Michael Stipe Defends Radiohead’s Israel Performance

Radiohead's decision to perform in Israel is causing a huge backlash

REM’s Michael Stipe is standing by Radiohead’s decision to play a show in Israel. In regards to an upcoming show July 19th in Tel Aviv, Radiohead have been criticized by Israeli boycott supporters including Roger Waters. Waters who advocates for the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement has routinely spoke out against Radiohead’s decision to play in Israel and the band’s subsequent reactions to that decision.

Stipe, who has been close friends with Radiohead and namely Thom Yorke dating back to the 90s, when Radiohead supported R.E.M. on a European tour, reports Pitchfork. The singer took to Instagram this weekend, sharing his message of support for the UK band. “Let’s hope a dialogue continues, helping to bring the occupation to an end and lead to a peaceful solution,” he wrote.

A post shared by @michaelstipe on

Responding to British director Ken Loach’s ask to cancel the performance, Yorke argued that performing in a country doesn’t mean you support the government’s agenda, drawing a comparison to Trump and the United States:

Playing in a country is not the same as endorsing its government. 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 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.

PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel have shared a message today in response to Michael Stipe’s Instagram message:

The continued dialogue Michael Stipe hopes for has literally been going on for decades, and it has done nothing to bring us any closer to securing our freedom, justice or equal human rights. On the contrary, it has served Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid superbly, by providing it with a perfect fig leaf to cover its intensifying siege of 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, its ethnic cleansing in and around occupied Jerusalem, and its construction of illegal settlements and walls. For dialogue to be ethical and effective, it must recognize that all humans deserve equal rights and that all injustice must end in accordance with international law. Otherwise it becomes a deceptive, unethical dialogue that privileges the oppressor and entrenches the notion of co-existence under colonial oppression rather than co-resistance to oppression, a key condition to ethical coexistence. Reconciliation and dialogue in South Africa came only after the end of apartheid, not before, as Desmond Tutu never tires from repeating.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments.

Images courtesy york.12346 and Michael Stipe