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Thom Yorke Rejects Roger Waters’ Call to Cancel Radiohead’s Show in Israel

Richard Fury/Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Richard Fury / Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Six weeks ago, a number of musicians, artists and activists, led by Roger Waters, called upon Radiohead to cancel their July 19 concert in Tel Aviv, Israel. Now, frontman Thom Yorke has spoken about why the band will not heed their request.

Yorke told Rolling Stone. “There are people I admire [who have been critical of the concert] like [English film director] Ken Loach, who I would never dream of telling 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.”

The band has performed in Israel before, but not since the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement began in 2005. It calls for a complete cultural boycott of the state until Palestinians are granted the “right of return.” Shortly after the open letter surfaced, some Radiohead fans have used the band’s concerts to tell them to not perform in Israel.

“It’s deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw s— 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. I thought it was patronizing in the extreme. It’s offensive and I just can’t understand why going to play a rock show or going to lecture at a university [is a problem to them].”

Yorke went on to say “The person who knows most about these things is [Radiohead guitarist] Jonny [Greenwood]. He has both Palestinian and Israeli friends and a wife who’s an Arab Jew. All these people to stand there at a distance throwing stuff at us, waving flags, saying, ‘You don’t know anything about it!’ Imagine how offensive that is for Jonny.”

In addition, longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich also produced Roger Waters’ latest album. Godrich says he’s not in the middle of their debate (“f—ing hell, I wouldn’t like to be in the middle of those two”) but agrees with Radiohead’s decision. I don’t believe in cultural boycotts. I don’t think they’re positive, ever. And actually, I think that it’s true to say that the people you’d be denying [the music] are the people who would agree with you and don’t necessarily agree with their government. So it’s not a good idea.”

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