TEL AVIV – Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke defended his band’s decision to play in Israel following harsh criticism from British filmmaker Ken Loach.
Loach wrote in an oped published by the UK’s Independent newspaper: “[Radiohead’s] 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. … Radiohead need to decide if they stand with the oppressed or with the oppressor.”
Yorke tweeted back, “Playing in a country isn’t the same as endorsing its government. We’ve played in Israel for over 20 years through a succession of governments, some more liberal than others. As we have in America.”
“We don’t endorse Netanyahu any more than Trump, but we still play in America,” Yorke said. “Music, art and academia is about crossing borders not building them, about open minds not closed ones, about shared humanity, dialogue and freedom of expression. I hope that makes it clear Ken.”
Last week, Yorke flipped off pro-Palestinian protesters and swore at them during a concert in Glasgow, Scotland.
Activists from Glasgow Palestine Action, Glasgow Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Radiohead Fans for Palestine demonstrated outside the festival prior to the band’s performance. During the performance itself, Palestinian flags were waved from the crowd, prompting Yorke to exclaim no less than four times the phrase “some f*cking people!” into the microphone.
In addition to Loach, Radiohead has come under intense pressure from other artists and supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to cancel their Tel Aviv concert later this summer. The campaign is being spearheaded by Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters who has in the past compared Israel to Nazi Germany and uses bullying tactics to persuade a range of fellow musicians not to perform in the Jewish state.
Waters told Radiohead to “think again” about playing in a country “where a system of apartheid has been imposed on the Palestinian people.” Israel does not impose any apartheid system on the Palestinian people. Radiohead ignored the extremist call to boycott, with Thom Yorke telling Rolling Stone magazine it was “deeply distressing” that Waters and other BDS activists “choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw s**t at us in public.”
“I’ll be totally honest with you: this has been extremely upsetting,” said Yorke to the Rolling Stone interviewer. “There’s an awful lot of people who don’t agree with the BDS movement, including us. I don’t agree with the cultural ban at all, along with J.K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky and a long list of others.”
“The kind of dialogue that they want to engage in is one that’s black or white. I have a problem with that,” Yorke explained. “It’s deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw s**t 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. It’s offensive and I just can’t understand why going to play a rock show or going to lecture at a university [is a problem to them].”