In response to a fan question on his Red Hand Files site, Nick Cave has published an email that he sent to Brian Eno following criticism of The Bad Seeds’ decision to go ahead with their shows in Israel last year.
Eno is a key figure in the Artists For Palestine movement, which advocates a cultural boycott of Israel. In the email, Cave calls the boycott “cowardly and shameful” and says that part of the reason he played Israel was “as a principled stand against those who wish to bully, shame and silence musicians.”
“Clearly the decision for The Bad Seeds to play in Israel is contentious for some people,” writes Cave. “But to be clear on this: I do not support the current government in Israel, yet do not accept that my decision to play in the country is any kind of tacit support for that government’s policies. Nor do I condone the atrocities that you have described; nor am I ignorant of them. I am aware of the injustices suffered by the Palestinian population, and wish, with all people of good conscience, that their suffering is ended via a comprehensive and just solution, one that involves enormous political will on both sides of the equation.”
Cave goes on to suggest that the boycott “does not work… rather, it risks further entrenching positions in Israel in opposition to those you support.” Instead, he suggests musicians could make a much more powerful statement “if you were to go to Israel and tell the press and the Israeli people how you feel about their current regime, then do a concert on the understanding that the purpose of your music was to speak to the Israeli people’s better angels.
“What we actually have here is a fundamental difference of opinion as to what the purpose of music is.”
In a heartfelt addendum, Cave writes that “Brian Eno, beyond any other musician, taught my friends and me how to make music. The records he made remain some of the most important and essential recordings I have ever heard. So, if there seems to be a thread of anguish that runs through this letter, this is indeed the case. I am writing to my hero.
“Even so, certain questions need to be asked. How far must we have strayed from the transformative nature of music to feel justified in weaponising music and using it to punish ordinary Israeli citizens for the actions of their government. Furthermore, what has brought us to the point where certain musicians feel it is ethically sound to use forms of coercion and intimidation, in the form of ‘open’ letters, on fellow musicians who don’t agree with their point of view?
“Occasionally, I wonder if The Bad Seeds did the right thing in playing Israel. I cannot answer that question. I understand and accept the validity of many of the arguments that are presented to me. Indeed, some of my dearest friends in the music industry found my decision very difficult to accept, but there it is, after much consideration the decision was made: I simply could not treat my Israeli fans with the necessary contempt to do Brian Eno’s bidding.”
The January 2019 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jack White on the cover. Inside, White heads up our Review Of The Year – which also features the best new albums, archive releases, films and books of the last 12 months. Aside from White, there are exclusive interviews with Paul Weller, Elvis Costello, Stephen Malkmus, Courtney Barnett, Low and Mélissa Laveaux. Our 15-track CD also showcases the best music of 2018.