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.”