Nick Cave calls artists’ boycott of Israel "cowardly and shameful"

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(Image: © Samir Hussein/WireImage - Getty)

Nick Cave has addressed some of the criticism he received over his decision to perform two shows with The Bad Seeds in Tel Aviv, Israel, last year.

After announcing the concerts, Cave received an email from Brian Eno – a longtime advocate of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land – to reconsider the decision.

And after receiving a number of messages from fans about the subject on his Red Hand Files website, Cave decided to publish the email he sent to Eno, in which he stated that part of his reason for playing in the country was as a “principled stand against those who wish to bully, shame and silence musicians.”

Cave says: “Clearly the decision for The Bad Seeds to play in Israel is contentious for some people. But to be clear on this: I do not support the current government in Israel, yet do not accept that my decision to play in the country is any kind of tacit support for that government’s policies. 

“Nor do I condone the atrocities that you have described; nor am I ignorant of them. 

“I am aware of the injustices suffered by the Palestinian population, and wish, with all people of good conscience, that their suffering is ended via a comprehensive and just solution, one that involves enormous political will on both sides of the equation. 

“As you know, I have done a considerable amount of work for Palestine through the Hoping Foundation, raising personally around £150,000 for the children of Palestine, so in a sense, I have already played the other side.”

Cave says that he does not support the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions movement and reports that the cultural boycott of Israel is “cowardly and shameful.”

He adds: “In fact, this is partly the reason I am playing Israel – not as support for any particular political entity but as a principled stand against those who wish to bully, shame and silence musicians. 

I do not support the current government in Israel, yet do not accept my decision to play in the country is any kind of tacit support for that government’s policies

Nick Cave

“I don’t intend to engage in a detailed discussion as to how the boycott of Israel can be seen to be anti-Semitic at heart and, furthermore, does not work – rather, it risks further entrenching positions in Israel in opposition to those you support – but even the estimable Noam Chomsky considers the BDS as lacking legitimacy and inherently hypocritical. 

“What we actually have here is a fundamental difference of opinion as to what the purpose of music is.”

Cave says that rather than boycott the country, a more powerful statement could be made if Eno visited Israel and told the “press and the Israeli people how you feel about their current regime.”

He adds: “Then do a concert on the understanding that the purpose of your music was to speak to the Israeli people’s better angels. That would have a much greater effect than a boycott. 

“Now imagine if the 1200 UK artists who signed your list did the same thing. Perhaps the Israelis would respond in a wholly different way than they would to just yet more age-old rejectionism.”

Following the email, Cave adds that Eno is one of his heroes and was influential to himself and his friends, but concludes: “How far must we have strayed from the transformative nature of music to feel justified in weaponising music and using it to punish ordinary Israeli citizens for the actions of their government?

“Furthermore, what has brought us to the point where certain musicians feel it is ethically sound to use forms of coercion and intimidation, in the form of ‘open’ letters, on fellow musicians who don’t agree with their point of view?”

In July this year, Roger Waters slammed “whining” Thom Yorke and Radiohead over their decision to play in Tel Aviv.