TEL AVIV – Rocker Nick Cave said his decision to perform in Israel on Sunday and Monday was the direct result of the BDS movement, which “bullies and censors” musicians.
“In a way, the BDS movement is responsible for my coming to Israel,” Cave said at a press conference in Tel Aviv ahead of his two sold-out shows.
Pro-Palestinian activists lashed out at Cave after the shows, accusing him of “art-washing.”
The Australian performer said British record producer Brian Eno asked him three years ago to sign a pro-Palestinian petition. “On a very intuitive level I did not want to sign that list, there was something that stunk to me about that list,” Cave said.
Nevertheless, he didn’t play in Israel for two decades. “That made me feel like a coward, so as soon as I planned this tour, it was important for me to come out against this silencing of artists.”
He went on to describe his love of Israel.
“People speak about loving a nation, but I felt a kind of connection that I couldn’t really describe,” he said.
“So at the end of the day there are two reasons why I am here. One is that I love Israel and I love Israeli people and also two is to make a principled stand against anyone who wants to censor and silence musicians,” Cave said.
“It suddenly became very important to make a stand, to me, against those people who are trying to shut down musicians, to bully musicians, to censor musicians and to silence musicians,” he emphasized.
“So really you could say in a way that the BDS made me play Israel.”
On Monday, the Associated Press cited the the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel as describing Cave’s shows as a “propaganda gift” that aids the “art-wash” of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Last month, proponents of the BDS movement, led by Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, sent an open letter to Cave full of misinformation and outright lies in an attempt to guilt the artist into cancelling the show.
In response to Cave’s remarks on Sunday, Waters said, “Nick thinks this is about censorship of his music? What? Nick, with all due respect, your music is irrelevant to this issue, so is mine, so is Brian Eno’s so is Beethoven’s, this isn’t about music, it’s about human rights.”
The original letter, authored by Artists For Palestine UK, which counts Waters and Thurston Moore among others as members, begins by saying that “in the words of a recent UN report, ‘Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people.’”
The cited report was published in May 2017 by the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), a body comprised of 18 Arab countries that did not receive permission from the UN secretariat to publish the damning document. At the time, the UN Secretary-General distanced himself from the report and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley demanded its withdrawal altogether.
Artists for Palestine UK released another statement Monday in which it said that “in a land of injustice Nick Cave is giving comfort to the unjust.”
Waters, who has in the past compared Israel to Nazi Germany, uses bullying tactics to persuade other musicians not to perform in the Jewish state. His most recent target was Radiohead, who defied Waters’ attempts at intimidation and performed in Tel Aviv in July. Waters told the band to “think again” about playing in a country “where a system of apartheid has been imposed on the Palestinian people.”
But the band ignored the call to boycott, with Thom Yorke telling Rolling Stone magazine that 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.”
While a few artists, including Stevie Wonder and Lauryn Hill, caved to pressure from the BDS movement, most have ignored it, with Tel Aviv seeing concerts from the likes of Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Santana, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Aerosmith and Bon Jovi in recent years.