Palestinian activists respond to Cave's decision

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Nick Cave has explained the reasons behind The Bad Seeds performing in Israel, despite pressure for them to cancel their scheduled gigs.

The group play the second of two shows at Tel Aviv’s Menorah Mivtachim Arena tonight (November 20). Both shows are sold out.

In a press conference held on Sunday, November 19, Cave addressed the controversial decision to perform in the country, which has led fellow musicians including Brian Eno and Roger Waters to call on the band to cancel the shows.

“For me, we came to Israel 20 years ago or so and did a couple of tours of Israel,” Cave said. “I felt a huge connection with Israel. People talk about loving a country, but I just felt, on some sort of level, a connection that I couldn’t really describe.”

He continued to explain that The Bad Seeds had not played in the country in the intervening two decades due to the lack of success of their 1997 record The Boatman’s Call, which “flopped” in Israel. Cave told the audience of reporters that touring that part of the world is “expensive and time-consuming”, and that “on top of that, you have to go through a kind of public humiliation from Roger Waters and co.”

“No one wants to be publicly shamed,” he said. “It’s the thing we fear most, in a way – to be publicly humiliated. And I think, to my shame, I did that for maybe 20 years. Israel would come up and I would say, ‘Let’s not do it.’”

The musician explained that his change in attitude came about when Brian Eno asked him to a sign a list called Artists For Palestine three years ago. “On a very intuitive level, [I] did not want to sign it,” he said. “There was something that stunk to me about that list. Then it occurred to me that I’m not signing the list, but I’m also not playing Israel. And that just seemed to me cowardly, really.

“So after a lot of thought and consideration I rang up my people and said, ‘We’re doing an European tour and 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. At the end of the day, there’s maybe two reason 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. So, really, you could say in a way that the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement] made me play Israel.”

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) have since responded to Cave’s comments. In a statement posted to Twitter, the group – which is a founding member of the BDS national committee – said The Bad Seeds’ decision to perform in Tel Aviv made “one thing abundantly clear – playing Tel Aviv is never simply about music.

“It is a political and moral decision to stand with the oppressor against the oppressed.” Read the full statement below.

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