Artists respond to Nick Cave’s comments

Nick Cave has held a press conference in Israel, in which he explained he ‘decided to play in Israel to stand up to ‘anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians’According to the NME: The musician explained that his change in attitude came about when Brian Eno asked him to a sign a list called Artists For Palestine three years ago. “On a very intuitive level, [I] did not want to sign it,” he said. “There was something that stunk to me about that list.”

“So after a lot of thought and consideration I rang up my people and said, ‘We’re doing an European tour and Israel.’ Because it suddenly became very important to me to make a stand against those people who are trying to shut down musicians, to bully musicians, to censor musicians, and to silence musicians. At the end of the day, there’s maybe two reasons why I’m here. One is that I love Israel and I love Israeli people, and two is to make a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians. ”’ 

Today, in addition to a statement from Artists for Palestine UK, we are publishing a number responses to Cave’s comments from individual artists.

*UPDATE Thurston Moore comment added on 25.11.2017

Brian Eno

“I admire Nick Cave as an artist and I know he has been generous in his support for Palestinian humanitarian causes. I think he has every right to come to his own conclusions about whether or not he supports BDS. However, I think I also have the right to present him with another side to this  argument, which I have done – privately, as politely and discreetly as I could. Given the content of his press conference, I think that argument now needs to be restated publicly.

The BDS argument is simple enough: Israel has consistently – and lavishly – used cultural exchange as a form of ‘hasbara’ (propaganda) to improve the image of the country abroad, and to “show Israel’s prettier face” in the words of a foreign ministry official. The BDS campaign is simply asking artists not to be part of that propaganda campaign.

I’m basing these comments on press reports of what Nick said. They may be unreliable. My response to what I’ve read is this:  this has nothing to do with ‘silencing’ artists – a charge I find rather grating when used in a context where a few million people are permanently and grotesquely silenced. Israel spends hundreds of millions of dollars on hasbara, and its side of the argument gets broadcast loud and clear. Coupled with the scare-tactic of labelling any form of criticism of Israeli policy as ‘antisemitic’, this makes for a very uneven picture of what is going on.

Who do the Palestinians have to present their side? If you ask them, they’ll say “BDS”. It’s just about the only hope they feel, as they watch more and more of their country being illegally occupied by settlers, and watch new generations of their own people growing up behind concrete walls patrolled by soldiers.

As it happens I share a birthday with Israel: I too was born on May 15 1948. It’s a random coincidence, but perhaps it’s partly responsible for predisposing me to a sympathy and admiration for the country and its technical, intellectual and social achievements. I still admire all those things, but, as I learn more about the despicable situation Israeli ambitions have created for the Palestinians I feel a growing dread. To me it seems that Israel is digging itself into a deep, dark hole, where it will doubtless find company with Trump and various other nationalists around the globe. 

So in parallel to what is now happening to the Palestinians, there is another disaster in progress. Israel – at least that Israel of humane values in which so many people, Jewish and otherwise, placed their hopes – is disappearing.”


AL Kennedy

“In the light of Nick Cave’s concerts in Israel I would say that any such engagement is morally perilous. Many Israelis and many of us abroad – of all faiths – are deeply concerned by the actions – political, social and military – of Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud and forces which seem intent on destroying the entire existence of Palestine and the Palestinian people, while corrupting Israeli public life. This ongoing effort has produced a catalogue of crimes and conducting business as usual would not seem to be any kind of answer. In the face of multiple efforts to silence the Palestinian people and to suppress protest on their behalf Mr Cave’s reference to silencing dissent seems, at the very least, naive.”


Roger Waters

“I read Nick Cave’s press conference statements with a mixture of sorrow, rage and disbelief. No wonder he avoided a conversation with anyone from BDS before going ahead with his shows in Tel Aviv.

Ok, first: Disbelief. Nick thinks this is about censorship of his music? What? Nick, with all due respect, your music is irrelevant to this issue, so is mine, so is Brian Eno’s, so is Beethoven’s, this isn’t about music, it’s about human rights.

Next: Rage. This is about children, like the young boys blown to bits while playing soccer on the beach in Gaza. Boys murdered by Israel. Boys symbolic of the thousands and thousands of children sacrificed in Israel’s “Mowing of the lawn.” Israel’s terminology, not mine.
We, hundreds of thousands of us, supporters of BDS and human rights throughout history all over the world join together in memory of Sharpeville and Wounded Knee and Lidice and Budapest and Ferguson and Standing Rock and Gaza and raise our fists in protest. We hurl our glasses into the fire of your arrogant unconcern, and smash our bracelets on the rock of your implacable indifference.

