Thom Yorke criticised by Ken Loach and pro-Palestine group following Radiohead Israel gig comments

Artists For Palestine say that Yorke and band are 'going into a live colonial situation' by playing a show in Tel Aviv

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has been condemned in new statements released by film director Ken Loach and a pro-Palestine group following recent comments Yorke made about calls for his band to cancel their upcoming show in Israel.

Yorke’s band are due to play a show at Tel Aviv’s Park Hayarkon on July 19. Following the announcement of the gig, an open letter issued by Artists For Palestine UK – and signed by musicians including Roger Waters, Thurston Moore and Young Fathers – asked the group to “think again” about their decision.

Speaking recently to Rolling Stone, Yorke described the situation as “extremely upsetting”, “offensive” and “an extraordinary waste of energy”, adding of Waters and his fellow critics: “It’s deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public.”


Roger Waters later hit back, saying that Yorke “had misinterpreted my attempt to start a conversation as a threat.”

Now, director Ken Loach (I, Daniel Blake, Looking For Eric) has released a statement via Artists For Palestine UK that reads: “Thom’s is a simple choice: will he stand with the oppressor or the oppressed?”

Artists For Palestine UK have also released a longer statement, saying: “Rolling Stone did well to prise a reaction from Thom Yorke to the many appeals by musicians, Palestinians and others for Radiohead to withdraw from their Tel Aviv concert in July. These were off-the-cuff remarks, rather than the considered response the signatories to Artists for Palestine UK’s April 24 open letter  – who included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Thurston Moore, Juliet Stevenson, Peter Kosminsky, Bella Freud, Tunde Adebimpe and Robert Wyatt among many others – were hoping for.”

Radiohead live
Radiohead live

“We read the remarks closely, for some sign Thom Yorke appreciates he and the band are going into a live colonial situation.  We couldn’t find that sign. Palestinians who read Yorke’s comments will wonder if he knows anything at all about their dispossession and forced exile, and what it’s like to live under military occupation. He doesn’t mention the Palestinians other than to say guitarist Jonny Greenwood has ‘Palestinian friends’.  A lot of us do, Thom.  That doesn’t mean we think it’s okay to play a 40,000-strong stadium built on the ruins of a Palestinian village.”

“We don’t dispute Radiohead’s ability to make ‘moral decisions’. Our signatories simply think Radiohead are making the wrong one. Yorke complains people have been ‘throwing shit’ at the band in public rather than approaching them privately, but we know of at least three colleagues of the band who have approached them privately – in fact we held off our open letter for weeks in the hope this private diplomacy would yield results. It didn’t.”


The statement adds: “Yorke complains about Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and the dangers of divisiveness. He doesn’t seem to appreciate that Radiohead’s concert is itself a political statement, and a deeply divisive one. It’s telling the Israeli public they really don’t need to bother their heads with the Occupation and the boring old story of Palestinian suffering.Throw off the army uniform; forget what you’ve seen and done, because Radiohead are telling you it has no consequences. They’ve made a moral decision on your behalf.   Radiohead are here to tell you everything’s all right.”

Meanwhile, Thom Yorke has revealed that he wrote “30 or 40 different versions” of ‘Paranoid Android’.

Speaking to Matt Everitt on BBC 6 Music’s ‘First Time’, the Radiohead frontman spoke of his relationship with his bandmates, his early influences and what it was like to go through his early notebooks.

When the topic turned to the ‘OK Computer’ reissue ‘OK NOT OK’, Yorke said he wrote many versions of ‘Paranoid Android’, all with very minor differences. “What I found really fascinating was going through my notebooks at the time, and making friends with whoever this nut was,” he said.

“Oh my god…think I’m bad now? Just pages of like, ‘seriously mate, you need to take a break.’”