Eamonn McCann slams English pop group Radiohead for breaching boycott of Israel

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Veteran Derry socialist, journalist and civil rights activist Eamonn McCann has criticised the English pop band Radiohead for breaching an international boycott of Israel by playing a controversial gig in Tel Aviv tonight.

Mr. McCann said the gig, part of the Oxfordshire outfit’s ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ tour, will dismay fans, due to its contravention of a Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the occupation of Palestinian land, which is supported by Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) among others.

“Fans of Radiohead in Ireland and around the world are dismayed that the band is set to break the boycott of Israel in Tel Aviv tonight,” said Mr. McCann.

“They will be performing in an arena built on the ruins of a Palestinian village.

“The relentless oppression of the Palestinian people continues day after day.”

The group’s frontman Thom Yorke, however, has defended the group’s decision to play the gig.

Replying to criticism from English film-maker Ken Loach over the concert, Mr. Yorke stated: “Playing in a country isn’t the same as endorsing its government.

“We’ve played in Israel for over 20 years through a succession of governments, some more liberal than others.

“As we have in America. We don’t endorse Netanyahu [Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin] any more than Trump [Donald, US President] but we still play America.

“Music, art and academia is about crossing borders not building them, about open minds, not closed ones, about shared humanity, dialogue and freedom of expression.”

Mr. McCann rejected this, stating: “Singer Thom Yorke says, ‘This has nothing to do with us.’ But it does. The gig is already being hailed by the Netanyahu government as a great coup, helping to normalise the State’s image.”

The Derry activist said it recalled Paul Simon’s controversial breach of the artistic and cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa through his critically acclaimed ‘Graceland’ album over 30 years ago.

“The case for the boycott of Israel is exactly the same as was the case for boycotting apartheid South Africa.

“The excuse offered by Yorke - ‘Playing in a country isn’t endorsing its government’ - is word for word what was said by artists and others who chose to break the South Africa boycott. It is shameful.”

Mr. McCann quoted from Radiohead’s seminal Paranoid Android record, which was released ten years and notably featured the track, ‘Lucky’, originally released on the ‘War Child’ album in 1995, in characterising the band’s position.

“Radiohead’s response is summed up in a line from their song, ‘Paranoid Android’ – ‘When I am king you will be the first up against the wall/With your opinion, which is of no consequence at all.’

“Members of People Before Profit across Ireland will be redoubling our efforts alongside the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign to expose the racist nature of the Israeli State and spread the word about BDS.”