Peace in the Middle East has been a tragically insurmountable and discouragingly complex mission that has vexed us for centuries.
Today, peace between Thom Yorke and activists speaking on the Middle East’s behalf also seems like an ill-fated pursuit.
Radiohead’s upcoming concert in Tel Aviv, Israel has been the source of rage for many in the artistic community, who’ve insisted that the very act of performing in the country is a symbolic affront to the Palestinian people. Accordingly, Yorke countered the volley of criticism by disputing the efficacy of “cultural boycotts” and dismissing the tendency of artists to pressure other artists to conform to certain types of activism.
More recently, however, a pro-Palestine political organization has snapped back Thom Yorke’s rejoinder, expressing disappointment at his unmoved reaction to the mounting criticism
“Thom’s is a simple choice: will he stand with the oppressor or the oppressed?” reads one decidedly cut-and-dry excerpt from a statement issued by the organization Artists for Palestine UK. The statement further asserts, “Radiohead’s concert is itself a political statement, and a deeply divisive one.”
The letter was penned by Kes filmmaker Ken Loach, who has been one of Radiohead’s most persistent critics on their decision to perform in Israel this July.
Loach was one of the 47 initial artists, along with Roger Waters and Thurston Moore, who signed an open letter urging Radiohead to pull out of the Tel Aviv performance.
Despite the current deluge of condemnation, Thom Yorke is hardly the only musician to reject the artistic community’s orthodoxy on the issue. John Lydon, ex-Sex Pistols and Public Image, Ltd., has made his case for playing Tel Aviv on similar grounds. “If I can get 6,000 Jews and Arabs in Tel Aviv to sing ‘Allah,’ surely I’ve done more for world peace than any bunch of assholes running up and down a street waving placards,” the firebrand remarked years ago to the AV Club.
In hopes of ending this news on a more, err.., harmonious note, you can watch Radiohead perform the OK Computer-era rarity, “I Promise,” for the first time in two decades here.