Roger Waters says Radiohead determined to play Tel Aviv
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Roger Waters says Radiohead determined to play Tel Aviv

Pink Floyd founder admits British rock group’s members weren’t swayed by his letter urging them to boycott Israel

Thom Yorke of Radiohead performs in Seattle, April 2017 (YouTube screenshot; youtube.com/rc529)
Thom Yorke of Radiohead performs in Seattle, April 2017 (YouTube screenshot; youtube.com/rc529)

Roger Waters has conceded that despite his urgings on behalf of the boycott Israel movement, the iconic British alternative rock group Radiohead is resolved to perform in Tel Aviv this summer.

“I have engaged in a correspondence with some of Radiohead and they seem to have decided that they’re going to go ahead and do a concert in Tel Aviv, So there’s very little more that I can say on the matter,” Waters said Wednesday during an onstage interview with New York Times music critic Jon Pareles.

Waters, along with dozens of other artists, had called on Radiohead in a letter earlier in the week to cancel the July 19 concert, saying the band, known for its left-wing politics, should join Palestinian activists’ boycott calls.

“Since Radiohead campaigns for freedom for the Tibetans, we’re wondering why you’d turn down a request to stand up for another people under foreign occupation,” the letter read. “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.

This February 13, 2015 file photo shows British musician Roger Waters of Pink Floyd as he talks to members of the media outside the US embassy in central London. (AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL)
This February 13, 2015 file photo shows British musician Roger Waters of Pink Floyd as he talks to members of the media outside the US embassy in central London. (AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL)

“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,” it added.

On Wednesday, he said he wouldn’t directly criticize Radiohead for deciding to go ahead with the concert.

“They have to make up their own minds about what they decide to do with their lives, and they have to go wherever their consciences lead them,” he said. “So I’m not going to sit here and badmouth them or harangue them. My personal view is that there is a valid and legitimate picket line that has been organized by [the boycott movement] and I would prefer it if colleagues in my business did not cross that picket line. But if people choose to, that is entirely a matter for them and their own consciences.”

Waters, the former Pink Floyd member and creative force of “The Wall,” has long been outspoken on Israel. Having previously defended Waters from accusations of anti-Semitism, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in 2013 reluctantly acknowledged that “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories” have “seeped into the totality” of the former Pink Floyd frontman’s views.

Other signatories included novelists Alice Walker and Hari Kunzru, Thurston Moore of US alternative rock pioneers Sonic Youth and Nick Seymour of Australian rockers Crowded House.

Retired bishop and Nobel Prize-winning anti-apartheid campaigner Desmond Tutu also signed the letter.

A cultural boycott campaign against Israel has had mixed success. Stevie Wonder pulled out of a Friends of the IDF benefit in Los Angeles and Lauryn Hill scrapped an Israel show, but numerous major names including Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Santana, Elton John and Bon Jovi have performed in recent years.

Israel’s defenders have denounced the boycott campaign as hypocritical, saying the democratic country has been singled out when some prominent musicians are willing to play in dictatorships.

Radiohead last played Israel in 2000. That concert was part of a now-legendary Mediterranean swing where Radiohead previewed songs from “Kid A,” often called the band’s masterpiece, which were swapped online before the album’s release.

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