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Thom Yorke responds to criticism of Israel gig

‘We don’t endorse Netanyahu any more than Trump, but we still play in America,’ the Radiohead frontman says in response to an article by filmmaker Ken Loach

Thom Yorke has responded to criticism by filmmaker Ken Loach over Radiohead’s upcoming performance in Tel Aviv, reaffirming the band’s commitment to perform in Israel despite the cultural boycott advocated by many prominent artists

Yesterday (July 11), Loach wrote an op-ed for The Independent under the headline ‘Radiohead need to join the cultural boycott of Israel – why won’t they meet with me to discuss it?’ In the article, Loach writes that 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” and that “Radiohead need to decide if they stand with the oppressed or with the oppressor.”

Yorke replied to a tweet by Loach tagging him with a short statement, writing: “Playing in a country isn’t the same as endorsing the 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. Music, art, academia is about crossing borders not building them.”

Radiohead’s Tel Aviv concert is scheduled for July 19. It’s the first time that the band will have played the country since the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement began in 2005, which calls for a cultural boycott of Israel until the West Bank is dismantled and Palestinian people are granted right of return. In April, over 50 public figures including Loach, Roger Waters, and Thurston Moore signed a letter urging Radiohead to cancel their show.

In an interview with Rolling Stone in June, Yorke responded to the letter in slightly less calm terms than his latest statement. “There are people I admire like Ken Loach, who I would never dream of telling where to work or what to do or think,” he said. “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 disrespectful to assume that we’re either being misinformed or that we’re so retarded we can’t make these decisions ourselves.”

“I don’t agree with the cultural ban at all, along with J.K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky and a long list of others,” he also said. Yorke’s latest statement has received a series of strong responses from Twitter users, as well as messages of support.

PACBI (the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) have also responded to Yorke’s message, writing that he “continues to ignore the voice of the overwhelming majority of Palestinians... Radiohead’s ‘business as usual’ show in apartheid Tel Aviv crosses our nonviolent boycott picket line, professing to know better than us.”

Watch the video for Radiohead’s “Man of War”, from their recent OK Computer reissue OKNOTOK, below.