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Music

Nick Cave slams cultural boycott of Israel as ‘cowardly and shameful’ after playing in the country and writing ‘anguished’ letter to Brian Eno

  • Cave played in Israel last year, and was criticised by other artists who support a cultural boycott
  • In an email to Brian Eno, he defended his actions, saying playing in Israel didn’t mean he supported its government
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 December, 2018, 2:32am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 December, 2018, 5:05am

Singer-songwriter Nick Cave has elaborated on his stance regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict, calling the cultural boycott of Israel “cowardly and shameful”.

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.

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“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,” the Australian artist 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 (US$188,400) 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? … 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.”

He also said that “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.”

Lorde cancels Israel show after pressure from boycott group

Cave’s stance is 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.