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