Thom Yorke On Radiohead Playing Israel: “We Don’t Endorse Netanyahu Any More Than Trump, But We Still Play In America”

Radiohead are scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv next Wednesday, 7/19, and the show remains the subject of heated debate. The dialogue so far has included an open letter from various artists protesting the concert in view of Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians, a response from Thom Yorke decrying his critics for not contacting him directly about this, a statement from Roger Waters explaining that he did try to get in touch with Yorke repeatedly, and another slew of condemnations from various pro-Palestinian groups. Essentially you have a fundamental philosophical difference: Those on the side of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement believe in pressuring Israel’s government by withdrawing all business and government support, while those on Radiohead’s side believe the BDS movement’s policies prevent necessary dialogue and cultural interactions that could spur on positive impact in Israel.

Today the film director Ken Loach, who has been one of the loudest voices speaking out against Radiohead’s decision, published an op-ed for The Independent further explaining his position. Among other strongly worded critiques, Loach wrote, “I don’t know who is advising Radiohead, but 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.” Loach also reiterated a sentiment that Radiohead’s critics have repeated several times during this controversy: “Radiohead need to decide if they stand with the oppressed or with the oppressor.”

Yorke responded with another statement on Twitter further digging in his heels on the matter:

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.

So, yeah, it doesn’t really seem like Radiohead are going to budge on this one.