'Knives Out' as Radiohead defy BDS with Israel concert

'Knives Out' as Radiohead defy BDS with Israel concert
UK alternative band Radiohead will defy calls for a cultural boycott on Israel and play a gig in Tel Aviv next month.
4 min read
03 Jun, 2017
Thom Yorke is angered by BDS efforts to cancel Radiohead's Israel gig [Getty]
Radiohead are a band that have alligned with many progressive causes through their 25-year career, performing at concerts for Free Tibet, anti-racism causes, and anti-war movements.

Now the band is defying pro-Palestine activists after singer Thom Yorke told Rolling Stone magazine Radiohead will ignore a cultural boycott - called for by fellow rock stars such as Pink Floyd's Roger Waters - and perform in Israel next month.

Activists want a complete cultural boycott of Israel until it ends its occuption of the West Bank and Palestinians have their own state.

Yorke said the band does not agree with cultural boycotts and that he has found the approach of some pro-Palestine Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) activists patronising and divisive.

"I'll be totally honest with you: this has been extremely upsetting. There's an awful lot of people who don't agree with the BDS movement, including us," he told the Rolling Stone.

"I don't agree with the cultural ban at all, along with J.K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky and a long list of others."

Radiohead are due to play a concert for their A Moon Shaped Pool tour at Tel Aviv's Park Hayarkon on 19 July, but has faced criticism from BDS activists.

Leading figures from the movement have called on Radiohead to cancel the tour, but Yorke said not only does the band not support the move but also its a personal issue for members such as guitarist Jonny Greenwood whose wife is Israeli.

"The person who knows most about these things is Jonny. He has both Palestinian and Israeli friends and a wife who's an Arab Jew. All these people to stand there at a distance throwing stuff at us, waving flags, saying, 'You don’t know anything about it!' Imagine how offensive that is for Jonny."

Yorke went on to say that the approach from activists has angered him and the fact that Waters and Radiohead share the same producer - Nigel Godrich - also makes the situation particularly personal and sensitive to him.

"Just to assume that we know nothing about this. Just to throw the word 'apartheid' around and think that's enough. It's f***ing weird. It's such an extraordinary waste of energy. Energy that could be used in a more positive way," he said.

The BDS movement calls for a total boycott of Israel by musicians, academics and public figures until the country ends its illegal occupation of the West Bank, agree to the 'right to return' for Palestinian refugeees, and dismantle the seperation wall.

The group argues that Israel should be treated as a pariah state by thinkers and musicians, just as apartheid-era South Africa was during the 1980s.

In April, 50 iconic figures in music, comedy and academia signed a petition calling on Radiohead to cancel their Israel gig.

"In asking you not to perform in Israel, Palestinians have appealed to you to take one small step to help pressure Israel to end its violation of basic rights and international law," the petition read, which was signed by South African cleric Desmond Tutu, musician Lowkey, and Jewish-British comedian Alexei Sayle among others.

The campaign has been backed by Palestinian activists who say that the mark of solidarity by musicians and others has pushed the issue of Israeli occupation to a wider audience.

Yorke said that he believes that such tactics create division which only strengthens right-wing and populist politicians.

"All of this creates divisive energy. You're not bringing people together. You're not encouraging dialogue or a sense of understanding," he said.

"Now if you're talking about trying to make things progress in any society, if you create division, what do you get? You get f***ing Theresa May. You get [Israeli Prime Minister Binyjamin] Netanyahu, you get f***ng [Donald] Trump. That's divisive."

Fans have called for the band to cancel the gig, while BDS activists argue that such petitions have a powerful message and have stopped NFL stars from visiting Israel once they became aware of Palestinian suffering.