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Why Radiohead Will Be Playing Israel — Again

Radiohead has added a new date to their global tour for “A Moon Shaped Pool,” and it’s a significant one for their Israeli fans. In a tweet earlier today, the British art-rock deities announced they would play Park Hayarkon in Tel Aviv, Israel, on July 19th. According to Billboard this is the fourth time Radiohead has performed in Israel and the first time since 2000.

Radiohead has personal ties to Israel. Guitarist Jonny Greenwood is married to an Israeli artist named Sharona Katan, and last year he appeared on Junun, a collaborative album with Israeli composer/singer Shye Ben Tzur. Junun is a collaborative album featuring 16 musicians (known as the “Rajasthan Express”) from across genres doing music composed by Ben Tzur, an Israeli who moved to India in the 90s to study it’s music. Recorded at Mehrangarh Fort in Rajasthan, India, the musicians sat in a circle and performed live together. The album’s music is pervaded by Jewish and Sufi spiritual themes, featuring tracks like “Hu”, “Modeh” and “Allah Elohim.”

The tweet announcing the concert immediately met with the predictable Twitter blowback from supporters of boycotting Israel, accusing Radiohead of playing in an apartheid state, being “scabs” and choosing “a bag of money” over Palestinian human rights. The tweet was also met by grateful tweets from Israelis and Jews all over the world, who tweeted “welcome to Israel” and “thank you!” The winning tweet on the supportive side might be the following, from Kevin McKenna:

@radiohead what the f—k has a location got to do with a band? Everyone deserves to see @radiohead no matter where they are from. Grow up.

Music concerts in Israel continue to be controversial, though perceptions of a general industry boycott are unfounded. 2016 saw, to name a few, Elton John, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Cornell, Brian Wilson, Bruce Springsteen, Alice Cooper and Megadeth play in Israel.

On the other side of the debate, the charge against playing in Israel has been led by Roger Waters, who complained to the Independent last year, “My industry has been particularly recalcitrant in even raising a voice [against Israel]. There’s me and Elvis Costello, Brian Eno, Manic Street Preachers, one or two others, but there’s nobody in the United States where I live. I’ve talked to a lot of them, and they are scared s—tless.”

“If they say something in public they will no longer have a career,” he added. “They will be destroyed. I’m hoping to encourage some of them to stop being frightened and to stand up and be counted, because we need them.”

Waters’ claim that rock stars will turn the tide in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may strike some as dubious, as well as his claim that those who choose not to play in Israel will “be destroyed” (Elvis Costello seems to be doing fine). Whatever the truth of such matters, Radiohead has decided their Israeli fans deserve to see them play live regardless of the policies of the Israeli government.

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