Last summer Radiohead played Tel Aviv, and when fans at a Glasgow gig waved Palestinian flags to protest the event, the band’s frontman, Thom Yorke, lashed out, muttering on stage, “Some fucking people”. Months later, Nick Cave accused Palestinian human rights supporters of bullying and silencing artists like himself for crossing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) picket line. Frank Barat wonders if the imprisonment of 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi for five weeks now for slapping an Israeli soldier occupying her village might cause the artists to reflect. –Ed.
Some fucking people! You try to engage them but they won’t listen. And who would – who could? – with the deafening chi-ching ringing in their ears. Are they aware of Ahed Tamimi’s brave actions and the cost of them to this 16-year-old, her family, and the 349 or so other Palestinian children locked up in Israeli prisons who’ve stood up to their occupiers? A few days ago, 13-year old Razan Abu Sal got four months for allegedly throwing stones at her occupiers. These artists have earned enough from their Israel gigs to cover the legal fees for every single Palestinian child held by Israel – and their bail, for the few who are released on bail. Though these families would probably tell them: ‘It is your solidarity we need, not your charity’.
And there was Nick saying that he was fed up of being bullied and silenced by BDS bullies like Roger Waters, Brian Eno, Ken Loach and dozens of other artists, so much so that he felt it a duty to play Israel. Well, Nick, your hosts have silenced a 16 year old who has shown more moral courage and conviction in her 16 years than you ever have. They’re preparing to throw the book at her, a book so mendacious that it has a near-100% conviction rate. It’s to teach her a lesson and any Palestinians like her who dares respond to daily injustice, violence and humiliation with anything other than total subordination. Hell hath no fury like an occupier humiliated. Israel’s education minister says Ahed, her cousin and mother should spend the rest of their lives in prison.
The experience will break most of the kids it’s imposed on – around 800-1,000 this year – imposed on them for daring to challenge, with slaps, kicks, nonviolent protests and rocks (or just allegations of such), the brutal oppression that they witness, and are shaped by, day in, night out. It will leave them with an indelible, life-long ‘security’ stain in their file that will allow Israel to refuse them permits to travel to pray in Jerusalem, to attend specialist medical appointments in occupied East Jerusalem, to travel freely.
Let me get a UNICEF report quote for you guys: “the ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing. It is understood that in no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts that, by definition, fall short of providing the necessary guarantees to ensure respect for their rights.”
Amnesty International says: “The Israeli army prosecutes hundreds of Palestinian children in juvenile military courts every year, often after arresting them in night raids and systematically subjecting them to ill-treatment, including blindfolding, threats, harsh interrogations without the presence of their lawyers or families, solitary confinement and in some cases physical violence.“
That’s the kind of silencing you should perhaps sing about, Nick. Some fucking people, eh, Thom, Jonny, Colin, Philip and Ed?
It’s not just the bands, of course. Their management companies have profited from this silencing too – Brian Message and co. at ATC Management for Nick and chums, and Chris Hufford and Bryce Edge at Courtyard Management (Brian Message is part-owner too) for Thom-some-fucking-people-Yorke and the rest of the band.
And let’s talk about some fucking people who shoot kids in the face at point-blank range with rubber-coated steel bullets, like the Israeli soldiers who shot Mohammed Tamimi, 15, Ahed’s cousin, an hour before her Facebook Live outrage. His life tragically, irredeemably transformed like that.
Perhaps that soldier or the soldiers who had no right to be at Ahed’s home and were kid-handled by Ahed and her cousin, Nour – perhaps they were at your gigs, singing with you, Nick, Thom? Because an awful lot of people who did pay to see you would have served in the occupied territories and lorded over the kids and adults there in a similarly brutal manner.
Nick, you may not be able to read this at present because you said that after your Tel Aviv gigs you were looking forward to heading home, tuning out offline from the political-moral brouhaha, and kissing your wife. Some self-imposed silence. Nice. A luxury.
Some fucking people will insist on being gad-fucking-flies. For good reason. Not because they’re natural pricks, but because they believe we’re all in this together, and that people of conscience should stand up for those who are oppressed, for those who have asked us explicitly as their only hope to help them in their struggle for justice and freedom.
If any of you read this, please reflect. Take whatever time it takes. And if at the end you have any change of heart, then speak out for those denied their voice. For those denied their childhood innocence. Say something as simple as: ‘We played there but we oppose what is being done to Ahed Tamimi and all Palestinian kids facing similar injustice.’ Say it.
Because the crowds who adored you just months ago in Tel Aviv, most believe that Ahed Tamimi and kids accused of throwing stones at their oppressors, and being tried in what internationally respected legal experts consider military kangaroo courts (Radiohead, have a chat with your Oxford neighbour, Sir Stephen Seldey, who helped pen this 2012 report), deserve to be locked up. The brave Israeli journalist Gideon Levy asked of his fellow Israelis when Ahed was detained:
“And what would you have felt if soldiers from a foreign army had invaded your home at night, kidnapped your daughter from her bed before your very eyes, handcuffed and arrested her for a lengthy period, simply because she slapped the soldier who invaded her home, and slapped the occupation, which deserves far more than slaps?
“These questions don’t bother anyone. Tamimi is a Palestinian, that is to say, a terrorist, and therefore, she doesn’t deserve any feelings of sympathy. Nothing will crack the defensive shield that protects Israelis from feelings of guilt, or at least discomfort, over her outrageous arrest, over the discrimination by the justice system, which would never have paid any attention to her had she been a Jewish settler.”
OK, you don’t endorse the regime, this light unto the nations, but it definitely embraces and salutes you, whether you like it or not. They call you principled. They, who do this.
Thom, Nick and the rest of you: you can take a moral stand. You played Tel Aviv. That’s history. The next chapter is more important. Most of your fans who objected to you playing Tel Aviv will show openness and love because justice is all about courage and understanding, and that’s a journey, and taking the right steps forward is something noble. It’s something bigger than us all. Justice grows stronger the more people who support it, and the louder and more sonorous its voice becomes. And your voices – they could be so sonorous. So magnificently sonorous.
Sing out with these brave, young caged birds. Please.
You’ve not been silenced as these kids have. Lend them your voice. Extend to them chords of your humanity.