Ra­dio­head set for Is­rael con­cert de­spite calls to boy­cott

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Ra­dio­head is set to defy calls from prom­i­nent artists to can­cel its con­cert to­day in Is­rael over the oc­cu­pa­tion of Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory, the lat­est con­tro­versy re­lated to a cam­paign to boy­cott the coun­try. Ra­dio­head singer Thom Yorke has re­sponded to artists such as Pink Floyd's

Roger Waters and di­rec­tor Ken Loach call­ing on the pi­o­neer­ing rock band to can­cel, say­ing such de­mands have been pa­tron­iz­ing.

In a Twit­ter post last week, Yorke said "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 (Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin) Ne­tanyahu any more than (US Pres­i­dent Donald) Trump, but we still play in Amer­ica." He added that "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." A boy­cott cam­paign over Is­rael's five-decade oc­cu­pa­tion of Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory has been un­der way for years, but Ra­dio­head's con­cert has re­ceived par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion due to the Bri­tish band's rep­u­ta­tion for po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism.

Band mem­bers have spo­ken out in fa­vor of en­vi­ron­men­tal causes and against what they see as un­fair global trade rules. Ra­dio­head's 2003 al­bum "Hail to the Thief" was seen in part as a re­sponse to the Ge­orge W Bush pres­i­dency in the United States. Be­yond that, it re­mains one of the world's big­gest rock bands, lauded by crit­ics for stretch­ing the bound­aries of the genre af­ter first com­ing to promi­nence in the 1990s. 'Choice is sim­ple'

Loach, the widely lauded di­rec­tor of po­lit­i­cally en­gaged films such as "The Wind That Shakes the Bar­ley" and "I, Daniel Blake," wrote re­cently that "if they go to Tel Aviv, they may never live it down". "Ra­dio­head need to de­cide if they stand with the op­pressed or with the op­pres­sor," he wrote in an opin­ion piece in Bri­tain's In­de­pen­dent. "The choice is sim­ple." Is­raelis tend to rally around artists who defy such boy­cott calls and the same has been the case with Ra­dio­head. There have been calls for Is­raelis to buy tick­ets in sup­port-though at 484 shekels ($135, 117 eu­ros), it's a steep price to pay. Con­cert or­ga­niz­ers Naranja say 50,000 tick­ets have been sold so far for the show at Tel Aviv's Park Ha­yarkon out of some 51,000 avail­able.

David Brinn, the man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of Is­rael's The Jerusalem Post news­pa­per who has writ­ten ex­ten­sively on mu­sic, said the band al­ready had a large fan base in Is­rael, so it is dif­fi­cult to know if the con­tro­versy af­fected sales. "I don't think that there will be that many peo­ple that are go­ing to buy tick­ets to the show just be­cause Ra­dio­head made a de­ci­sion to come to Is­rael," he said, adding that the band's mu­sic was "an ac­quired taste."

The move­ment be­hind calls for Ra­dio­head to can­cel is known as BDS-Boy­cott, Di­vest­ment and Sanc­tions-and says it is in­spired by the cam­paign that tar­geted South Africa's apartheid regime. It is seek­ing an end to Is­rael's oc­cu­pa­tion of the West Bank and ac­tivists say bands such as Ra­dio­head es­sen­tially cross a picket line when they play in Is­rael. 'Ra­dio­head's dou­ble stan­dard'

Is­rael sees BDS as a strate­gic threat and ac­cuses it of anti-Semitism-a claim ac­tivists firmly deny, call­ing it an at­tempt to dis­credit them. A num­ber of po­lit­i­cally ac­tive mu­si­cians have called off shows in Is­rael, in­clud­ing Lau­ryn Hill and Elvis Costello. But a range of oth­ers have per­formed. On Satur­day night, Guns N' Roses played to an es­ti­mated crowd of around 60,000 in Tel Aviv, while oth­ers in­clud­ing Brit­ney Spears and El­ton John have also per­formed re­cently.

Omar Bargh­outi, a leader in the BDS move­ment, how­ever spoke of "Ra­dio­head's dou­ble stan­dard" in de­cid­ing to play. "They have sup­ported hu­man rights causes else­where, but when it came to the Pales­tinian strug­gle for free­dom, jus­tice and equal­ity, they de­cided to stub­bornly ig­nore our voices and our ap­peals, thus help­ing Is­rael's pro­pa­ganda ma­chine to cover up its de­nial of our hu­man rights," he said.

But for Yorke, it was "pa­tron­iz­ing in the ex­treme" to pre­sume Ra­dio­head is un­fa­mil­iar with the Is­raeliPales­tinian con­flict, point­ing out that gui­tarist Jonny Green­wood's wife was born in Is­rael. "It's re­ally up­set­ting that artists I re­spect think we are not ca­pa­ble of mak­ing a moral de­ci­sion our­selves af­ter all these years," Yorke re­cently told Rolling Stone mag­a­zine. —

Ra­dio­head singer Thom Yorke.

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