Radiohead may never live down Tel Aviv show, says Ken Loach

Palestinians are urging Radiohead to cancel their upcoming Tel Aviv gig. (PACBI)

Radiohead may not be forgiven if the band plays Tel Aviv, the filmmaker Ken Loach has warned.

Loach made his comments during a week when activists held protests at the rock band’s performances, urging that it respect the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel. A petition with 14,000 signatures was also handed in to Radiohead’s London-based record label.

In a statement tweeted by the group Artists for Palestine UK, Loach delivered a clear message. “If they [Radiohead] go to Israel, they may never live it down,” he said.

Making lives “intolerable”

Visiting a Czech film festival on Tuesday, the award-winning director explained why he was urging frontman Thom Yorke and his Radiohead bandmates to pull out of their Tel Aviv show. Loach stressed that he supported calls for a boycott of Israel “while it keeps stealing Palestinian land and while it keeps making the lives of the Palestinians intolerable.”

“There’s a wide feeling that because our [British] government and the American government supports the Israeli government – the Americans of course with huge financial sums and armaments – that it’s the job of our civil society to say ‘don’t do this in our name,’ and to ask for a boycott,” Loach said.

“Not a boycott of individual Israelis, certainly not a boycott of anything Jewish, that is not the issue at all, it’s not about race – it’s about an illegal state taking the land and oppressing another people. So it’s on that basis that we’ve asked Thom Yorke and his friends not to go.”

Palestine solidarity campaigners have been targeting Radiohead since the band’s Tel Aviv show was announced several months ago.

During a protest at Glastonbury – a major English music festival in late June – activists held Palestinian flags and a banner reading “Israel is an apartheid state. Radiohead, don’t play there” as the band performed.

Michael Deas, a contributor to The Electronic Intifada, was interviewed by music website NME ahead of Radiohead’s performance at Glastonbury. He said that protesters were sending a message to Radiohead that “they shouldn’t help Israel to whitewash its crimes against the Palestinians.”
Deas urged the band to “have a chat with Palestinian artists. Hear from them why it’s so important that they don’t perform in Israel.”

Protests have followed Radiohead’s tour across Europe.

In June, Thom Yorke slammed the protest campaign and called the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement “a waste of energy” and “divisive.”

“It’s deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public,” Yorke complained to Rolling Stone.

“It’s deeply disrespectful to assume that we’re either being misinformed or that we’re so retarded we can’t make these decisions ourselves,” Yorke added. “I thought it was patronizing in the extreme. It’s offensive and I just can’t understand why going to play a rock show or going to lecture at a university [is a problem to them].”


His comments alarmed many fans.

Roger Waters, a rock star best known for his work with Pink Floyd, had tried to contact Yorke and his bandmates. Waters is a vocal supporter of the BDS movement.

“I have made every effort to engage with [Yorke] personally, and would still like to have the conversation,” Waters responded.

Artists for Palestine UK remarked that “Palestinians who read Yorke’s comments will wonder if he knows anything at all about their dispossession and forced exile, and what it’s like to live under military occupation.”

Samir Eskanda, a British Palestinian musician, told The Electronic Intifada that Radiohead’s decision to play Tel Aviv contradicts its image as a left-wing, anti-war band.

“Thom Yorke’s attempted defense of his intention to cross the picket line entirely and consciously ignores the voices of the absolute majority of Palestinian society, including almost all prominent artists and cultural institutions, who called for a cultural boycott of Israel,” Eskanda said.

“His comments, which effectively deny our very existence, galvanized people around the world to escalate the campaign,” he added. “Other artists who may have been considering a date with apartheid will have been following developments closely. Radiohead should cancel and there’s still time.”




Frankly, I'm disappointed that Yorke hasn't come up with a more polished response. The band's rejection of the call to boycott Israel isn't surprising, but I think we have a right to expect a better grade of flim flam from what is after all an international touring operation that's generated hundreds of millions in revenue. The least they could do is hire a proper mouthpiece.


Life is good for anyone living in Tel Aviv. Life in The West Bank and Gaza is a completely different story. Palestinians live a life of dispossession, roadblocks, checkpoints, harassment, arrest and imprisonment without charge or trial, killings. The people living in Tel Aviv pretend that they don't know what goes on in Palestine. Do they not look at TV, do they not read the newspapers or perhaps they prefer to close their eyes to the suffering that is perpetrated by their own government on the defenseless Palestinians. Don't be fooled, the Radiohead guys know well what goes on in Israel/Palestine. Money talks,


I've always admired Radiohead's music but it's disgraceful that the band arranged this tour in the first place. You can't be apolitical on this issue. If you care about the Palestinian people then you have a clear choice to make. Let's hope it's the right one.


I always admired Radiohead’s music and I’ve got most of their CDs.
In case Radiohead really plays there I’ll make a video (in English with multi-lingual subs.) burning all of Radiohead’s CDs one by one as a form of protest and start a campaign encouraging other fans around the globe to do the same... also stopping attending Radiohead’s performances around the world, boycotting them hardly... and do the same as well with artists/bands that could have the same dishonorable posture...
Such a attitude from Radiohead is unacceptable, irresponsible and shameful to say the least... really hope from the bottom of my heart that they change such insensitive behaviour and in case they don’t and go for it... I’m sure their popularity will drop reaching the bottomless hell...
LONG LIFE, PEACE and PROSPERITY TO ROGER WATERS and BRIAN ENO among many other mature and sensitive musicians... P E A C E to ALL from Brazil...


To cast an extreme judgement on Yorke and Radiohead for their choice to play this show is immature and silly.

They are smart people, they care, and they know what is going on in the Palestinian sistiaion, so let them handle it their way.

Perhaps their viewpoint to play is the right one? Perhaps they have another way to protest the state of Israel?

This issue has already down more for the pro -Palestine movement than had they simply pulled out from the beginning of it all.

Chill out and let Radiohead to as they wish, they are seldom wrong in anything they do.


Do you think Radiohead would have played Sun City?
Then they should not be gigging in Israel....


I think it's entirely possible that Radiohead would have played Sun City. After all, what's to be gained by driving wedges between people and arbitrarily assigning blame? Apartheid South Africa was a very complicated society. The system there was still evolving. Trying to punish one side would only have exacerbated the situation. Besides, boycotts hurt everyone. And anyway, why all the focus on South Africa? I mean, look at what the Israelis were doing to the Palestinians.

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).