By Jazz Monroe.
Michael Stipe has pledged support for Thom Yorke and Radiohead’s decision to play a concert in Tel Aviv, Israel this week. In recent months, arts world figures including Roger Waters have condemned the group, advocating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) against Israel. In an Instagram post last night, Stipe wrote, “I stand with Radiohead and their decision to perform. Let’s hope a dialogue continues, helping to bring the occupation to an end and lead to a peaceful solution.”
Stipe’s friendship with Yorke dates back to the mid-1990s, when Radiohead supported R.E.M. in Europe, including a show in Tel Aviv. His statement arrives two days after Waters renewed his attack on Yorke, saying his “whining” and “isolationism” is “extremely unhelpful to everybody.” Yorke first addressed the controversy in June, saying the group’s critics assume “that [Radiohead] know nothing about this,” when in fact, Jonny Greenwood “has both Palestinian and Israeli friends and a wife who’s an Arab Jew.” He later released an open statement to director Ken Loach, who has [repeatedly criticized](https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/radiohead-israel-palestine-boycott-bds-thom-yorke-ken-loach-meet-discuss-it-a7835291.html) Radiohead over the concert: “We don’t endorse [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu any more than Trump, but we still play in America.”
In a response to Stipe’s message, a spokesperson for PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, today told Artists for Palestine UK:
The continued dialogue Michael Stipe hopes for has literally been going on for decades, and it has done nothing to bring us any closer to securing our freedom, justice or equal human rights. On the contrary, it has served Israel's regime of occupation and apartheid superbly, by providing it with a perfect fig leaf to cover its intensifying siege of 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, its ethnic cleansing in and around occupied Jerusalem, and its construction of illegal settlements and walls. For dialogue to be ethical and effective, it must recognize that all humans deserve equal rights and that all injustice must end in accordance with international law. Otherwise it becomes a deceptive, unethical dialogue that privileges the oppressor and entrenches the notion of co-existence under colonial oppression rather than co-resistance to oppression, a key condition to ethical coexistence. Reconciliation and dialogue in South Africa came only after the end of apartheid, not before, as Desmond Tutu never tires from repeating.
This morning, director Mike Leigh released a statement criticizing Radiohead:
As the lights go out in Gaza and Palestinian cancer patients die because they are denied travel permits by Israel, while a Palestinian poet in Israel lives under house arrest for a poem she wrote on Facebook, while a young circus performer from the West Bank languishes in administrative detention without charge or trial – Thom Yorke speaks loftily about ‘crossing borders’ and ‘freedom of expression’. One has to ask, freedom for whom exactly?’
This story originally appeared on Pitchfork.
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