Sounding OFF is Salute Magazine’s new weekly music column, authored by Music Editor Daniel Offner. The column is a weekly analysis of all things music. This week’s column focuses on the BDS movement and the impact it is having on music in Israel.
Radiohead will be wrapping up their A Moon Shaped Pool Tour in Tel Aviv Israel, this July, and Pink Floyd songwriter/bassist, Roger Waters, as well as fifty others who have signed a petition asking the band to reconsider, couldn’t be more disappointed.
The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement began in 2005, with the goal of working to end international support for Israel, until the Palestinian “Apartheid is over.”
In April, BDS got more than 50 musicians, playwrights, artists and human rights activists, to sign a petition urging Radiohead cancels its show.
“You may think that sharing the bill with Israeli musicians Dudu Tassa & the Kuwaitis, who play Jewish-Arabic music, will make everything OK,” the petition states. “It won’t, any more than ‘mixed’ performances in South Africa brought closer the end of the apartheid regime. Please do what artists did in South Africa’s era of oppression: stay away, until apartheid is over.”
Critics argue that the BDS movement is anti-semitic in nature—resembling boycotts exercised under Nazi regime—and that it disincentivizes negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian leadership, further promoting the delegitimization of Israel.
The “Israeli occupation,” as Waters and other members of the BDS movement will so one-sidedly put it, is a much more complex issue… one that is rooted, not in politics or racial inequality, but in an individual’s faith. And much like conflicts we experience in our own country, both sides have people who are more open-minded and understanding; and both sides have people who are so set in their beliefs and unwilling to change.
It is a double-edged sword, which is why very few have actually sided with BDS, while others, including Joel and Ethan Coen, J.K. Rowling, Howard Stern, Jon Bon Jovi, Ziggy Marley, and Helen Mirren, have stood in opposition.
But the real question here is not a matter of right or wrong or complacency in the face of discrimination. It is whether or not this is a dialogue that needs to be had between rock stars? Not by diplomats or politicians, but by musicians.
Although music may have played an integral role in ending apartheid in South Africa, we are not talking about artists that are directly impacted by the conflict. Neither are about to usher in change because the people who are affected could care less about what British rock musicians have to say about their way of living.
Prior to gaining independence, the Israel-Palestine territory was under the control of the British, who, after having toppled the Ottoman Empire in WWI, promised the land as both an Arab and Jewish state.
During the war, between 1915-1916, British high command and the Sharif of Mecca communicated through a series of letters, known as the McMahon-Hussein correspondence, promising the recognition of Arab independence. But, just one year later, the U.K. would renege on its promise with the Balfour Declaration, a 67-word statement declaring Palestine as “a national home for the Jewish people.”
Tensions between the Arabic and Jewish faiths escalated in the years that followed, until 1948, when David Ben-Gurion, executive head of the World Zionist Organization, declared the establishment of a Jewish state, which prompted the Israeli War of Independence a day later.
The war between Jewish and Arab communities is often regarded as the root of the conflict. By the end of the war, Israel had kept 60 percent of the area that was originally proposed to the Arab state, displacing nearly 700,000 Palestinian-Arab refugees in the process.
In the years following the war, approximately 700,000 Jews immigrated to Israel, one-third of whom, had been expelled from other Arab nations in the Middle East.
Now, sixty-nine years later, the war is commemorated by Jewish-Israelis as a day of independence, while Palestinian-Arabs, have historically treated it as a solemn occasion, referred to as Al-Nakba, or “the catastrophe.”
In response to the BDS boycott, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke told Rolling Stone that the controversy, “has been extremely upsetting.”
“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],” Yorke said. “All of this creates divisive energy. You’re not bringing people together. You’re not encouraging dialogue or a sense of understanding.
Now, if you’re talking about trying to make things progress in any society, if you create division, what do you get? You get fucking Theresa May. You get [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, you get fucking Trump. That’s divisive.”
Waters responded to Yorke with his own statement to Rolling Stone, in which he claims to have made several attempts to “start a dialogue” with Yorke about plans to perform Israel, prior to the April petition, and that the Radiohead frontman “misinterpreted my attempt to start a conversation as a threat.”
“I have made every effort to engage with you personally, and would still like to have the conversation,” Waters replied. “Not to talk is not an option.”
If the point of all of this feuding was to start a conversation, then kudos to the both of them, because it is not a one-sided issue. Trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a lot like flipping a coin and guessing wrong, regardless which side it lands on.
It’s only when you take a step back from the situation and look objectively, that you see both sides have done their fair share to contribute to this predicament. By banning artists from performing there, you are only letting down the fans. The ones who spend their hard earned money in order to listen to music and have a good time, regardless of what race or religion. I mean, isn’t that what concerts are all about… the fans??