Radiohead Defends Playing in Israel: “We Don’t Support Trump, But We Still Play in America”

Radiohead's Thom Yorke speaks out against criticisms of the band's decision to perform in Israel.

Paul Tamburroby Paul Tamburro

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke has defended the band’s decision to play in Israel’s Tel Aviv, saying that they don’t endorse Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “any more than Trump,” adding: “But we still play in America.”

Yorke responded to an article penned by Ken Loach for The Independent, in which the film director wrote: “Their 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.”

“Remember what the South African anti-apartheid hero, Desmond Tutu, often told us: there is no neutrality in situations of grave injustice. Radiohead need to decide if they stand with the oppressed or with the oppressor. The choice is simple,” Loach concluded.

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Thom Yorke responded to Loach with a statement issued via Twitter, writing: “Playing in a country isn’t the same as endorsing its 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 and academia is about crossing borders not building them, about open minds not closed ones, about shared humanity, dialogue and freedom of expression. I hope that makes it clear Ken.”

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Credit: Thom Yorke / Twitter

Loach has supported a cultural boycott of Israel as a result of its actions in Palestine, also backed by Tutu and the likes of Brian Eno and Riz Ahmed. Speaking to Rolling Stone in June, Yorke responded to the criticisms Radiohead had received for not joining in with the Israel boycott, saying that he “would never dream of telling [Loach] 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,” Yorke continued. “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.”

Yorke’s statement on Twitter was criticised by some of his followers. One user wrote: “Thom, on numerous occasions people have offered you opportunities to actually engage in this issue seriously… your statement is an insult.” Another added: “So you’re still ignoring the fact that Palestinian civil society have called for a boycott. And ignoring that this is apartheid. This is not dialogue, Thom. This is you making a clumsy attempt to defend your position.” Radiohead are scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv next Wednesday (July 19).

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