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Michael Stipe Defends Radiohead Over Israel Concert Controversy

Radiohead’s decision to play at Tel Aviv, Israel this week has been contentious enough to earn a condemnation from Roger Waters, and multiple defenses from Thom Yorke, who rarely comments on the band’s affairs. The concert is still on, and this weekend, R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe spoke out in their defense. “I stand with Radiohead and their decision to perform,” the former R.E.M. said on an Instagram post. “Let’s hope a dialogue continues, helping to bring the occupation to an end and lead to a peaceful solution.”

Stipe and Radiohead’s relationship goes back to the ’90s. As Pitchfork points out, Radiohead famously supported R.E.M. during their European tour, which included a stop at Tel Aviv. Stipe’s comment, which was posted on Sunday evening, was met with a swift response from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).

“The continued dialogue Michael Stipe hopes for has literally been going on for decades, and it has done nothing to bring us any closer to securing our freedom, justice or equal human rights,” PACBI said in a statement to Artists for Palestine UK. “On the contrary, it has served Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid superbly, by providing it with a perfect fig leaf to cover its intensifying siege of 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, its ethnic cleansing in and around occupied Jerusalem, and its construction of illegal settlements and walls.

“For dialogue to be ethical and effective, it must recognize that all humans deserve equal rights and that all injustice must end in accordance with international law. Otherwise it becomes a deceptive, unethical dialogue that privileges the oppressor and entrenches the notion of co-existence under colonial oppression rather than co-resistance to oppression, a key condition to ethical coexistence. Reconciliation and dialogue in South Africa came only after the end of apartheid, not before, as Desmond Tutu never tires from repeating.”

Stipe’s defense comes days after Waters called out Yorke, after saying he and Brian Eno made an effort to discuss the matter.

“I sent you a number of emails, begging you to have a conversation,” Waters said. “As did Brian Eno. You ignored us all. You won’t speak to anyone about anything. So it’s that kind of isolationism that is extremely unhelpful to everybody.”