Musicians Roger Waters, Thurston Moore and Tunde Adebimpe, poet Michael Rosen, philosopher Judith Butler and political activist Angela Davis are among many high profile figures who have called on Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds to cancel their concerts in Tel Aviv on November 19 and 20 this year.
An open letter also signed by Ronnie Kasrils, anti-apartheid activist and minister in the democratic South African government that succeeded Nelson Mandela’s, and eminent poet Breyten Breytenbach, who was jailed by South Africa’s apartheid regime, urges the band to reconsider the shows in the light of a recent UN report that said ‘Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people’.
The open letter cites ‘Palestinian writers under house arrest; literary festivals broken up; travel bans for actors and musicians’; ‘crimes’, it says, for which the government of Israel needs to be held to account, but isn’t. The signatories, who include British filmmakers Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Penny Woolcock, tell Nick Cave, ‘When international artists of your stature continue to turn up on Israeli stages, the government takes heart; whatever it does, it seems there will be no penalty.’
Artists for Palestine UK, whose pledge to uphold the cultural boycott of Israel has been signed by more than 1,200 UK artists, added: ‘Nick Cave may not want to endorse the Netanyahu government, but the Netanyahu government will certainly endorse him.’
Cave and his band are set to follow in the footsteps of British band Radiohead, who ignored worldwide appeals to them not to cross the picket line called for by Palestinian civil society as part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Radiohead played Tel Aviv in July, disappointing many fans, but garnering rapturous praise and acclaim from the Israeli government and numerous Israel lobby groups.
US artist Molly Crabapple and Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif are among the international figures warning Nick Cave that his appearances in Israel will meet the same fate. Israeli diplomats and embassies have taken to social media to welcome him.
Radiohead cited Noam Chomsky in defence of their appearance in Israel. But the renowned linguist has recently said he opposes ‘any appearance in Israel that is used for nationalistic or other propaganda purposes to cover up its occupation and denial of Palestinian human rights.’
Signatory Roger Waters commented:
I wonder if Nick and Bryan [Adams, scheduled to play Tel Aviv December 4 and 5, and Jerusalem December 6] and Thom Yorke and the rest of these guys were to spend even a day or two in administrative detention [without charge or trial], or even once have their kids woken and arrested in the middle of the night, or, or, or……whether they would still ignore the screams of the victims and the desperate pleas for help from Palestinian civil society, whether they would still cross the picket line.
And before all the self justification starts, yes, of course other countries have bad records on human rights, not least the USA. But in the fight for human rights we have to make our stand where and when we can. In the 60s it was Jim Crow America, in the 80s and 90s it was Apartheid South Africa, now it is Lawless Apartheid Israel. You stood up for your South African brothers and sisters in the 90s, why would you ignore your Palestinian brothers and sisters in the 2010s?
You stand at a crossroads; you can either heed the cry, respect your brothers’ and sisters’ picket line and stand with them in their struggle for the basic human rights we all take for granted, or you can turn your backs on them, take the shilling, and entertain their lords and masters at the banquets and balls.