Nick Cave and his band the Bad Seeds ignored pleas by Palestinians and international artists for a cultural boycott of Israel in protest at its polices of apartheid and occupation, playing two shows in Tel Aviv on November 19 and 20.
Cave also took the opportunity to belittle and denigrate the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. He repeated false claims used and marketed by anti-Palestinian lobby groups to discredit the campaign.
After failing to respond to his fans who urged him to respect the international picket line, Cave said he believed the boycott movement “silences” artists and that he felt it was “important” to him to “come out against this silencing”.
“In a certain way, the BDS movement is responsible for my coming to Israel,” Cave said in Tel Aviv.
Cave’s comments were “rather grating when used in a context where a few million people are permanently and grotesquely silenced,” British musician Brian Eno replied.
Israel spends hundreds of millions of dollars on hasbara (propaganda), Eno said, “and its side of the argument gets broadcast loud and clear”.
Eno had earlier approached Cave to sign a statement in support of the boycott call. Cave refused to sign it, telling the Tel Aviv press that he “didn’t connect to it, I don’t like lists”.
Israeli citizens with the BDS activism group Boycott From Within expressed their disappointment in Cave’s lack of engagement with his fans and activists who support Palestinian rights.
Cave’s claim that boycott advocates are able to silence him “is fallacious”, the group states, “and it rings careless in the face of the fact that Palestinian culture and heritage, along with its people, has been undergoing Israel’s erasure for the past seven decades.”
In a powerful open letter, the group explained that this erasure is so successful that Cave “neglected to mention Palestinians” in his own statement, “as if they aren’t the reason you felt you had to make the statement in the first place. As if they don’t exist.”
Cave’s attack on BDS “reveals itself not as a courageous statement of defiance in the face of artistic oppression,” but as taking the side of an oppressive, colonial state “that commits war crimes daily and systematically,” the group wrote.
Cave’s contempt toward the international picket line won praise from numerous Israeli lobby groups around the world, as well as Israeli embassies and the Maccabee Task Force, an Israel propaganda group that attacks student Palestine solidarity groups on US campuses.
The task force is funded by right-wing billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Nick Cave has used the opportunity of a press conference in Israel to speak out about ‘silencing’,” said Artists for Palestine UK, whose cultural boycott pledge has been signed by more than 1220 British-based artists.
“But what are we to make of a privileged artist who somehow contrives to turn the notion of a collective protest against the destruction of an entire people into a complaint that it is he that is being silenced?”
[Abridged from Electronic Intifada.]