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UK artists slam Australian singer for playing in Israel

High-profile artists including Brian Eno, Roger Waters and Ken Loach have hit back at Nick Cave after the musician defended his tour of Israel.

Several high-profile artists in the UK who have joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel have condemned an Australian singer after he defended his recent music tour of Israel.

Brian Eno, Roger Waters and Ken Loach are among a group of artists who have joined BDS, a global campaign that aims to increase pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories.

BDS also lobbies artists, academics and businesses to refrain from engaging with or touring in Israel. Elvis Costello and Lauryn Hill are among the high-profile artists who have cancelled shows following pressure from the movement.

As of November, 1,280 British artists have signed the “Artists for Palestine UK,” a growing network of artists, cultural workers, and activists who wish to make a stand in support of justice and equality for the Palestinians. 

At a media conference in Jerusalem al-Quds on Sunday, Nick Cave said his decision to play two concerts in Israel was in part a “principled stand” against people trying to “bully” and “censor” musicians.

“It suddenly became very important to make a stand against those people that are trying to shut down musicians, to bully musicians, to censor musicians, and to silence musicians,” he added.

In response, supporters of the BDS movement have released individual statements as a public letter, calling Cave’s response “naive”, “arrogant” and “morally perilous.”

Eno said that, given Cave’s statements at the media conference, he felt the need to publicly restate his case for the anti-Israeli boycott.

“This has 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,” Eno said.

Waters, the former Pink Floyd bassist, was more scathing, saying he had read Cave’s statements “with a mixture of sorrow, rage and 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,” he wrote. “The moment came and went brother, you missed it.”

Loach, the film director, added: “Nick Cave has a choice, either to stand with the oppressed Palestinians or Israel which denies them their human rights. He chooses to stand with the oppressor.”

The artists’ statements were published by “Artists For Palestine UK.”

“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?” it read. “What are we to make of the fact that Cave makes such a statement, but does not care to mention the word ‘Palestinian’?”

Thousands of volunteers worldwide have joined the BDS to help promote the Palestinian cause, including scores of international trade unions, NGOs, scientific institutions, academic societies, business associations and cultural figures.

The BDS movement was initiated in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organizations to initiate “various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law.” Israel sees the boycott movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism – a claim BDS denies.

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