In one of the most controversial gigs in recent memory, alt-rock giants Radiohead performed last night in Israel, despite a wave of protestors urging them to boycott the country.
The gig took place at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv, the countries capital, to a sold-out crowd, dubbed ‘Forty seven thousand creeps and weirdos’ by the Times of Israel, in reference to the bands early hit, ‘Creep’. Radiohead played a 27 song show which has been speculated to be among their longest sets ever, including hits such as ‘Creep’, and ‘No Surprises’ as well as numerous tracks from their ninth album, ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ – the world tour of which concluded with the Tel Aviv gig.
The show was not Radiohead’s first in the country – they previously played in Tel Aviv in 1993 – but, owing to increasing levels of opposition to Israel in the West, the gig was targeted by a number of public figures, who urged the band to cancel the gig in recognition of perceived human rights abuses by the Israeli government against the Palestinian territories.
A major campaign was launched by Artists for Palestine UK, who published an open letter, with 47 signatories including Desmond Tutu, Alexei Sayle, Maxine Peake and members of Mercury Prize winners Young Fathers. The letter urged Radiohead to pull out of the scheduled concert, stating that, ‘In asking you not to perform in Israel, Palestinians have appealed to you to take one small step to help pressure Israel to end its violation of basic rights and international law’. The campaign also questioned Radiohead’s ongoing support for Tibetan independence as a double standard, asking why the band would, ‘turn down a request to stand up for another people under foreign occupation’
In a public statement, frontman Thom Yorke stated that, ‘Playing a country isn’t the same as endorsing its government. We don’t endorse (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu any more than Trump.’ Numerous protestors, however, have speculated that guitarist Johnny Greenwood -who is married to an Israeli woman, and has collaborated on work with Israeli musicians – may have pressured the band into performing the gig.
Nasreen Qadri, an Israeli-Arab musician who was the support act for the gig, spoke out against the protestors, stating, “Those who call for boycott are only trying to divide us. They are trying to shut down the music. I will not be a part of that.”
Yorke addressed the controversy only briefly during the gig, stating, ‘A lot of stuff was said about this. But in the end, we played some music’ before launching into ‘Karma Police’ the final song of the night.