Nick Cave shuns Palestinians, wins praise from Israel lobby

“In a land of injustice, Nick Cave is giving comfort to the unjust” by performing in Tel Aviv and crossing the international picket line, artists say. (@protestencil/Twitter)

Nick Cave and his band the Bad Seeds ignored pleas by Palestinians and international artists and played two shows in Tel Aviv over the weekend.

He also took the opportunity to belittle and denigrate the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement by repeating false claims used and marketed by anti-Palestinian lobby groups to discredit the campaign.

After failing to respond to his fans who urged him to cancel the shows and respect the international picket line, Cave said he believed that the boycott movement “silences” artists and that he felt it was “important” to him to “come out against this silencing.”

“In a certain way, the BDS movement is responsible for my coming to Israel,” Cave said during a Tel Aviv press conference.

Cave’s interpretation of the boycott campaign is “rather grating when used in a context where a few million people are permanently and grotesquely silenced,” replied musician Brian Eno.

Eno had earlier approached Cave to sign a statement in support of the boycott call. Cave refused to sign it and told the Tel Aviv press that he “didn’t connect to it, I don’t like lists.”

Israel spends hundreds of millions of dollars on hasbara (propaganda), Eno said, “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 ‘anti-semitic,’ this makes for a very uneven picture of what is going on,” Eno added.

Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, who has been an outspoken advocate for the BDS movement, said he read Cave’s press conference statements “with a mixture of sorrow, rage and disbelief.”

“No wonder he avoided a conversation with anyone from BDS before going ahead with his shows in Tel Aviv,” Waters added.

“Not courageous”

Israeli citizens with the BDS activism group Boycott From Within expressed their disappointment in Cave’s lack of engagement with his fans and activists who support Palestinian rights.

Cave’s claim that boycott advocates are able to silence him “is fallacious,” the group states, “and it rings careless in the face of the fact that Palestinian culture and heritage, along with its people, has been undergoing Israel’s erasure for the past seven decades.”

In the powerful open letter, the group explained that this erasure is so successful that Cave “neglected to mention Palestinians” in his own statement, “as if they aren’t the reason you felt you had to make the statement in the first place. As if they don’t exist.”

Cave’s attack on BDS, and his remark that it was the reason he booked shows in Tel Aviv, “reveals itself not as a courageous statement of defiance in the face of artistic oppression,” but as taking the side of an oppressive, colonial state “that commits war crimes daily and systematically,” Boycott From Within wrote.

“Privileged artist”

Cave’s contempt toward the international picket line won praise from numerous Israeli lobby groups around the world, major Zionist organizations, Israel’s embassies in Germany and Spain and from the Maccabee Task Force, an Israel propaganda group that attacks student Palestine solidarity organizations on US campuses.

The group is funded by right-wing billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Nick Cave has used the opportunity of a press conference in Israel to speak out about ‘silencing’,” said Artists for Palestine UK, whose cultural boycott pledge has been signed by more than 1,220 UK-based artists.

“But what are we to make of a privileged artist who somehow contrives to turn the notion of a collective protest against the destruction of an entire people into a complaint that it is he that is being silenced?” the group asked.

The group said that it regrets “that in a land of injustice Nick Cave is giving comfort to the unjust.”

Filmmaker Ken Loach said simply that artists who support the boycott “are not silenced. They simply refuse to be used by Israel to promote its policy of apartheid.”

A UK-based visual artist added their own response to Cave’s comments:




Has- beens running short of cash flock to play for the zionists- Cash outperforms compassion and integrity.


Not surprised that sell outs are sold out in Tel Aviv


What a shabby, poorly constructed rationale for taking the money and retaining whatever favor he enjoys in the recording and concert industry. The claim that honoring the boycott means being silenced asserts a direct reversal of the truth. Publicly refusing to perform under an apartheid regime epitomizes speaking out and demanding to be heard. From his recent remarks it would also appear that Cave's political views are fairly right-wing. He spoke of performing twenty years ago in Israel:

“For me, we came to Israel 20 years ago or so and did a couple of tours of Israel,” Cave said. “I felt a huge connection with Israel. People talk about loving a country, but I just felt, on some sort of level, a connection that I couldn’t really describe.” He then added that he didn't bother to return for two decades because his album at the time sold poorly in Israel. So much for that deep and abiding connection. The remarks can be found here-

But let's accept his declaration of love for Israel at face value. We're presented with a mystical attachment which overrides and cancels out the entire genocidal project of Zionist colonization, removal of native populations, separate legal systems and appalling military violence against the Palestinian people. That's what he's connecting to, whether he cares to admit it or prefers to transpose the identification onto a more comfortable plane of quasi-religious absorption. Next stop- a nice little vacation home in one of the settlements.


I will be be dumping my Nick Cave stuff. I'm afraid Nick, obviously does not have any principles.

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).