Radiohead’s Thom Yorke ‘offended’ by appeal from fellow artists: our response

Following personal approaches to Radiohead by Palestinians, by fans and by fellow artists, on April 24,  Artists for Palestine UK posted an open letter signed by 47 prominent artists appealing to the band to withdraw from their scheduled Tel Aviv gig in July. The letter drew widespread media attention including from Pitchfork, NME, The Telegraph and The Guardian, but the band chose not to comment on the question of standing up for Palestinian rights. Now, in an extraordinary outburst in the pages of Rolling Stone, Thom Yorke lambasts the artists who signed the letter.

Today, on the 50th anniversary of Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, acclaimed film director Ken Loach reacts to Yorke’s comments:

Thom’s is a simple choice: will he stand with the oppressor or  the oppressed?’  

Artists for Palestine UK issues the following statement:

Radiohead’s concert is itself a political statement,
and a deeply divisive one.

Press statement

London, 5 June 2017

Rolling Stone did well to prise a reaction from Thom Yorke to the many appeals by musicians, Palestinians and others for Radiohead to withdraw from their Tel Aviv concert in July.

These were off-the-cuff remarks, rather than the considered response the signatories to Artists for Palestine UK’s April 24 open letter  – who included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Thurston Moore, Juliet Stevenson, Peter Kosminsky, Bella Freud, Tunde Adebimpe and Robert Wyatt among many others – were hoping for.

We read the remarks closely, for some sign Thom Yorke appreciates he and the band are going into a live colonial situation.   We couldn’t find that sign.

Palestinians who read Yorke’s comments will wonder if he knows anything at all about their dispossession and forced exile, and what it’s like to live under military occupation.   He doesn’t mention the Palestinians other than to say guitarist Jonny Greenwood has ‘Palestinian friends’.   A lot of us do, Thom.   That doesn’t mean we think it’s okay to play a 40,000-strong stadium built on the ruins of a Palestinian village.

We don’t dispute Radiohead’s ability to make ‘moral decisions’.   Our signatories simply think Radiohead are making the wrong one.

Yorke complains people have been ‘throwing shit’ at the band in public rather than approaching them privately, but we know of at least three colleagues of the band who have approached them privately – in fact we held off our open letter for weeks in the hope this private diplomacy would yield results.   It didn’t.

Yorke complains about Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and the dangers of divisiveness.   He doesn’t seem to appreciate that Radiohead’s concert is itself a political statement, and a deeply divisive one.   It’s telling the Israeli public they really don’t need to bother their heads with the Occupation and the boring old story of Palestinian suffering.   Throw off the army uniform; forget what you’ve seen and done, because Radiohead are telling you it has no consequences.   They’ve made a moral decision on your behalf.   Radiohead are here to tell you everything’s all right.

Artists for Palestine UK

10 thoughts on “Radiohead’s Thom Yorke ‘offended’ by appeal from fellow artists: our response

  1. asaf says:

    “That doesn’t mean we think it’s okay to play a 40,000-strong stadium built on the ruins of a Palestinian village”

    what palestinian village was in tel aviv? check you ‘facts’!


  2. Marc R Wormser says:

    These anti-Israel entertainers are bigots. Israel is not an occupier. It gained back what was lost in the 1948 war. Palestine exists in your mind only. Study history and not the propaganda.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ronald Ginson says:

      Hi Mark: I agree with you 100%. The BDS movenent was founded by an Arab who has said explicitly that he does not want a two state solution. The people in the BDS movement are being tricked, and are useful idiots, or are just anti-semites.


      • Artists for Palestine says:

        Ronald, the BDS movement was not founded by an individual. Perhaps you are referring to Omar Bargouti, the founder of PACBI, the Palestinian campaign for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, who is Palestinian. Bargouti and the BDS movement as a whole advocate for equal rights for all, both within and without Israel’s 67 borders.


    • Zorber says:

      Marc it is highly offensive to assume anyone who doesn’t share your view doesn’t know what they are talking about, especially when your own view of the situation doesn’t seem to be informed by a particularly accurate historical understanding. Ironically you are actually falling for propaganda yourself; the idea that the Palestinians are not a real people and therefor have no claim to the land is a late develoment in Israëli propaganda; you won’t find that argument in traditional zionist literature. Zionists before the founding of Israel were accutely aware that the land they wanted for a state was already inhabited and that this would become a major problem.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mark LeVine (@culturejamming) says:

    readers might be interested in this article on Yorke’s statement and Waters’ response, published in Tikkun magazine last week that anticipates many of these criticisms, especially the complete absence of any mention of Palestinians and his cutter ignorance–or worse, silence–about the realities of the occupation, as well as his conflation of an “Arab Jew” with a Palestinian. .



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