Photo Credit: Kobi Richter / TPS

by Zachary Kerman

Radiohead has attracted the support of R.E.M. lead vocalist Michael Stipe, who uploaded a post on Instagram on Monday supporting the band’s decision to perform in Israel this later this week.

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Stipe posted a photo with the message, “I stand with Radiohead and their decision to perform. Let’s hope a dialogue continues, helping to bring the occupation to an end and lead to a peaceful solution. Sincerely, Michael Stipe.”

Although the post does not mention Israel by name, Radiohead will perform on July 19 at Tel Aviv’s Park Hayarkon. This is not the band’s first association with Israel this year; Radiohead also invited Israeli band Dudu Tassa & the Kuwaitis to join them as their opening act for their U.S. tour in March. They will also open this Wednesday’s concert. In addition, Israeli singer Shye Ben Tzur was also invited to play as a warm-up act, for several performances on Radiohead’s European tour.

The forthcoming concert has been the subject of controversy, with anti-Israeli elements in the entertainment industry calling on Radiohead not to appear in Israel. Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke in particular has attracted headlines for refusing to bow to pressure, most notably from Pink Floyd founder and bassist Roger Waters and film director Ken Loach, not to play in Israel.

“Radiohead need to decide if they stand with the oppressed or the oppressor. The choice is simple,” wrote Loach on Twitter. Waters added in a Facebook Live discussion with the BDS (Boycott, Divest & Sanctions) movement on Saturday, “My answer to people who say we should go there and sit around the campfire and sing songs: ‘No, we shouldn’t. We should observe the picket line.’ Anybody who’s tempted to do that, like our friends in Radiohead, if only they would actually educate themselves. I know Thom Yorke’s been whining about how he feels insulted, people are suggesting he doesn’t know what’s going on.”

Despite the pressure, Radiohead has stood by its decision to perform in Tel Aviv, with Yorke arguing on Twitter: “Playing in a country is not the same as endorsing its government. We’ve played in Israel for over 20 years through a succession of governments, some more liberal than others. As we have in America. We don’t endorse Netanyahu any more than Trump, but we still play in America. Music, art and academia is about crossing borders not building them, about open minds not closed ones, about shared humanity, dialogue and freedom of expression.”

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