s been hung out to dry a bit as the whole band should be making statements not just him. His recent defence where he mentions playing in the US is a slight stretch however he is right as they do arm so many countries that feed terrorism etc (that includes us). I also feel that (as the first comment attests to) that are a lot of people who are criticising them don’t like the band and are using this as a way of having digs at them. You are right to highlight others that have played there which have received none of this kind of attention. Why is this? Too many people are looking at this situation in black and white terms where the truth is so much more complicated

  8. Yet again in 1947/8 the UN offered two states. Palestine and Israel. Only Israel accepted the offer. Palestinians rejected and opened a war on Israel. What other info do you need?

    • How about the truth of what actually occurred in 1947 – 48??

      Something woefully lacking in your characterization … Or perhaps you do understand this and offer this pablum as an explanation as a whitewash of what really happened.

      First off, by what right did the UN have authority to partition Palestinian land? Jews had title to only 7 % of the land and we’re an immigrant colonizing minority. If I come by force of arms and occupy your home and some outside authority thinks a good resolution would be to partition your property … Where I get your house and half of the land and you get the garage and the backyard, would you sign up for that deal?

  9. I grew up in Belfast which obviously has its own political problems! the thought of bands not coming to play there because of the corrupt Northern Irish government which favoured the Prodestant Population over the Catholic nationalist community in the 1970’s would have been appalling ! We needed the bands to come for our own sanity! Bands like the Clash are eternally respected because they had the balls to come to Belfast during the troubles! Many people that live here , Prodestant and Catholic have minds of their own and don’t support the IRA , UVF or our very own corrupt Government ( THE DUP )
    They are free thinkers who love music , Art , culture and most importantly People no matter what race , creed or colour! If Radiohead don’t play in Israel it would be an injustice to the people who just want to live!

  10. Branding the Israel/Palestine situation as ‘Apartheid’ is a misnomer. It’s clickbait so I wouldn’t get sucked into that rhetoric and it’s simply off putting and demeaning to both Israelis and Palestinians alike. The issues go back over 3000 years so it’s not as simple as an imperial power instigating segregation amongst a conquered people. It’s much more than that Ken. It’s in the earth, the rock, the absolute soul of both people who share an affinity to that piece of dirt.

    Ken Loach has an agenda which he is pushing by making an example of Radiohead. This at best is patronising, at worse judge, jury and executioner. Dire Straits, Coldplay, Pixies, Guns & Roses, Cliff Richard and Robbie Williams and many more have upcoming concerts Tel Aviv so why go after Radiohead knowing full well his influence will create a backlash?

    In the past 100 years, The League of Nations, The UN, The USA and The Elders have attempted to find peace in the region without success. 6 Englishmen aren’t going to stop Israel settling in Palestinian land. I admire Ken’s determination late in life, but he has blemished a stellar legacy by going after a bunch of guys who have every right to play to whoever and where-ever they feel like.

    • “Branding the Israel/Palestine situation as ‘Apartheid’ is a misnomer. It’s clickbait so I wouldn’t get sucked into that rhetoric and it’s simply off putting and demeaning to both Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

      Wrong. It is not a misnomer. It is a fact. There are two sets of laws inside Israel … one for Jews, and a different set of laws for non Jews … And then a completely different set of laws for the Palestinians living in the occupied territories. Which basically amounts to eat shit or die. They have no freedom of movement, or assembly, no right of self determination. No representation, no right to self defense, no right to build, no right to harvest their crops. No right to visit family or friends, no right to visit their holy sites. No rights to protest, no right to vote to influence the actual enforcing entities, no courts to petition for resolution of the indignities and injustices they endure. No rights to their homes and lands. No right to travel. To visit doctors, or schools of their choosing. No rights to fish in their territorial waters. No rights to the actual water resources under their lands. They can’t even eat properly as Israel has besieged them for over a decade, and jokes about putting Gazans on a diet. Desmond Tutu has said that the Apartheid in the occupied territories is worse than anything experienced in South Africa.

  11. I tend to agree that playing in Israel could be seen as supporting the regime but on the other hand; does playing a gig in the UK mean you are supporting the Conservative Racist machine or playing in the USA mean you are supporting Trump. A lot of the people criticising Radiohead will have numerous items in their food cupboards etc, produced by companies that actively support the Israeli regime, so people in glass houses should be careful. The best thing Radiohead could do is do the gig and then donate the profits to human rights organisations working in Palestine / Israel – that would really stick it to the regime! Apartheid in South Africa did not end because of Boycotts, it ended because people in South Africa overcame differences that were being exploited and united to stand against the regime, thereby forcing the political hand. The boycotts may have shown the South African people that others in the World were aware of their plight but that was it. Generally speaking Boycotts do more harm than good, because they ultimately hurt the people that they set out to stand up for – that, unfortunately, is capitalism (see textile workers in Pakistan for example). How many people shop in Asda without being aware they are supporting a company that are part of the Worlds biggest arms manufacturer? I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly 40 years but still have friends who are carnivores – is that wrong? I think if Radiohead, or any other band want to play in Israel, it is their business – if I don’t agree with their decision I can choose to not buy that bands products – I don’t have the right to dictate where they should and shouldn’t play, anymore than I have the right to dictate what their set list is!


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