Will Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds cross picket line to play Tel Aviv?

Palestinians are urging Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds to respect the international picket line and cancel their November gigs in Tel Aviv. (PACBI)

Dozens of high-profile musicians, scholars and activists are calling on Australian band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds to cancel its upcoming performances in Tel Aviv.

“When international artists of your stature, despite the appeals of Palestinians, continue to turn up on Israeli stages, the government which promotes these crimes takes heart: whatever it does, it seems there will be no penalty,” states an open letter to the band, signed by political activist Angela Davis, South African anti-apartheid activist Ronnie Kasrils, philosopher Judith Butler and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.

TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, actor Saleh Bakri, activist educators Marc Lamont Hill and Nurit Peled-Elhanan, writers and film directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, and journalist John Pilger also signed the letter.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) acknowledged Nick Cave’s previous support of activists who shut down an arms factory, a subsidiary owned by Israel’s Elbit in the UK in 2014.

At the time, Cave signed a statement calling for all charges against the Elbit protesters to be dropped, as well as urging a military embargo against Israel.

Ironically, several of the signatories to that 2014 statement are now calling on Cave and his band to cancel their Tel Aviv gig.

“We were surprised upon hearing of your upcoming performance in Tel Aviv when the injustices you stand against are all too familiar to us,” PACBI stated.

Waters, a vocal supporter of the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), advised Nick Cave and other artists that they “stand at a crossroads.” He implored them to consider Israel’s everyday violations of Palestinian rights.

He told Artists for Palestine UK that he wondered whether Bryan Adams, the rock musician scheduled to play in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in December, or Radiohead’s frontman Thom Yorke “would still cross the picket line” if they had to spend time in administrative detention “or even once have their kids woken and arrested in the middle of the night.”

Waters slammed Radiohead’s decision to buck the boycott call and play Tel Aviv over the summer.

“Public approval for the status quo”

The open letter to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds points out the disingenuousness of musicians and performers – including Radiohead – who say they are critical of Israel’s government but believe that they are above Palestinian civil society’s urgent calls for boycott.

“Like others who’ve added Tel Aviv to their touring schedule, you may say that you oppose [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” says the letter.

“But it matters little whether or not artists endorse Israel’s government. It’s the fact they’re willing to perform in Israel that is important. It is seen as public approval for the status quo: that’s why Israel’s foreign affairs ministry celebrated Radiohead’s visit last July, while its media proclaimed their appearance as ‘the best hasbara [propaganda] Israel has received lately.’”

Artists for Palestine UK, whose cultural boycott pledge has been signed by more than 1,220 UK-based artists, added, “Nick Cave may not want to endorse the Netanyahu government, but the Netanyahu government will certainly endorse him.”

Israel’s Consul General in New York, Dani Dayan, bragged about Nick Cave’s booking.

Meanwhile, fans are demanding the band heed the boycott call during stops on its European tour.

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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).