Last month, the "Artists for Palestine" wrote an open letter to Cave, urging him to avoid performing in Israel "while apartheid remains." Cave responded on Sunday, November 19th – the first night of the back-to-back shows at Menorah Mivtachim Arena – in an unapologetic press conference, claiming he first performed in Israel with his band the Bad Seeds "20 years ago" and instantly felt "a huge connection" that he "couldn't really describe."
He also addressed the open letter in his remarks, noting that musicians who perform in Israel are now forced to "go through a sort of public humiliation from Roger Waters and co." Cave said his Israel performances marked "a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians," noting that the protests contributed to his decision to play in Israel.
Now Waters and Eno – along with others from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement – have criticized Cave's rationale in numerous statements.
"Nick thinks this is about censorship of his music? What?" Waters wrote. "Nick, with all due respect, your music is irrelevant to this issue. So is mine, so is Brian Eno's, so is Beethoven's. This isn't about music – it's about human rights." He added, "We hurl our glasses into the fire of your arrogant unconcern, and smash our bracelets on the rock of your implacable indifference."
Eno took issue with Cave's stance about "silencing" artists, calling the claim "rather grating when used in a context where a few million people are permanently and grotesquely silenced." He continued. "Israel spends hundreds of millions of dollars on hasbara, and its side of the argument gets broadcast loud and clear. Coupled with the scare-tactic of labeling any form of criticism of Israeli policy as 'antisemitic,' this makes for a very uneven picture of what is going on."
Following Cave's press conference, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – a leading organization in the BDS Movement – slammed the singer's Tel Aviv shows as a "propaganda gift to Israeli apartheid."
"We thank Nick Cave for making one thing abundantly clear – playing Tel Aviv is never simply about music," they wrote. "It is a political and moral decision to stand with the oppressor against the oppressed."