Indie Rock Band Cancels Tel Aviv Concert Following BDS Pressure

The American indie rock band Big Thief has announced that it has canceled its upcoming concerts in Tel Aviv under pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Prior to the cancellation, Big Thief announced on June 3 that they would be playing Barby’s Club in Tel Aviv on July 6 and 7; in their statement, they addressed the BDS movement. “As far as our place in the boycott is concerned, we do not claim to know where the moral foundation lies and we want to remain open to others’ perspectives and love beyond disagreement,” they said. “We understand the inherently political nature of playing there as well as the implications. Our intention is not to diminish the values ​​of those who support the boycott or to turn a blind eye to those who suffer. We strive to be in the spirit of learning. The Instagram post ended with a promise to donate proceeds from the concerts to NGOs providing aid to Palestinian children.

But on June 9, the group disavowed its previous BDS comments. “Our intent to want to play the shows in Tel Aviv, where Max was born, raised and currently lives, stems from a simple belief that music can heal,” Big Thief said. The band’s bassist, Max Oleartchik is the son of Alon Oleartchik, bassist of the Israeli rock band Kaveret. “We now recognize that the shows we had booked do not adhere to this statement,” Big Thief’s statement continued. “We are sorry to those we hurt by the recklessness and naivety of our initial statement about performing in Israel and we hope that those planning to attend the shows will understand our choice to cancel them.”

Barby responded to Big Thief’s decision to cancel the shows with his own statement excoriating the band, stating that Big Thief first approached the club about playing there. The Tel Aviv club went on to call the band members “pitiful” and “afraid of their own shadow”. “You will just become another group that comes and goes from the world like everyone else,” Barby’s statement read, according to The Times of Israel (TOI). “I wish you all the luck in the world, just like you did to your fanbase in Israel.”

Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) said in a statement that Big Thief bowed “to the demands of a boycott movement that openly rejects coexistence and seeks the destruction of Israel, undermining the principles of commitment, tolerance and dialogue”. “As [Australian musician] Nick Cave said, “The cultural boycott of Israel is cowardly and shameful. Israel is a real, vibrant, functioning democracy — yes, with Arab MPs — and so engaging with Israelis, who vote, can be more useful than scaring off artists or shutting down the means of engagement. “Ultimately, the boycott is an affront to Palestinian and Israeli moderates who seek to achieve peace through compromise, exchange and mutual recognition,” the CCFP said. “Music in Israel brings together people from all walks of life – Jews, Arabs, Bedouins, blacks, whites, Muslims and Christians – and concerts in Israel play a small but crucial role in the hope of achieving this peace.”

Big Thief’s cancellations were also criticized on social media.

“Shame on you for caving in to the anti-Semitic boycott,” StandWithUs Israel executive director Michael Dickson tweeted at the group. “You had the opportunity to play for the freest and most diverse audience in the world. [Middle East] and bring people together. Instead, you chose to split. Your naive decision does not advance peace one iota and helps the extremists.

Stop Antisemitism tweeted similarly that Big Thief “gave in to anti-Semites – plain and simple. This does not help the Palestinians, it only reinforces the hatred of the Jews.

Daniel Sugarman, director of public affairs for the Boards of Deputies of British Jews, tweeted: “I had never heard of this band before, but * we are canceling our concerts in Tel Aviv despite the fact that one of the members of our group was born, raised and currently lives in Tel Aviv* are platinum-level double thinkers.

Journalist Eve Barlow tweeted: “For the umpteenth time we see a band forced not to play in front of civilians in the Jewish nation for fear of how their position on the conflict is portrayed. Let’s see if they have the same energy for other areas caught in constant conflict.

David Draiman, frontman of heavy metal band Disturbed, tweeted that he was “disappointed” with Big Thief’s decision and offered to “have a dialogue” with the band “to reconsider your decision and use your music to connect people rather than disconnecting from them.”

Alon Oleartchik told the Kan public broadcasting station that Big Thief “received thousands of threats” after initially announcing the concerts and that Max was “crushed”. “He really wanted this to happen,” he said, according to TOI.

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