Nick Cave responds to “double standard” criticism over Palestine views after cancelling Ukraine gigs

Cave was criticised in 2017 after refusing to cancel gigs in Israel in a statement he said was against anyone “who tries to censor and silence musicians”

Nick Cave has responded to criticism over his views on Palestine after cancelling forthcoming gigs in Russia and Ukraine.

Earlier this week (March 1), Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds announced that they had cancelled their scheduled concerts in Russia and Ukraine this summer due to Vladimir Putin’s invasion, saying: “Ukraine, we stand with you.”

In a post on his Red Hand Files website, Cave responded to a fan criticising him for cancelling these gigs, but refusing to do so with shows in Israel back in 2017, when he went ahead with shows and told local press that doing so would be a defiant statement against anyone “who tries to censor and silence musicians”.

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“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,” Cave said at the time. He was subsequently criticised by Thurston Moore, Roger Waters and others.

Nick Cave performing live on stage in 2021
Nick Cave performs live, 2021. CREDIT: Getty Images

In the new Red Hand Files entry, a fan called Ahmet from Istanbul wrote: “A few days ago, the message from the band about the Ukrainian situation dropped to my newsfeed on my social media accounts. You expressed clear and undivided solidarity with the Ukrainians, which they need all over the world right now.

“What bugs me about the Ukrainian message though is that you haven’t expressed such a support for the Palestinian people. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with your decision to play there, such boycotts, applied without qualification, has implications on freedom of thought, belief, and free speech. Moreover, it’s artists’ freedom that we hold so dearly. Still, at that time you haven’t expressed such clear and undivided solidarity with the Palestinian people who are also subjected to such a brutal treatment.”

He added: “In fact, you described Israel as a functioning democracy, and mapped out the solution as a political will shared by both sides. Yet, Israel is first and foremost the party responsible from the Palestinian suffering, in my opinion. And this saddens me, for this puts you on a position of a double standard.”

Ukraine flag
Ukraine flag. CREDIT: Ayhan Altun/Getty Images

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In response, Cave wrote: Dear Ahmet. There is little I can disagree with in your letter, other than to say that the invasion of Ukraine by Russia is simply not the same thing as the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine; one is a brutal unprovoked attack on one state by another, in the hope of revising the entire security structure of Europe, and the other is a deeply complex clash of two nations that is far from straightforward. What the two conflicts do share is the tragic fate of all innocents who must cower in bomb shelters in fear of their lives, and I sympathise deeply with all such communities wherever — and whoever — they are.

“With respect, I do not wish to repeat my views on Israel/Palestine but with regards to showing my support to the Palestinian people, perhaps you should know that over the last twenty years I have taken part in several events to raise money for schools within their communities.  But this is not the time for these debates, Ahmet. This is the time to unite in unequivocal support and love for the people of Ukraine.”

Cave added: “Right now, a catastrophe is unfolding and I stand with all Ukrainians at this horrific moment in history. I would like nothing more than to play in Kyiv and I was very much looking forward to our show there. I also have some wonderful fans in Russia and I know, through these very Files, that many people there vehemently oppose the actions of Putin’s regime. If I could play for those people too, I would.

“At this time let us just stand together with the people of Ukraine, and all those who cherish freedom and principles of national self-determination and want to live in peace and security with their neighbours.”

Reactions to the situation in Ukraine from prominent figures in the worlds of music, entertainment and politics have been posted on social media in the past week, with the likes of Foals’ Yannis Philippakis, Bring Me The Horizon‘s Oli Sykes, Franz Ferdinand‘s Alex KapranosYungblud, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Taika Waititi and Amanda Palmer all speaking out in support of Ukraine.

Elton John said he was “heartbroken” over the “nightmare” that civilians are facing, while Miley Cyrus called for “an immediate end to this violence”.

Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks has penned an emotive post about the ongoing conflict saying “my heart is broken”, while Madonna voiced her support for Ukraine with a fanmade video set to a remix of her 2005 song ‘Sorry’.

Meanwhile, Russian rapper Oxxxymiron has cancelled a series of shows in Moscow and St. Petersburg in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, alongside a host of British, European and US acts who have also postponed gigs in the country.

You can donate here to the Red Cross to help those affected by the conflict.

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