Pro-Palestine Groups Respond To Thom Yorke’s Defense Of Radiohead’s Israel Concert

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke recently responded to the protests from fellow artists over Radiohead’s upcoming performance in Tel Aviv, calling the controversy “extremely upsetting” and saying, “The kind of dialogue that they want to engage in is one that’s black or white. I have a problem with that.” Yorke also asserted, “All of this creates divisive energy. You’re not bringing people together. You’re not encouraging dialogue or a sense of understanding.” Now, as Pitchfork reports, several pro-Palestine groups have condemned Yorke for his comments.

Filmmaker Ken Loach, who signed the original open letter urging Radiohead to cancel the performance, has issued this statement through Artists For Palestine UK: “Thom’s is a simple choice: will he stand with the oppressor or the oppressed?” Meanwhile, just as Roger Waters countered Yorke’s claim that he never tried to reach out privately to dialogue about the issue, in an open letter from Radiohead Fans For Palestine, Seamus O’Brolchain says the band has avoided the organization’s attempts to engage them on the subject:

Let’s get one thing clear. You say you’re not happy that people “throw shit” at you in public rather than trying to engage. Well, we tried to engage. We sent you letters in the post, we politely tried to hand them to a band member at a public event, we called your agents and your publicists, and you ignored us. Not even an acknowledgement, nothing at all. We tried to open a dialogue and it was you who refused. It was you.

Radiohead Fans For Palestine also took issue with Yorke’s quote, “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.” O’Brolchain writes:

You say it’s “mind-boggling” that people don’t trust you to make decisions yourselves, yet you apparently think it’s fine to use an ableist slur. You’re clearly not as politically mature as you think. Maybe you should listen to others a bit more.

Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, also issued a statement:

It is saddening that Thom Yorke feels patronised by the union of the union of fellow musicians and Palestinian civil society respectfully asking the band not to cross the picket line. He makes no mention of the reason why – an entrenched apartheid system and an illegal occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza that entered its 51st year today. He accuses South African veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle like Archbishop Desmond Tutu of throwing the word apartheid around. If Radiohead genuinely believe that the Palestinian people misunderstand the nature of their oppression and the response required, then they should meet with representatives face to face to explain how they have come to this judgment as was in fact offered many times previously.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement against Israel also relayed this statement from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel:

Thom Yorke got one thing right: boycotts called for by oppressed communities struggling for their rights are indeed ‘divisive.’ In the Montgomery Bus boycott, the Delano Grape Farmers boycott, the South African anti-apartheid boycott, among others, those who continued business-as-usual with the oppressors were set apart from those who chose to stand on the right side of history, with the rights of the oppressed. Where does Radiohead see itself?

The concert is scheduled for 7/19, and it will be very interesting to see whether Radiohead move ahead with it after all this public outcry.