Waters and Eno on Israel and Nick Cave

2 Dec

This from the Pitchfork music site two weeks ago:

In a recenpress conference, Nick Cave explained his decision to play concerts in Tel Aviv … He said he “loves Israel”, noting that musicians performing there all “have to go through a public humiliation from Roger Waters and co.” He referred to the concert as “a principled stand against anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians.” Now Brian Eno, Waters and others from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement have responded.

Like most of my generation I was introduced to Pink Floyd fifty years ago when See Emily Play, from Piper at the Gates of Dawn, hit the charts. A fan every since, I never gave much thought to their politics. Indeed, one of the things I liked was the way their personas, faces even, stayed behind the music. (This in the age of the rock god, when Jagger and Hendrix, Dylan and Daltry, stared from the walls of a zillion pads while pacing the bohemian quarters of every city in the West you’d see blokes who looked more like Lennon than Lennon did.) By the end of the sixties Floyd were huge, and gargantuan after 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon, but I might have crossed paths with Wright, Waters, Mason or Barrett/Gilmour a dozen times and be none the wiser. I loved their music but, never having seen them live, neither knew nor cared what they looked like. Still less what they thought.

Not that these guys lacked egos. Those who noted, if only in passing, Floyd’s long and bitter divorce of the late eighties got a glimpse of the dark side of Roger Waters. As for the steely determination driving it, he’s never needed it more than now. You don’t as a rock legend take on the zionist lobby unless you’re in for the long haul and prepared for smear, brickbat and vilification. That’s why virtually every other star with leftist or humanitarian pretensions dips out on Palestine.

I don’t go back as far with Brian Eno. In fact it was years before I even clocked that the guy who turned out all that ambient electronica in the eighties was the same guy I’d first heard a decade earlier, when Roxy Music wowed me with an inspired version of Dylan’s Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall. But as with Waters, Eno’s creative energies pioneered new directions in music. For that, talent isn’t enough. You also need, and in unusual concentrations, cussed singlemindedness of focus: qualities that come in handy when you stand up to be counted on Israel.

Said Eno:

The BDS argument is simple enough: Israel has consistently – and lavishly – used cultural exchange as a form of ‘hasbara’ (propaganda) to improve the image of the country abroad, and to “show Israel’s prettier face” in the words of a foreign ministry official. BDS is simply asking artists not to be part of that propaganda campaign.

It’s nothing to do with ‘silencing’ artists – a charge I find rather grating when used in a context where a few million people are permanently and grotesquely silenced. Israel spends hundreds of millions of dollars on hasbara, and its side of the argument gets broadcast loud and clear. Coupled with the scare-tactic of labelling any form of criticism of Israeli policy as ‘antisemitic’, this makes for a very uneven picture of what is going on.

Said Waters:

Nick thinks this is about censorship of his music? What? Nick, with all due respect, your music is irrelevant to this issue. So is mine, so is Brian Eno’s, so is Beethoven’s. This isn’t about music, it’s about human rights.

We, hundreds of thousands of us, supporters of BDS and human rights throughout history all over the world join together in memory of Sharpeville and Wounded Knee and Lidice and Budapest and Ferguson and Standing Rock and Gaza and raise our fists in protest. We hurl our glasses into the fire of your arrogant unconcern, and smash our bracelets on the rock of your implacable indifference.

What if it was your demolished home? Your invaded country? Your villages razed to the ground to build stadiums for the invaders to promote pop concerts on? Your uprooted olive trees? Seven million of your brothers and sisters living in refugee camps? Victims of ethnic cleansing? Would your sorrow trump your obsession with concerns about the censorship of your music?

By the way, on one of the Israeli news sites I was directed to a video of yours on YouTube. Towards the end I picked up on the following lyric: “Let us sit together in the dark until the moment comes.” “Nick, the moment came and went brother, you missed it, if at some point in the future you want to climb out of the dark, all you have to do is open your eyes, we, in BDS will be here to welcome you into the light.

That second paragraph’s perhaps a tad on the purple side, Roger, but good on you, man!

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