ICONIC Australian rock star Nick Cave has said it was the BDS movement that prompted him to play Tel Aviv this week – to defy its attempts to “shut down” and “bully musicians”.
The Bad Seeds frontman surprised and delighted Israelis at a press conference on Sunday when he claimed he hasn’t just resisted boycotters, it was actually their attempts to enlist him that inspired him to perform in the Jewish State.
“There are two reasons why I’m here: one is that I love Israel and I love Israeli people, and two is to make a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians.”
Cave played Israel in the ’90s but then stayed away, in part because of the backlash from boycotters that always comes with announcing an Israel date.
Referring to former Pink Floyd frontman and BDS activist Roger Waters, the dark poet of rock said, “If you do play Israel you have to go through a certain kind of public humiliation from Roger Waters and co. and no one wants to be publicly shamed. It’s the thing we fear the most, in a way, to be publicly humiliated.
“So it becomes just easier to forget about Israel. And I think that to my shame, I did that for maybe 20 years – Israel would come up and I would go, ‘Look, let’s not do it, right?'”
But when the boycotters tried to bring Cave on board as an activist in 2015, it backfired, pushing him to take a stand for the Jewish State.
The British musician Brian Eno had asked him to sign the Artists’ Pledge for Palestine, in which performers support a cultural boycott of Israel. Cave said he felt on a “very intuitive level” that he didn’t want to sign it.
“There was something that stunk to me about that list,” he said.
“And then it kind of occurred to me that I’m not signing the list but I’m also not playing Israel and that just felt to me cowardly really.
“So after a lot of thought, a lot of consideration about the whole thing, I rang up my people and said, ‘We’re doing a European tour – add Israel,’ because it suddenly became very important to me to make a stand against those people who are trying to shut down musicians, to bully musicians, to censor musicians and to silence musicians.”
The Israeli journalists in the room gave Cave a round of applause, but his comments quickly caused dismay among pro-Palestinian activists.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel said it was a “propaganda gift to Israeli apartheid”, while Eno’s organisation Artists for Palestine UK claimed that Cave is giving “comfort to the unjust” in the “land of injustice”.
Waters, meanwhile, hit out at Cave, stating, “This isn’t about music, it’s about human rights.”
He added, “We hurl our glasses into the fire of your arrogant unconcern, and smash our bracelets on the rock of your implacable indifference.”
Pro-Israel activists, by contrast, were delighted by Cave’s statements. Stating that the “press conference could mark a watershed,” Michael Dickson, a senior official in StandWithUs, an organisation that opposes BDS, told The AJN.
“In it, he opened up to the press about the mechanics of how artists are pressured by a small but vocal group.
“He spoke out against the ‘shaming’ of artists that aims to bully them into boycotting the world’s only Jewish country.
“By playing in Israel and additionally, by speaking out against the shaming of the BDS campaign, Cave has taken a principled stand that I believe more will follow.”
Dickson added that Cave “didn’t need to take up this fight, but by doing so, he stands on the right side of