December 19, 2018 – 7:32 am


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Last November Nick Cave went ahead with his controversial performances in Tel-Aviv, Israel despite calls from the likes of Brian Eno, Roger Waters and many others to cancel the shows. Now Cave has written to explain his position.

Dear Brian,

Clearly the decision for The Bad Seeds to play in Israel is contentious for some people. But to be clear on this: I do not support the current government in Israel, yet do not accept that my decision to play in the country is any kind of tacit support for that government’s policies. Nor do I condone the atrocities that you have described; nor am I ignorant of them.

I am aware of the injustices suffered by the Palestinian population, and wish, with all people of good conscience, that their suffering is ended via a comprehensive and just solution, one that involves enormous political will on both sides of the equation. As you know, I have done a considerable amount of work for Palestine through the Hoping Foundation, raising personally around £150,000 for the children of Palestine, so in a sense, I have already played the other side.

I have done a considerable amount of work for Palestine through the Hoping Foundation, raising personally around £150,000 for the children of Palestine.

But I also do not support the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions movement, as you know. I think the cultural boycott of Israel is cowardly and shameful. In fact, this is partly the reason I am playing Israel - not as support for any particular political entity but as a principled stand against those who wish to bully, shame and silence musicians.

I don’t intend to engage in a detailed discussion as to how the boycott of Israel can be seen to be anti-Semitic at heart and, furthermore, does not work (rather, it risks further entrenching positions in Israel in opposition to those you support), but even the estimable Noam Chomsky considers the BDS as lacking legitimacy and inherently hypocritical. What we actually have here is a fundamental difference of opinion as to what the purpose of music is.

What we actually have here is a fundamental difference of opinion as to what the purpose of music is.

It struck me while writing this how much more powerful a statement you could make if you were to go to Israel and tell the press and the Israeli people how you feel about their current regime, then do a concert on the understanding that the purpose of your music was to speak to the Israeli people’s better angels. That would have a much greater effect than a boycott.

Now imagine if the 1,200 UK artists who signed your list did the same thing. Perhaps the Israelis would respond in a wholly different way than they would to just yet more age-old rejectionism. Ultimately, whatever the rights and wrongs of official Israeli action in the disputed territories, Israel is a real, vibrant, functioning democracy - yes, with Arab members of parliament - and so engaging with Israelis, who vote, may be more helpful than scaring off artists or shutting down means of engagement.

All the best to you,


Note: This letter appeared on news sites on or around December 12, 2018.

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  2. Beautifully written letter, but would be very useful to know who did pay Nick Cave for the two performances in Tel Aviv of last year or Nick cave did play there for free as part of a benefit?

    By Bob Cat Al on Dec 19, 2018

  3. Would these same artists boycott performing in the US to protest the current administration? I think not.

    By Blair Frodelius on Dec 19, 2018

  4. What a great letter, thanks for bringing it to our attention. Please excuse me, as I presume to speak for others, but this great to hear bands telling (NAZI lover) Roger Waters to “fuck off”. I think ALL artists should have the right to decide for themselves.
    Or hey Blair, to protest Obama or (2) Clintons? Yea, those boycotting ‘artists’ are the biggest hypocrites of them all.

    By otis t on Dec 19, 2018

  5. Roger Waters “lives in his own private Idaho”. No grasp on reality. Call me when the Palestinians want to seriously negotiate a peace agreement. Prediction: They won’t.

    By Bungo on Dec 19, 2018

  6. Yes nicely written letter; however the almost global boycott against South Africa had a huge influence in the abolition of apartheid in that country (assuming you all agree that apartheid is abhorrent)…
    Also, I don’t think BDS artists would readily be granted visas/permission to perform in Israel(?)

    By RJ on Dec 20, 2018

  7. Love Nick’s music, but he’s got it wrong here. Only sustained economic pressure will have an effect. BDS is not anti-Semitic; there are Jews both for and against it.
    Google Chomsky on BDS and you find…
    “I’ve been involved in activities to hold Israel accountable for its international law violations since before the BDS movement took shape. While I have some tactical differences with the BDS movement, I strongly support the actions and continue to participate in them.”

    By Noah Vale on Dec 20, 2018

  8. Those that are anti Israel are either ignorant or total hypocrites. Israel is the Mideast’s one try democracy where everyone — Arabs included — is represented. THe Palestinians only have their government to blame — they teach anti-semitic lies to their children, lob missiles into Israeli territory, send terrorists to kill innocent civilians — Israel has offered to negotiate countless times — has given back territory at the risk of its own security — and yet those that turn a blind eye to the Palestinians’ refusal to talk peace are intent on blaming Israel for their troubles. It’s outrageous — and Roger Waters and Brian Eno are simply despicable. Anti-semitic in a thinly veiled disguise.

    By Lee Zimmerman on Dec 20, 2018

  9. That’s absolute nonsense; disagreeing with the policies of the Israeli regime has nothing to do with anti-semitics; you are simply scare-mongering & using history in a misguided way. Furthermore, current US democracy & Israeli democracy have 2 things in common: financially corrupt leaders.

    By RJ on Dec 20, 2018

  10. Israel is an apartheid state. They robbed the land from the Palestinians and have been slowing killing them ever since. ISraelis are not the only semitic race in the Middle East, but also Lebanese, Syrians, etc etc

    By meher on Dec 20, 2018

  11. Worthy of consideration? Mr Eno’s response


    “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.

    I’m basing these comments on press reports of what Nick said. They may be unreliable. My response to what I’ve read is this: 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. 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 nationalists 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.”

    By swappers on Dec 20, 2018

  12. I think it’s a different world now than when the anti-apartheid boycott of South Africa was going on. The news cycles are minuscule by comparison, for one thing. Attention spans greatly reduced. Perhaps Cave is onto something.

    By Bill on Dec 21, 2018

  13. I think that the only type of boycott that would make sense is a massive worldwide boycott by major artists, not against Israel, but against the United States, whose complicity ensures Israel policy. But no one is calling for such a thing.

    By Bill on Dec 21, 2018

  14. Bill, why is everyone giving the fucking Clintons a pass. They make Trump look like a choir boy. oh and that niggaz Obama….

    By otis t on Dec 21, 2018

  15. Y’all ain’t got no balls!

    By otis t on Dec 21, 2018

  16. So Brian Eno, what exactly is that Israelis have done that you think is such an injustice to those parasitic Palestinians. Why don’t call it what it is, values clashing. The “oppressed” Palestinians have no value for life, and have no ability to live among civilized societies. Where on the other hand, the Israelis seem to have more tolerance and acceptance and are a much more advanced society, by light years.

    By otis t on Dec 22, 2018

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