Nick Cave says cultural boycott of Israel is ‘cowardly and shameful’
Musician says boycott is ‘partly the reason I am playing Israel – to stand against those who shame and silence musicians’
Australian musician and writer Nick Cave has elaborated on his stance regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. Photograph: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images.
Cave played a pair of concerts in Tel Aviv in November 2017 with his band the Bad Seeds, and received criticism from artists who oppose Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and refuse to perform in the country.
Writing on his website in an answer to a question from a fan, Cave posted an email he had sent to Brian Eno, one of the artists promoting the boycott.
“I do not support the current government in Israel, yet do not accept that my decision to play in the country is any kind of tacit support for that government’s policies,” Cave wrote, adding that he supported the Palestinian cause and that Palestinian suffering “is ended via a comprehensive and just solution, one that involves enormous political will on both sides”.
He also highlighted his own charity work that raised £150,000 (€166,000) for the pro-Palestine Hoping Foundation.
He also said the boycott “is partly the reason I am playing Israel – not as support for any particular political entity but as a principled stand against those who wish to bully, shame and silence musicians”, and that the boycott “risks further entrenching positions in Israel in opposition to those you support”.
Artists opposing him should “go to Israel and tell the press and the Israeli people how you feel about their current regime,” he said, “then do a concert on the understanding that the purpose of your music was to speak to the Israeli people’s better angels … Perhaps the Israelis would respond in a wholly different way than they would to just yet more age-old rejectionism.”
Cave added a note saying Eno was his hero, responsible for “some of the most important and essential recordings I have ever heard. So, if there seems to be a thread of anguish that runs through this letter, this is indeed the case.”
But he reiterated that Eno was “weaponising” music, adding: “What has brought us to the point where certain musicians feel it is ethically sound to use forms of coercion and intimidation, in the form of ‘open’ letters, on fellow musicians who don’t agree with their point of view? …
“Occasionally, I wonder if The Bad Seeds did the right thing in playing Israel. I cannot answer that question. I understand and accept the validity of many of the arguments that are presented to me. Indeed, some of my dearest friends in the music industry found my decision very difficult to accept, but there it is, after much consideration the decision was made: I simply could not treat my Israeli fans with the necessary contempt to do Brian Eno’s bidding.”
Eno had previously said: “This has nothing to do with ‘silencing’ artists – a charge I find rather grating when used in a context where a few million people are permanently and grotesquely silenced … Israel has consistently – and lavishly – used cultural exchange as a form of ‘hasbara’ [propaganda] to improve the image of the country abroad, and to ‘show Israel’s prettier face’, in the words of a foreign ministry official. The BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] campaign is simply asking artists not to be part of that propaganda campaign.”
Cave’s stance is one shared by Thom Yorke of Radiohead, who defended performing in Israel by saying “playing in a country isn’t the same as endorsing its government”.
Other musicians have recently pulled out of concerts following discussions about the boycott and Israel-Palestine conflict. Lorde cancelled a Tel Aviv concert scheduled for June this year, after “speaking [with] many people about this and considering all options”.
Fellow pop singer Lana Del Rey defended a planned concert, saying she would perform “with a loving energy with a thematic emphasis on peace”, but later cancelled after not being able to also book a similar Palestinian concert at short notice.