Israel’s officials wasted no time in reciprocating Nick Cave’s declaration of love for Israel, made at his recent press conference there. Today, leading writers have responded to the musician and author’s claims about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. These statements, published below, follow responses from artists including Brian Eno and Roger Waters.
“The Israeli government has an overt policy of using the arts to distract from its repressive policies. Does Nick Cave really want to be exploited in this way?”
“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.”
“If Nick Cave cares to take ‘a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians,’ perhaps he should take up the cause of Palestinian musicians (in fact, why not the entire Palestinian people) who are censored and silenced, besides impoverished and humiliated, if not outright done violence to, on a daily basis by the Israeli military-settlement complex? BDS is not about censorship (and even less about antisemitism). It is instead ‘a principled stand’ against a festering oppression that is ruining the lives of countless Palestinians and Israelis.”
“Notwithstanding the arrogant manner in which he is conducting himself, I like to think that Nick Cave’s intentions are not malicious, that regardless of the deeply erroneous logic of his position—framing his desire to perform in Israel as an act for freedom when the state of Israel is, and more than ever before, systematically restricting the rights of Palestinians—I nonetheless like to assume that Nick Cave’s actions and words are simply based on a misreading of the facts rather than calculated ill will. It is in this spirit that I would like to ask him to reconsider his position. I sincerely hope that he will see this as an opportunity to engage this urgent and serious issue—where Palestine is facing the threat of complete erasure—and that he will do so with deep insight, gentle patience and a committed compassion. I wish him to be informed not by what people say, but by the facts, for the stakes are too high for him to be serving, intentionally or otherwise, the will of the strong over the weak. I ask him to love and place justice above all other considerations. And I wish him in this clarity, strength and humility.”
“Who would have thought it, that Nick Cave would allow himself to ease the conscience of a major oppressor? No-one is ‘trying to silence artists’, it is children who are being silenced, it is a whole people that is being denied its right to exist, and it is common decency, not artistic freedom, that is at stake in Israel’s ongoing aggression towards the Palestinians. Nick has his eyes closed. Fighting for common decency is a matter of solidarity — of maintaining a vision of what is right, in the face of overwhelming powers — and he has, by his vanity, broken a picket-line.”
“I am sorry Nick Cave has got this so very wrong. In falling for Israeli propaganda about BDS and inverting the moral issue of freedom for Palestine — which Nelson Mandela described as ‘the greatest moral issue of our time’ — he gives comfort to no principle, only the enduring wickedness of oppressors.”
Image: stencilled graffiti showing Ghassan Khanafani (1936-1972), Palestinian novelist.