Nick Cave says the Bad Seeds decided to play in Israel to stand up to ‘anyone who tries to censor and silence musicians’

The band will play shows in Tel Aviv tonight (November 19) and tomorrow

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

The group will perform at Tel Aviv’s Menorah Mivtachim Arena tonight (November 19) and tomorrow. Both shows are sold out.

In a press conference held earlier today, Cave addressed the controversial decision to perform in the country, which has led fellow musicians like Roger Waters and Thurston Moore to call on the band to cancel the shows “while apartheid remains”.

Nick Cave Israel

Nick Cave performing live

“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.'”

Nick Cave Israel

Radiohead performed in Tel Aviv in July

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.

The Bad Seeds are not the first band to cause controversy by deciding to play in the country lately. Radiohead performed in Tel Aviv in July, and also faced a storm of criticism.

Artists such as Roger Waters are supporting a cultural boycott of Israel until the government ends its occupation of Palestine, gives the Palestinian people full equality under Israeli law, and allows Palestinian refugees the right of return. Thom Yorke argued: “Playing in a country isn’t the same as endorsing its government. 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.”