Earlier 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, United Nations 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. "I don't agree with the cultural ban at all", he said after dozens of artists signed an open letter encouraging him and his band members to refuse to play in Israel.
Fifty prominent individuals, including musicians as well as civil rights figures such as Desmond Tutu, released an online petition protesting Radiohead's Tel Aviv concert.
Radiohead are scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv on 7/19, a decision that has drawn a lot of criticism from fellow artists.
"This is the first time I've said anything about it... it's really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years". "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", he said. 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. I have a problem with that. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Yorke said, "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". Just to throw the word "apartheid" around and think that's enough.
Yorke concludes, "Part of me wants to say nothing because anything I say cooks up a fire from embers". 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.
He also revealed that this is an especially sore spot for guitarist Jonny Greenwood, who he described as having "Palestinian and Israeli friends and a wife who's an Arab Jew". He called this action a "head fuck", and challenged his critics by asking, "You can't go talk to other people who want to learn stuff in another country?" They talk down to us and I just find it mind-boggling that they think they have the right to do that.
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On a more positive note, the band have premiered the video accompanying "I Promise", one of the new tracks that features on the OKNOTOK 1997-2017 version of their classic OK Computer album.
I don't believe in cultural boycotts.
Radiohead last played Israel in 2000.
All of this creates divisive energy.
"We understand you've been approached already by Palestinian campaigners".