Lastly: Sorrow? What if it was your demolished home? Your invaded country? Your villages razed to the ground to build stadiums for the invaders to promote pop concerts on? Your uprooted olive trees? Seven million of your brothers and sisters living in refugee camps? Victims of ethnic cleansing? Would your sorrow trump your obsession with concerns about the censorship of your music?

By the way, on one of the Israeli news sites I was directed to a video of yours on YouTube. Towards the end I picked up on the following lyric:

“Let us sit together in the dark until the moment comes.”

Nick, the moment came and went brother, you missed it, if at some point in the future you want to climb out of the dark, all you have to do is open your eyes, we, in BDS will be here to welcome you into the light.


Roger Waters and Co.”


Ken Loach

“Nick Cave has a choice, either to stand with the oppressed Palestinians or the Israeli state which denies them their human rights. He chooses to stand with the oppressor. Those who support the boycott are not silenced. They simply refuse to be used by Israel to promote its policy of apartheid.”


Aki Kaurismaki 

“We are all free except the ones who are slaves.”


Thurston Moore

Protest Stencil





43 thoughts on “Artists respond to Nick Cave’s comments

  1. Falk-Uncensored says:

    Lies as usual again
    You only show one side and stifle debate.
    Proof is that you never publish my comments
    That shows your weakness and the lack of credibility in your accusations about Israel


    • David Scott says:

      Falk-Uncensored, I live 30 miles from the illegally occupied west bank and very often go there to work with Palestinian musicians. There is no stifling of debate here, and the overwhelming majority of accusations against the Israeli government and military are completely true. It is difficult to exaggerate the crimes that are being committed daily. I have witnessed some and many of my friends who are from the indigenous population are suffering on a daily basis.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Barry says:

      No kidding, really? ‘Lack of credibility in your accusations about Israel’? How many Palestinians do they have to torture and kill, how many kids thrown into prisons, how many more
      Palestinian homes torn down, how many more illegal settlements built, you get the idea… Incredible? Take a trip to the West Bank and Gaza and see for yourself.

      Best regards

      Liked by 1 person

    • Skip says:

      We can read the statements from the Israeli government in an number of US daily papers over many many times. If not daily themselves. So the idea that your ideas are censored in anyway ring hollow.

      The weakness is in you. Reflect on your morals and ethics before coming here to spread your given propaganda.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. John Edwards says:

    Really not a fan of eno or waters or any of the above who have condemned cave…i AM a fan of Nick cave, but have to say that he’s so obviously wrong here and the rest are so obviously right

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Fiona Ogilvie says:

    Warren Ellis, Bad Seed and Dirty Three front man, spent the morning tweeting photographs of himself in the West Bank. He photographed the children in particular with no comment other than that they were “beautiful”. I found it bizarre, confusing and unsettling in that he must support Cave’s stance on this since he too is breaking the boycott by performing in Tel Aviv. He is my favourite musician and I am so disappointed.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Zoé says:

      This – what you have written about Nick Cave’s photos of Palestinian children – is very sad to me Fiona.

      How old is that? People of European heritage w/ an ingrained colonialist worldview taking photos of children & describing them as “beautiful” and/or their ‘big eyes’ (code for ‘child of colour’); whilst still refusing to take a stand against the system that is destroying those *very* children. Like they are tiny olives in a large unsympathetic press; so *very* adorable before they are forced to lose their lives.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Kim Thompson says:

    This hurts. While I agree that music is music, art is art and sport is sport. You have a platform most of us mere mortals don’t. You are looked up to and your lyrics have depth and the shape frames life. I am sad you made this chose, grateful I was born where I was born and incredulous you were so misinformed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mary Ann Gallant says:

    I respect most musicians and their music and believe the free world should have access to entertainment by attending concerts of their choice or other means of access to listen to their favourite artists. However it is very disappointing to see that Nick Cave chooses to believe that what is taking place is about censorship of his or anyone else’s music. This is about illegal occupation of Palestine very simple. It is about Israel’s violations of international law. It is about stealing people’s land and denying them of their basic human rights. It is about murder of children…think of that murdering innocent children. This is about many other atrocities bestowed on the Palestinians by Israel through orders from Netanyhu. Please tell me you have made a huge mistake here in believing that this is about censorship or silencing yourself and other musicians. Good lord man open your ears, eyes and heart. Up above I made the point “free world”. The Palestinians do not live in the free world and I will never understand why Israel continues to be supported by other countries specifically the U.S. and Canada.


