Radiohead’s controversial Tel Aviv gig went ahead without incident on Wednesday night (19Jul17) after the rockers ignored calls to cancel the show to protest Israel’s treatment of its Palestinian neighbours.
Defiant frontman Thom Yorke fired back at criticism from the likes of Pink Floyd star Roger Waters and filmmaker Ken Loach, insisting he and his bandmates had weighed up the pros and cons of performing in the nation and decided to go ahead with the Yarkon Park concert.
Loach wrote an open letter to the band, stating: “Radiohead need to decide if they stand with the oppressed or the oppressor. The choice is simple,” prompting the angry singer to release a statement, which read: “Playing in a country isn’t the same as endorsing its government.”
Thom added: “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 (Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu any more than (U.S. leader Donald) 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.”
The gig was sold out weeks ago and Yorke told fans, “A lot was said about this, but in the end we played some music,” while thrilling devotees with a 27-song hits set and two encores – their longest set in over a decade.
Radiohead’s decision to play was applauded by Nasreen Qadri, the Arab artist who opened for the group.
She told Newsweek magazine, “Those who call for boycott are only trying to divide us. They are trying to shut down the music. I will not be a part of that.”
The band’s Tel Aviv show was the last gig on Radiohead’s three-month world tour.