Roger Waters Criticizes 'Whining' Thom Yorke Over Radiohead's Israel Gig
Days before Radiohead perform their much-discussed Tel Aviv concert, Roger Waters once again criticized the band for not adhering to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement and canceling the gig. Waters also addressed Thom Yorke directly during an hour-long Facebook Live talk Saturday with the BDS Movement.
"My answer to people who say we should go there and sit around the campfire and sing songs: No, we shouldn't. We should observe the picket line. Anybody who's tempted to do that, like our friends in Radiohead, if only they would actually educate themselves. I know Thom Yorke's been whining about how he feels insulted, people are suggesting he doesn't know what's going on," Waters said.
"Well Thom, you shouldn't feel insulted because if you did know what's going on, you would have a conversation with [director] Ken Loach, who's been begging you to have a conversation, or with me, I begged you, Thom. I sent you a number of emails, begging you to have a conversation. As did Brian Eno; you ignored us all, you won't speak to anyone about anything. So it's that kind of isolationism that is extremely unhelpful to everybody."
Waters added, "I look forward to – if you feel like it, when you finish your trip to Israel, because you probably still will go – write me a letter and tell me how much good you did and how much change you managed to affect by chatting with musicians."
The bassist also discussed Loach's op-ed urging Radiohead to call off their July 19th concert in Tel Aviv, which Yorke responded to with a Twitter statement.
"Playing in a country isn't the same as endorsing its government," Yorke wrote to Loach on July 11th. "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."
(As Yorke noted on Twitter Saturday, Loach has since been accused of exempting himself from the BDS Movement by distributing his films – including his recent release I, Daniel Blake – in Israel, although the director alleges he demanded that his films not be screened within the country.)
Breaking his silence on the Israel controversy in an interview with Rolling Stone, Yorke said of Waters and other artists demanding they cancel their Israel concert, "Just to assume that we know nothing about this. Just to throw the word 'apartheid' around and think that's enough. It's fucking weird. It's such an extraordinary waste of energy. Energy that could be used in a more positive way."
In the BDS talk, Waters responded, "I can absolutely see why some South Africans would be insulted by being told that these people – Thom Yorke, for instance – knows more about apartheid than Desmond Tutu does. It's clearly ludicrous." Tutu is a supporter of the BDS Movement.
"Do you stand with the oppressed or do you stand with the oppressor," Waters asked later.
On Sunday night, R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe turned to social media to lend his support to Yorke and Radiohead:
Earlier this week, a Long Island, New York rabbi and other local officials have called upon the singer's Nassau Coliseum shows in September – which fall before the Rosh Hashanah holiday – to be cancelled over Waters' affiliation with the BDS Movement, CBS News NY wrote.
"This is something that is negative to all communities, not just the Jewish community. Everyone stands to lose," Rabbi Anchelle Perl said of Waters' Nassau Coliseum shows. "I would say that what would be great is if the individual himself was to come out in a very open way and say that he made a mistake about this whole thing. It would go a long way to bring us together."
During the Facebook Live chat, Waters responded to the attempts to cancel his Long Island shows.
"I think they're gonna fail," Waters said. "I don't think, I know they are, because you would have to tear up the Constitution of the United States of America, particularly the First Amendment, and throw it into the Hudson River, or the East River if that's closer, in order for that to happen. And although the Bill of Rights is constantly under attack now in the United States, I don't think they can go that far."