    • Suleiman Chunara says:

      Please grow up . What in heavens do you mean by “free world” Have you ever tried to protest freely and peacefully without ever being restricted?


  6. Zoé says:

    “… it suddenly became very important to me to make a stand against those people who are trying to shut down musicians, to bully musicians, to censor musicians, and to silence musicians… I love Israel and I love the Israeli people… a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians.”

    Apparently Mr.Cave is looking at this complex scenario from a very biased vantage point of European heritage (including ingrained colonialist thought). Since the ‘bullying’ & ‘censoring’ & ‘silencing’ of Palestinians apparently means NOTHING to him. I never stop being amazed at people being unable to engage in profound self reflection.

    What has & is happening to Palestinians is exactly what happened to Indigenous Americans. (Hence the present solidarity between us). Mr.Cave tells us he ‘loves’ Israelis – but what of love for Palestinians?

    I love many Israelis also. Enough to try – via the peaceful nonviolent BDS movement – to turn their government away from this ruinous road they have continued to travel. Ruinous & disastrous for themselves. It has become a death march for everyone. I also love my own people. Perhaps Mr.Cave has fallen in w/ the demonisation & dehumanisation of Palestinians far too many people engage in.

    I’m not *thrilled* w/ having to boycott the endless list of product & people propping up Israel. For one important example: I just found out Bernie Sanders supported the bombing of Gaza in 2014 & more recently w/ others signed a letter to the UN Secretary General against BDS & against UNRWA (which supplies food & other necessities to Palestinians & is another mirror of the fate of Indigenous Americans who are still in ‘concentration camps’ – to quote them – & given Commodity food & necessary items). Am I happy that now I can’t support Bernie? No. I’m not. It’s horrifying & very sad. This is life regarding justice. (If he runs for president & it is a very serious ‘lesser evil’ scenario – perhaps I will have to weigh my options & vote for him).

    How does Mr.Cave feel about Indian Independence & the boycotts which brought that about; or South African Independence & the boycotts that brought that about? How does he feel about his own Indigenous countrymen/women/children? (A horrorshow which he seems to be stepping over. I would love to hear some Indigenous Australians on this matter w/ Mr.Cave). This is not about “musicians” Mr.Cave. There are Palestinian musicians also Mr.Cave. I have said for ages: The first thing is for us to be seen as HUMAN BEINGS.

    And Thank You Brian Eno & Roger Waters & everyone else quoted above & elsewhere who are able to see us as human beings. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suleiman Chunara says:

      Yes thank you to the musicians who have stood up for BDS all for the right reasons as their comment have so clearly been stated


  7. ulrich winkler says:

    Désolé Nick mais je n’ai pas eu du tout envie cette année d’aller t’écouter toi et ton groupe dans un concert en Belgique où je vis !Quand tu auras rejoint le camp des non-violents qui est incarné par le BDS ! Alors ,oui sinon basta !

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Nigel Griffiths says:

    Agree totally with Eno and Waters.censorship is nothing to do with this.he will be seen to validate the criminal state of israel.this is not anti Semitic but anti terror


  9. Nati Baratz says:

    Roger Waters – there is no love and compassion in your letter.
    Not even to the Palestine’s.
    From your Heaterd and Anger seeds there is no chance to any positivity and hope.

    Too bad that your voice is so loud.

    Learn some compression, practice love, start by love toward yourself and than you might create some impact.



    • David Scott says:

      Why are you criticising the messenger? Surely the issue here is the human rights abuse perpetrated daily by the Israeli regime.


      • Nati Baratz says:

        He is not the messanger, he is an activist with his own resources, actions and unfortunately full of hate and negativity for all men kind in all directions….
        This kind of words demonstrate that he is motivated by a will to destroy which is opposite of encouraging peace and tolerance


  10. Mark Brown says:

    There is no ambiguity now. The assumption that Nick Cave was merely a misguided liberal has been destroyed utterly. He responds to BDS, and to the oppression of the Palestinians, by saying (in Tel Aviv!), “I love Israel”! As to “not liking lists” and opposing the “silencing of artists”. By that logic he’d have played in apartheid South Africa’s nasty propaganda circus Sun City.
    For many years, Cave has been the rock artist whose work I have admired above all others. I’ve seen him perform live many times, both in Scotland and Portugal. I’ve even found that his work has managed to intersect with my own as a theatre critic (a line from one of his songs made its way into my aphoristic manifesto ‘Twenty-one Asides on Theatre Criticism’). As Cave wrote: “They say it’s just rock and roll, but it gets you right down to your soul.” Knowing that I can now never buy one his albums again or attend one of his gigs is more painful than anything connected with supposedly ephemeral “pop culture” should be. It is, in spiritual and moral terms, horribly close to an amputation.

