The bard of fake sorrow

July 2017 was witness to a major controversy and debate against concerts by Radiohead in Israel. A case of political ideologies clashing with the business of pop-culture? Or is there more to it than what meets the eye (no pun). What could have been a really good year for Radiohead, 2017 turned out into a backslide based on nasty ethical battles. 

Radiohead and Thom Yorke from the UK have been long been hailed as the pioneers of alternative and lyrically poignant rock music. Accredited a thousand times plus for keeping the so called realness and sanctity of music alive, inside the loud and mechanized world of pop. Having sold over 31 million records till date with hundreds of concerts allover the globe, the band is undoubtedly a favorite of fans across the world in ways irrefutable. A beacon of inspiration for thousands of 'cerebral rockers and singers' as well. Yet, one decisive move by the band and frontman Thom Yorke's public outrage has shocked many fans as well as critics across the world. Their decision to ignore all humanitarian pleas to boycott Israel, created a ripple effect amongst fans, activists, the media as well as peers as what is largely now felt as simply something not nice ie. callous.

What started as a solidarity drive in the UK, a few years ago, known Artists For Palestine, an NGO, posted a letter online in March 2017 [ ] A formal request made to the band after several personal requests had been ignored.

A leading international solidarity movement for the people of Palestine called BDS, has been key in raising the Palestine people's issue amongst artists, musicians, academics, sportsperson and even brands to boycott and or divest in Israeli economy and culture. The BDS campaign aimed at divesting in Israel mirrors various other organizations now exposing the on-going violations by Israeli govt. and the military in occupied Palestine. The BDS movement has grown manifold in North America, EU and UK in the last 5 years mostly on a voluntary basis, and has come under severe attack from Zionists and Pro-Israeli lobbies as well as from authorities within Israel. Interesting fact, that BDS has a large number of academics and social activists who are of jewish origin. Yet it would be difficult to imagine that of all bands, Radiohead would end up in the eye of this political storm. What does the band have to do with the occupation and violence in Palestine, Gaza, West Bank and Jerusalem. Yet why just Radiohead? Why Thom Yorke? Simply, because a band with such a massive fan-base, both inside and outside Israel and with such reputation in the industry, praised by people allover the world, can deliver a much stronger message than mere individuals can.  For a humanitarian cause that is as real and as pertinent to our troubled times. A message of justice and a call to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to the people of Israel and Palestine, as well as to the rest of the world.

In March, April and May 2017 thousands of fans and activists rallied at several Radiohead concerts in the UK, including their headlining show at Glastonbury Festival. At one point, Thom Yorke was heard muttering "F**k You" to the audience. Some thought it was part of a song ! The pressure grew brimful with over 65,000 people across the world signing the petition officially pleading the band to boycott Israel. 3 Weeks prior to the concert, scheduled at Park Hayarkon in Tel Aviv, under severe criticism from many ends, Thom Yorke's official hark to fans and critics came across utterly lame and almost on the verge of discrediting his previous reputation as a true artist. "Playing in a country does not endorse the government .. we have played in Israel for over 20 years now" Prides Thom Yorke in his retort to the press. Little does he realize, that by any means the Israeli press and govt. would support and publicize and politicize this event massively. Fact is, more than 14,000 artists, musicians and sportspersons have boycotted Israel in the last 3 odd years.  Further as pointed out by Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) "Willy nilly, Thom, You are a part of the Israeli propaganda set-up ... after you finished the gig, it was allover the front pages of major Israeli daily newspapers and TV channels"

Watch the full interview of Roger Waters at Democracy Now.

Thom Yorke further, frustrated by the continuos barrage of online criticism as well as ridicule, chided that the protests were “an extraordinary waste of energy". Did he stop to consider that 65,000 odd people signed up this petition alone and almost 2.3 million people outside Palestine and Israel have signed various petitions on the BDS website, and related human rights and medical organizations working in the field of Israeli-Palestine conflict.

So, after all that was spoken back-forth over the issue, it remains to be asked 'Why does Radiohead and Thom Yorke love Israel so much? Perhaps because of the initial success and attention that the band won deep inside Israel, circa early 1993 : When a DJ named Yoav Kutner spinning the tune "Creep" was witness to the song becoming a total hit inside Israeli army stations and military compounds. "Creep", which had initially not made any mark on the british charts, became a raging anthem for millions by late 1994, first in Israel, then smashing it's way into daily rotation on all major channels by 1995. The true year of the "Creep" ? By '96 Radiohead had become the newest rage in the UK, eclipsing the likes of Elton John and Aqua. The band's first international tour and runaway radio hit would quietly pass by in Israel, with thousands of soldiers as fans, winter of 1993. (Read Complete Story Here) Since then Radiohead has toured Israel more than 8 times, in more than 20 odd concerts created by massive corporate sponsorship incrementing each year.

What is most sad, outside the ongoing oppression and litany of violations in occupied Palestine, is the fact that an exemplary band like Radiohead and a revered persona like Thom York both failed to see the point of boycott : and the need to voice solidarity for a nation that is destroyed and on it's tethers end. To find it OK *Not Ok* to perform for a violent state responsible for untold miseries of millions of Palestinian children and civilians. As these so called "dazzling, audacious, mesmerizing artists " (Telegraph UK) flounder at the feet of authority and militarism, they are totally aware of the ongoing genocide. The bard of fake sorrow would remain loyal, just like any rock-star bound by contracts, allegiance and obligations.

If you feel and understand the Palestine cause, support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. It’s quiet disappointing that Radiohead have decided not to.
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