Radiohead are scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv this summer, the band’s fourth overall performance in Israel but first since 2000. It’s a controversial choice due to the country’s policies toward its Palestinian population, and today a number of Radiohead’s fellow musicians — Thurston Moore, Roger Waters, Tunde Adebimpe, Robert Wyatt, and Young Fathers among them — have signed an open letter via Artists For Palestine urging them not to go on with the show. As the letter explains, “We’d like to ask you to think again — because by playing in Israel you’ll be playing in a state where, UN rapporteurs say, ‘a system of apartheid has been imposed on the Palestinian people’.” A number of other notable creatives signed the letter too, as well as South African civil rights activist Desmond Tutu. Read its full text below.
London, April 24th 2017
Dear Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien and Philip Selway,
You’re listed to play Tel Aviv in July this year.
We’d like to ask you to think again – because by playing in Israel you’ll be playing in a state where, UN rapporteurs say, ‘a system of apartheid has been imposed on the Palestinian people’.
We understand you’ve been approached already by Palestinian campaigners. They’ve asked you to respect their call for a cultural boycott of Israel, and you’ve turned them down. Since Radiohead campaigns for freedom for the Tibetans, we’re wondering why you’d turn down a request to stand up for another people under foreign occupation. And since Radiohead fronted a gig for the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we’re wondering why you’d ignore a call to stand against the denial of those rights when it comes to the Palestinians.
Radiohead once issued a statement saying: ‘Without the work of organisations like Amnesty International, the Universal Declaration would be mere rhetoric’. You’ve clearly read Amnesty’s reports, so you’ll know that Israel denies freedom to the Palestinians under occupation, who can’t live where they want, can’t travel as they please, who get detained (and often tortured) without charge or trial, and can’t even use Facebook without surveillance, censorship and arrest.
In asking you not to perform in Israel, Palestinians have appealed to you to take one small step to help pressure Israel to end its violation of basic rights and international law. Surely if making a stand against the politics of division, of discrimination and of hate means anything at all, it means standing against it everywhere – and that has to include what happens to Palestinians every day. Otherwise the rest is, to use your words, ‘mere rhetoric’.
You may think that sharing the bill with Israeli musicians Dudu Tassa & the Kuwaitis, who play Jewish-Arabic music, will make everything OK. It won’t, any more than ‘mixed’ performances in South Africa brought closer the end of the apartheid regime. Please do what artists did in South Africa’s era of oppression: stay away, until apartheid is over.
Tunde Adebimpe, musician, TV on the Radio
Conrad Atkinson, artist
Richard Barrett, composer
David Calder, actor
Julie Christie, actor
Selma Dabbagh, writer
William Dalrymple, historian, writer and broadcaster
April De Angelis, playwright
Shane Dempsey, theatre director
Laurence Dreyfus, musician and director, Phantasm Viol Consort
Geoff Dyer, writer
Eve Ensler, playwright
Bella Freud, fashion designer
Douglas Hart, musician and director
Charles Hayward, musician
Remi Kanazi, performance poet
Peter Kennard, artist
Peter Kosminsky, writer/director/producer
Hari Kunzru, writer
Paul Laverty, screenwriter
Mike Leigh, writer/director
Ken Loach, director
Miriam Margolyes, actor
Kika Markham, actor
Elli Medeiros, musician
Pauline Melville, writer and actor
Roger Michell, director
China Miéville, writer
Thurston Moore, musician
Maxine Peake, actor
Dave Randall, musician
Ian Rickson, director
Michael Rosen, writer and broadcaster
Alexei Sayle, comedian and writer
James Schamus, screenwriter, director and producer
Nick Seymour, musician, Crowded House
Adrian Sherwood, record producer
Juliet Stevenson, actor
Ricky Tomlinson, actor
Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa
Alice Walker, writer
Harriet Walter, actor
Roger Waters, musician
Susan Wooldridge, actor and author
Robert Wyatt, musician
Young Fathers, musicians
In a separate statement, Moore writes:
If any concerned, humanitarian-conscious activists employ a boycott to protest brutal injustice in their country and request artists and scholars to refrain from working and/or being promoted as supportive of the normalization of that country—then I choose NOT to cross that line and suggest to all to not be complicit. It is a small sacrifice in respect to those who struggle in honourable opposition to state-sponsored fascism.
This story originally appeared on Stereogum.