Thom Yorke Rejects New Calls to Cancel Radiohead's Israel Concert

Singer responds to critical op-ed published by filmmaker Ken Loach

Thom Yorke responded to a new op-ed from filmmaker Ken Loach urging Radiohead to cancel their upcoming concert in Israel. Credit: Steve Jennings/WireImage/Getty, Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty

Thom Yorke continued to defend Radiohead's decision to play a concert in Israel after British filmmaker Ken Loach once again urged the band to call off their July 19th gig in Tel Aviv in an op-ed for The Independent. Loach is among many musicians and activists calling on Radiohead to cancel the show in solidarity with the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, which calls for a complete cultural boycott of Israel until Palestinians are granted the "right of return" and the West Bank barrier is demolished.

"Playing in a country isn't the same as endorsing its government," Yorke wrote in a note posted to Twitter. "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 [Israeli Prime Minister] 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. I hope that makes it clear Ken."

In The Independent, Loach rejected Yorke's previous assertion to Rolling Stone that the director and others had decided to, "rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public." According to Loach, many artists, including Palestinian and progressive Israeli artists, have tried to appeal to the band. Radiohead ignored them. Loach said the band's management had not responded to multiple requests for meetings.

"I and others are still willing to meet Yorke and his colleagues, together with Palestinian artists," Loach said. "Radiohead are important to a lot of people around the world, not just because they are accomplished and very distinguished musicians, but also because they are perceived to be a progressive political band. None of us want to see them make the mistake of appearing to endorse or cover up Israeli oppression. If they go to Tel Aviv, they may never live it down."

In April, 47 prominent figures, including Roger Waters and Desmond Tutu, signed an Artists for Palestine U.K. petition urging Radiohead to cancel their Israel concert. Last month, Artists for Palestine U.K. issued another statement in response to Yorke's statement to Rolling Stone, while a fan group, Radiohead Fans for Palestine, also published an open-letter criticizing the group.