Nick Cave

Roger Walters the former front man of Pink Floyd, leads the BDS charge by publicly using his influence over other musicians to not perform in Israel. It has backfired as many famous bands and musicians continue to play in Israel, an the ones that do cancel such as the UK Pink Floyd Tribute Band do so not in the name of BDS , but rather because of the threats of violence that Walters crusade has caused. 

Stll many artists have taken on Roger Walter’s BDS cause, who not only refuse to perform in Israel but pressure other artists to not do so as well. Such as is the case of Brian Eno who pressured Nick Cave to cancel his concert last year in Tel Aviv. 

Brian Eno

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 back to Eno.

Dear Brian,

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.

But I also do not support the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions movement, as you know. I think the cultural boycott of Israel is cowardly and shameful. 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 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.

It struck me while writing this how much more powerful a statement you could make if you were to go to Israel and tell the press and the Israeli people how you feel about their current regime, 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 1,200 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. Ultimately, whatever the rights and wrongs of official Israeli action in the disputed territories, Israel is a real, vibrant, functioning democracy – yes, with Arab members of parliament – and so engaging with Israelis, who vote, may be more helpful than scaring off artists or shutting down means of engagement.

All the best to you,

Nick