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Radiohead defy critics to play Israel

By Mark Savage
BBC Music reporter

image copyrightEPA
image caption"Playing in a country isn't the same as endorsing its government," said Thom Yorke

Radiohead have defied critics, and supporters of a cultural boycott, to play a gig in Israel on Wednesday.

In fact, the group played their longest show since 2006, playing 27 songs and two encores at Tel Aviv's Yarkon Park.

Protestors and activists had repeatedly called on the band to abandon the show in protest at Israel's policies towards the Palestinians.

"A lot was said about this, but in the end we played some music," frontman Thom Yorke told the sold-out crowd.

Fans at the show seemed grateful the band hadn't bowed to pressure and cancelled the concert.

"Everyone here in this crowd didn't vote for [Israeli Prime Minister] Binyamin Netanyahu. They're playing for the people, not the government," Sarai Givaty, a 35-year-old musician, told Israel National News.

image copyrightAFP
image captionFans queued throughout the day to watch the show

"What an incredible, insane show," wrote another fan on Reddit. "What an emotional ride those past couple of weeks have been. We got the perfect setlist."

Playing to 47,000 fans, the band delved into their back catalogue, giving a rare performance of Like Spinning Plates alongside classics including The Bends, Creep, Karma Police and Pyramid Song.

"We came all the way here," noted Yorke towards the end of the concert. "We're gonna play our fingers off."

'Simple choice'

In April, Radiohead were petitioned by Artists For Palestine, who asked them to reconsider performing in a country "where a system of apartheid has been imposed on the Palestinian people".

Israel has angrily rejected comparisons with the former apartheid system of South Africa, seeing it as a crude part of a delegitimisation campaign against it.

And last week, British filmmaker Ken Loach penned an open letter to the band, urging them to cancel the show. Loach is a high-profile proponent of a cultural boycott of Israel, a key platform of the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement .

"Radiohead need to decide if they stand with the oppressed or the oppressor. The choice is simple," he wrote in The Independent.

image copyrightAFP
image captionThe band had played in Israel several times before, but not since calls for a cultural boycott were first made in 2005

Yorke responded in a statement: "Playing in a country isn't the same as endorsing its government.

"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."

The Tel Aviv show marked the end of Radiohead's world tour in support of their critically-acclaimed album A Moon Shaped Pool.

Guitarist Ed O'Brien recently told the BBC the band were planning a smaller, low-key tour next year.

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Related Topics

  • Tel Aviv
  • Israel
  • Israel & the Palestinians
  • Music
  • Radiohead

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