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Roger Waters & Brian Eno respond to Nick Cave’s Israel show press conference

Roger Waters at Desert Trip
Roger Waters at Desert Trip (more by Kevin Mazur)

On Sunday (11/19), Nick Cave held a press conference about his and The Bad Seeds’ upcoming shows in Israel, saying they were making a stand “against those people who are trying to shut down musicians, to bully musicians, to censor musicians and to silence musicians,” and adding, “If you do come [to Israel] you have to go through public humiliation from Roger Waters and his partners and no one wants to embarrass themselves publicly.” Today Roger Waters has responded with a press release that also includes statements from Brian Eno, filmmakers Ken Loach and Aki Kaurismäki, and writer A.L. Kennedy. Here is part of Waters’ statement:

Nick thinks this is about censorship of his music? What? Nick, with all due respect, your music is irrelevant to this issue, so is mine, so is Brian Eno’s, so is Beethoven’s, this isn’t about music, it’s about human rights.

And Brian Eno writes:

It’s nothing to do with ‘silencing’ artists – a charge I find rather grating when used in a context where a few million people are permanently and grotesquely silenced. Israel spends hundreds of millions of dollars on hasbara, and its side of the argument gets broadcast loud and clear. Coupled with the scare-tactic of labelling any form of criticism of Israeli policy as ‘antisemitic’, this makes for a very uneven picture of what is going on.

You can read Waters and Eno’s statements in full below, and you can read all the statements at the Artists for Palenstine website.

ROGER WATERS’ STATEMENT:

I read Nick Cave’s press conference statements with a mixture of sorrow, rage and disbelief. No wonder he avoided a conversation with anyone from BDS before going ahead with his shows in Tel Aviv.

Ok, first: Disbelief. Nick thinks this is about censorship of his music? What? Nick, with all due respect, your music is irrelevant to this issue, so is mine, so is Brian Eno’s so is Beethoven’s, this isn’t about music, it’s about human rights.

Next: Rage. This is about children, like the young boys blown to bits while playing soccer on the beach in Gaza. Boys murdered by Israel. Boys symbolic of the thousands and thousands of children sacrificed in Israel’s “Mowing of the lawn.” Israel’s terminology, not mine. We, hundreds of thousands of us, supporters of BDS and human rights throughout history all over the world join together in memory of Sharpeville and Wounded Knee and Lidice and Budapest and Ferguson and Standing Rock and Gaza and raise our fists in protest. We hurl our glasses into the fire of your arrogant unconcern, and smash our bracelets on the rock of your implacable indifference.

Lastly: Sorrow? What if it was your demolished home? Your invaded country? Your villages razed to the ground to build stadiums for the invaders to promote pop concerts on? Your uprooted olive trees? Seven million of your brothers and sisters living in refugee camps? Victims of ethnic cleansing? Would your sorrow trump your obsession with concerns about the censorship of your music?

By the way, on one of the Israeli news sites I was directed to a video of yours on YouTube. Towards the end I picked up on the following lyric:

“Let us sit together in the dark until the moment comes.”

Nick, the moment came and went brother, you missed it, if at some point in the future you want to climb out of the dark, all you have to do is open your eyes, we, in BDS will be here to welcome you into the light.

Love

Roger Waters and Co.

BRIAN ENO’S STATEMENT:

I admire Nick Cave as an artist and I know he has been generous in his support for Palestinian humanitarian causes. I think he has every right to come to his own conclusions about whether or not he supports BDS. However, I think I also have the right to present him with another side to this argument, which I have done – privately, as politely and discreetly as I could. Given the content of his press conference, I think that argument now needs to be restated publicly.

The BDS argument is simple enough: Israel has consistently – and lavishly – used cultural exchange as a form of ‘hasbara’ (propaganda) to improve the image of the country abroad, and to “show Israel’s prettier face” in the words of a foreign ministry official. The BDS campaign is simply asking artists not to be part of that propaganda campaign.

It’s nothing to do with ‘silencing’ artists – a charge I find rather grating when used in a context where a few million people are permanently and grotesquely silenced. Israel spends hundreds of millions of dollars on hasbara, and its side of the argument gets broadcast loud and clear. Coupled with the scare-tactic of labelling any form of criticism of Israeli policy as ‘antisemitic’, this makes for a very uneven picture of what is going on.

Who do the Palestinians have to present their side? If you ask them, they’ll say “BDS”. It’s just about the only hope they feel, as they watch more and more of their country being illegally occupied by settlers, and watch new generations of their own people growing up behind concrete walls patrolled by soldiers.

As it happens I share a birthday with Israel: I too was born on May 15 1948. It’s a random coincidence, but perhaps it’s partly responsible for predisposing me to a sympathy and admiration for the country and its technical, intellectual and social achievements. I still admire all those things, but, as I learn more about the despicable situation Israeli ambitions have created for the Palestinians I feel a growing dread. To me it seems that Israel is digging itself into a deep, dark hole, where it will doubtless find company with Trump and various other nationalistic movements around the globe.

So in parallel to what is now happening to the Palestinians, there is another disaster in progress. Israel – at least that Israel of humane values in which so many people, Jewish and otherwise, placed their hopes – is disappearing.

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