    Mark Brown, theatre critic, arts journalist and BDS campaigner,
    Glasgow, Scotland

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Deadly Dismissal (@DeadlyDismissal) says:

    As Brain Eno cogently sums up, “this has nothing to do with ‘silencing’ artists – a charge I find rather grating when used in a context where a few million people are permanently and grotesquely silenced.” I remember an old Pink Floyd interview where Waters relates an instance where the band was thinking they were conveying one thing and he came to find out the audience was thinking something completely different. Music and lyrics can be interpreted differently by different folks. Hopefully BDS makes it unambiguously clear that the status quo these artists refer to — preserving it is simply unacceptable.


  12. Amanda Dweck says:

    Well having bought tickets to see Roger Waters in concert in Sydney at a huge expense, I guess old Rog can say what he likes about Israel. The fact is that, and I think this is part of Nick Cave’s argument, that it is not all Israelies that feel that way towards the Palestinians. If I may, in my opinion, the Iranian backed terrorists namely Hezbollah and Hamas have gone to huge lengths NOT to help their own people… (kind of like Trump doesn’t help the people who voted for him) … in order to remove Israel from the map. It was my own Persian friend who told me how upset he and his extensive family are with the Iranian government who use their taxpaying money to fund terrorists against Israel. Another Persian friend, who was a terrorist in the late 1970s trying to overthrow the Americans (she did her time and is still paying for it today through mental illnes) said that Iran sees Israel as American and wants to destroy it. Even today. So I think that although Roger and Co care for “The Palestinian Children” that boycotting Israel is not going to stop the poor people of Palestine being used as fodder for Iranian hate. But this is just my opinion from Persian friends. I don’t think, no matter what action is taken in the defense of Palestinian people, that Iran and Israel’s neighboring countries want the assassination of poor people to stop. They just don’t care. I was upset with Robert Fisk “The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East” where he brands “Israelis” instead of “the Israeli government” because ALL Israelis do not feel this way. Israel used to employ a lot of the poor Palestinians before the wall went up and before Hamas got into power. Arafat at least came to the table to try to broker Peace. By branding ALL Israelis with the same brush you risk Peace ever coming to the Middle East. But this is my opinion and I will still see Roger Waters in Sydney.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Victoria Parker says:

    There’s a reason why Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright were so happy to be rid of Roger Waters…

    And why director Alan Parker was happy to see the back of Roger Waters…

    A deeply unpleasant, blinkered, hateful man. Who has allowed himself to be brain-washed by pan-Arab propaganda – funded by the oil-rich 20 Arab states who cared not one fig for the Arab dwellers of what was formerly Palestine for the last 70 years.

    Didn’t see them fund growth and agriculture for their brothers & sisters. Just hatred and terror.

    The UN unilaterally supported the birth of Israel in 1948. When the Arabs grow up and renounce their declared policy of destroying Israel then there can be peace.

    Meanwhile – power to Nick Cave and his integrity!


  14. Sarah Jones says:

    You can’t change the souls and minds of grassroots populations, by starving them of art from outside cultures.


  15. Jane Manning says:

    Here’s what I’d like to suggest: Love Both Sides.

    Both the Palestinians and Israelis have suffered enormously. Both sides have lost loved ones and lived in terror. Both sides are a deeply traumatised people. Both sides have legitimate claims to the land. Both sides feel like the other is the bigger, more dangerous force.

    Palestinians feel that because Israel is much more powerful than they in terms of weapons and wealth, and US backing, they are the victim.

    Israelis feels because it is a tiny nation surrounded by much bigger Arab nations and population that want to destroy Israel, they are the victim.

    BDS describes compares Israelis to white South Africans but the comparison is not valid. Israel is the ancestral homeland of the Jews who lived there until they were forced to flee, and their religion and sacred texts are deeply connected to the land of Israel.

    It is also the ancestral homeland of Palestinians, who have mostly been displaced and forced behind the wall..

    So how can this be resolved? Only by loving both sides.

