Opinion

Radiohead's Concert in Israel Is Another Brick in the Occupation’s Wall

There’s a good reason why Roger Waters is Public Enemy No. 1 in Israel – people recognize he is promoting the only action that could end the Israeli occupation

Thom Yorke drinking in a Jaffa bar ahead of Radiohead's performance in Tel Aviv on July 19, 2017.
Screengrab

The Channel 2 newscasts hailed Israel’s victory over Roger Waters in the struggle over the heart of Radiohead, performing on Wednesday night in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park.

Photos of band members in Jaffa bars caused the channel to proudly puff out its patriotic chest. It also happily noted that Waters – the most conspicuous voice in the world to promote a cultural boycott of Israel – might pay a small price for his agenda: he might be banned from performing in Nassau County, Long Island, in September. The law there forbids county officials from doing business with anyone who calls for a boycott of Israel.

The series of gigs at Yarkon Park this summer show that Waters’ efforts to create an artists’ boycott of Israel are failing dismally.

It is understand that the tens of thousands attending the Radiohead concert were delighted when lead singer Thom Yorke told Waters to go to hell. And that R.E.M.’s singer, Michael Stipe, backed him up. This is a natural and understandable initial gut reaction. Nobody likes being boycotted.

But I would like to ask opponents of the occupation who are also opposed to Waters: Do you really believe a cultural boycott of Israel would not hasten the end of the occupation? Would you really argue that if Israel is indeed boycotted, despised and rejected, humiliated and abased, and Yarkon Park becomes a leper in the world’s eyes, this will not bring the end of the occupation nearer? Do you really think Radiohead’s appearance, and its public support from Stipe, will actually promote dialogue that will lead to the end of the occupation?

Do you not know, deep in your heart, that Waters is right?

Do you not know, secretly, that the Israeli public will never end the occupation and apartheid unless it has to pay a price it cannot bear?

Do you not recognize that the absolute and chilling disconnect between Radiohead’s concert and what B’Tselem filmed on Tuesday in Hebron – on just another routine day of occupation – is what underlies the success story of the Israeli occupation?

Do you not agree that if the occupation is a terrible moral injustice, it is your moral duty to support a cultural boycott of Israel?

Do you not see that only global pressure can force Israel to end the occupation?

Do you really trust that the internal development of Israeli society can lead to its end?

Do you not think that when Radiohead tells Waters to go to hell, it reinforces your tragic tendency toward ignoring the occupation, enables you to persist in your sluggish, numb, apathetic and defeatist way? Do you not think the occupation is taking place in your name? By your government, even if you did not vote for it?

It’s worth noting that Waters’ campaign has utterly failed, yet Israel is obsessed with it. He is Public Enemy No. 1 here, precisely because he is promoting the only action that could really endanger the Israeli occupation. And Radiohead’s appearance is just another brick in its wall.