Thom Yorke Calls Boycott Against Radiohead's Israel Show an "Extraordinary Waste of Energy"
Published Jun 02, 2017Earlier this year, artists like Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe publicly called on Radiohead to rethink their scheduled show in Tel Aviv, signing a petition that claims "by playing in Israel you'll be playing in a state where, UN rapporteurs say, 'a system of apartheid has been imposed on the Palestinian people.'" Now, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has finally broken his silence on the issue.
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Yorke blasted back at the petition signers, calling their message "patronizing" and "offensive."
"It's really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years," he said.
Yorke goes on to specifically single out Waters for putting him in a difficult situation with longtime Radiohead collaborator (and the producer of Waters's latest solo LP), Nigel Godrich.
"All of this creates divisive energy," Yorke concluded. "You're not bringing people together. You're not encouraging dialogue or a sense of understanding."
Radiohead have played Israel numerous times, but not since 2000. In 2005, the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement began, calling on a cultural Boycott of Israel until Palestinians receive the "right of return" and Israel's West Bank barrier is dismantled. The aforementioned petition calls on the UK group to cancel their scheduled July 19 show, stating: "Surely if making a stand against the politics of division, of discrimination and of hate means anything at all, it means standing against it everywhere — and that has to include what happens to Palestinians every day."
Other protestors are also calling for the cancellation of an upcoming university lecture that Yorke is set to deliver.
Yorke's complete response [via Rolling Stone] reads:
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. 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. The kind of dialogue that they want to engage in is one that's black or white. I have a problem with that. It's deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit 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].
The university thing is more of a head fuck for me. It's like, really? You can't go talk to other people who want to learn stuff in another country? Really? The one place where you need to be free to express everything you possibly can. You want to tell these people you can't do that? And you think that's gonna help?
The person who knows most about these things is [Radiohead guitarist] Jonny [Greenwood]. He has both Palestinian and Israeli fans and a wife who's an Arab-Israeli. 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. And imagine how upsetting that it's been to have this out there. Just to assume that we know nothing about this. Just to throw the word "apartheid" around and think that's enough. It's fucking weird. It's such an extraordinary waste of energy. Energy that could be used in a more positive way.
This is the first time I've said anything about it. Part of me wants to say nothing because anything I say cooks up a fire from embers. But at the same time, if you want me to be honest, yeah, it's really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years. They talk down to us and I just find it mind-boggling that they think they have the right to do that. It's extraordinary.
Imagine how this has affected me and Nigel's relationship. Thanks, Roger. I mean, we're best mates for life, but it's like, fuck me, really?
All of this creates divisive energy. You're not bringing people together. You're not encouraging dialogue or a sense of understanding. Now if you're talking about trying to make things progress in any society, if you create division, what do you get? You get fucking Theresa May. You get [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, you get fucking Trump. That's divisive.
Godrich, meanwhile, responded to Yorke's comments rather diplomatically, but did side with Radiohead on their anti-boycott stance.
"I don't believe in cultural boycotts. I don't think they're positive, ever," he told Rolling Stone. "And actually, I think that it's true to say that the people you'd be denying [the music] are the people who would agree with you and don't necessarily agree with their government. So it's not a good idea. Thom and Roger are two peas in a pod, really, in certain respects. They just have a disagreement about this, but they've never even met. I think Thom feels very protective of Jonny, which I completely get. But I'm not in the middle of Thom and Roger. Fucking hell, I wouldn't like to be in the middle of those two. No."
The controversial show remains scheduled to go ahead on July 19 in Tel Aviv.