Australian rock star Nick Cave has released an email he sent to fellow musician Brian Eno having his say on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and branding the boycott “cowardly and shameful”.
Cave wrote that the movement is part of the reason he chose to play in Israel, as he intends to get across his “principled”, but “not politically engaged stance” that musicians should by no means be bullied, shamed or silenced. The said boycott “risks further entrenching positions in Israel in opposition to those you support”, Cave stressed in his side-line remarks.
According to Cave, engaging with the Israeli population would yield more results than a boycott, adding that he realized that an astoundingly powerful statement would be “a concert on the understanding that the purpose of your music was to speak to the Israeli people’s better angels”. Over the past two years, Cave has played twice in Tel Aviv.
Eno wrote in response that “Israel has consistently used cultural exchange as a form of propaganda to improve the image of the country abroad”, adding that the BDS campaign is, pure and simple, asking artists not to be part of the massive propaganda campaign.
Cave struck back by saying that although he personally does not support those in power in Israel, he “doesn’t accept that the decision to play in the country is any kind of tacit support for that government’s policies”. A campaigner for the Palestinian cause, he expressed certainty that the conflict in the embattled West Bank could be ended only through engaging “political will on both sides”.
However, Cave continued to state that an artist’s self-expression does not justify the “weaponising” of music or using it to “punish ordinary Israeli citizens for the actions of their government”, since this would automatically mean a certain degree of contempt. He recalled refusing to sign the respective petition several years ago reasoning that he “didn’t connect to it”. A number of other musicians followed suit, including Radiohead's Thom Yorke, who differentiated between performing in a country and endorsing its government.
The performer’s decision appeared to have provoked mixed feelings online, with many openly criticizing him for the voiced stance.
I'm from S. Africa.— Zounaid Osman (@ZounaidOsman) 12 декабря 2018 г.
We always appreciated the musicians, celebrities and sportsmen and women who consciously respected our wishes to isolate the Apartheid regime by boycotting the country and making them a pariah. If he supports Palestinians, why doesn't he respect their wishes?
Some countered his words on artists being non-politicized, even citing examples from history, namely the apartheid regime in South Africa. One even reiterated a propos that both financial and cultural disengagement is the only productive way to show disapproval:
Speaking as a big fan of Nick Cave's music (from The Boy Next Door, through The Birthday Party to solo stuff), and I have to say, sorry Nick, the ways the world shows its disapproval of an apartheid regime is to disengage; both financially & culturally.— English birder in France (@MVTrap) 12 декабря 2018 г.
Very sad to read this. His ilk should be ashamed. Here's something from 1982 https://t.co/UfQGxJWN2K— Nick Robson (@Niksays1979) 12 декабря 2018 г.
It's another example of musicians or sportsmen and women pleading special circumstances that makes their endeavour non-political. ALL actions can be political and it is not bullying to expect musicians & sports people to support boycotts!— Terry(Pleb96)Kinnard (@Tezzerk54) 12 декабря 2018 г.
Sigh. I'm South African and Cave's arguments are exactly the same as those used by the sellout artists who toured apartheid South Africa.— Jerome G Davis (@JeromeGDavis) 12 декабря 2018 г.
Without boycotts, apartheid might still exist here.
One went still further, noting that the musician is “on the wrong side of history”, with another, playing upon, tongue-in-cheek, the meaning behind his last name:
Nick is on the wrong side of history here— Max Gross (@Max_Gross) 12 декабря 2018 г.
Nick go back to the Cave— johncuffe (@cuffejohn) 12 декабря 2018 г.
One apparently made a reference to Julian Assange, whose 6-year Ecuadorian asylum has confined him to the four walls of the embassy in downtown London, suggesting his and Cave’s home country has been mistreating asylum seekers.
A whole list of musicians have cancelled their concerts in Israel over the past several years: for instance, Lana Del Rey called off her scheduled the Meteor Festival last September, citing the impossibility of organizing a corresponding show for Palestinian fans, while pop singer Lorde also cancelled this year’s show due to the BDS petition.