    There are peace organisations in Palestine and Israel made up of both Israelis and Palestinians. The documentary ‘Disturbing the Peace’ shows one of them, formed of former Israeli IDF and Palestinian suicide bombers now working together for peace. There’s other organisations run by Israeli and Palestinian women. Let’s give all our attention and support to them. Let’s not fuel the conflict by picking sides.

    Let’s envisage a day where Palestinians and Jews can live side by side in one state, with no walls, as beloved neighbours without either side fearing the other.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. J Wine says:

    “We, hundreds of thousands of us, supporters of BDS and human rights throughout history all over the world join together in memory of Sharpeville and Wounded Knee and Lidice and Budapest and Ferguson and Standing Rock and Gaza and raise our fists in protest.”

    Yes, but you don’t boycott the United States for Wounded Knee or Ferguson or Standing Rock! You don’t boycott the UK for Iraq or Afghanistan (do you know how many children were killed in Iraq?)! You don’t boycott China for Tibet, or Turkey for Cyprus, or Russia for Crimea, or India for Kashmir, or any other of the countless wars and occupations and human rights violations that beset our species!

    No. You fixate on the imperfections of a single country – by no means the worst – in a world of imperfect countries.


    • Artists for Palestine UK says:

      @ J. Wine / Schlomo / Stefanie and others below engaging in ‘whataboutery’ – this group campaigns for Palestinian rights, the clue is in the name of the blog. Diverting attention to other parts of the world does not make Israel’s decades-long crimes against the Palestinians any more tolerable. Please also note that the artists named in the above article happen also to be on record advocating support for other oppressed groups.


      • LOL Ruskin says:

        Sorry, in any court, if a law is obviously selectively applied, the judge can throw out the prosecution’s case, as overtly unequal application of a law is prima facie evidence of bad faith. You don’t have to like this fact to acknowledge it’s basic common sense, and basic fairness. So before you start moaning about “whataboutery”, clean up your back yard. BDS is mostly motivated by Jew hatred and carefully cultivated ignorance. Grow up, look outside yourself, and face the obvious truth.


        • Artists for Palestine UK says:

          BDS is not ‘a law’. Its a tactic for achieving justice for a people living under military occupation. To suggest that the same tactic should be applied everywhere or nowhere – will suit supporters of the status quo very well.


  17. Shlomo Abecassis says:

    If you opt to open your eyes to what’s happening in Israel I may suggest you open them a little bit wider and look what’s happening in the rest of the world… or maybe just at home…


  18. Nathan barley says:

    Anyone would think by the tone of the bds reply’s the Palestinians are a nation of oppressed angels, not the neighbours from hell obsessed with you dimise. Also by the tone of the bds reply’s do you think that could feel like the bullying he mentioned.


  19. stefanie says:

    I am anti-occupation and I think Israel should be pressured but are Israel’s crimes really significantly worse than the country responsible for Guantanamo Bay, Iraq invasion, mass drone war, extraordinary rendition, torture, extra-judicial murder? these are just crimes from the last 15 years – all in the face of a far lesser threat than Israel. Burma have commited every crime that Israel is accused of in the space of a month to relative silence, again with no security threat. It’s surely worth mentioning that Israel’s security is actually a primary concern of theres and a key aspect to finding a solution, if you don’t bother addressing this at all and just choose to list the crimes without any explanation then this situation will go nowhere.


  20. Libby Hinton says:

    Perhaps Nick Cave stands for music for the people and not for the politics. I have many friends in Israel that I have met on my travels, I hope they got to see The Bad Seeds. All people have a right to music. I would hate for my favourite bands to boycott Australia based on our governments wrong-doings and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers!


  21. Chris Rogers says:

    So money considerations have absolutely zero impact on Mr Cave’s decision to strut his stuff in Israel, I mean, he’s doing it to fight censorship of his music. How noble of Mr Cave, will he also be expressing himself & his music in the Gaza Strip or other venues in the Occupied Territories, I mean, if the poor Israeli’s must endure his music, the same must apply to the Palestinian’s I presume, who are also censored, and worse, killed by their Israeli occupiers. Great to see so many Hasbara posting, make’s Mr. Cave seem important.

    Now, what about Yemen, Syria & Israel’s growing friendship with that other wonderful nation, Saudi Arabia. Alas, allegedly we only focus on Israel allegedly – is Cave playing in Mecca too perhaps?

    As for the attacks on Roger Waters, please remember the hey days of Pink Floyd were when he was actually a full member, all downhill after he left I’m afraid.

    Liked by 1 person

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