Culture

Radiohead's Refusal to Back Down from Tel Aviv Gig Shows True Tolerance

The band Radiohead is apparently embroiled in a bit of controversy. It seems they have a gig scheduled in Tel Aviv, Israel.

I know, right? The horror! A band wanting to go and play a concert for people who like their music. What’s next? Beheading children?

Seriously, the issue stems simply from the fact that some people don’t like Israel or Israeli policy, and they’ve taken that dislike to rather insane levels. As David Harsanyi notes at The Federalist:

Thom Yorke and his band Radiohead are not friends of the Jews because they withstood pressure from left-wing anti-Israel groups and plan to go ahead and play a concert in Tel Aviv later this month. Although, as a matter of precedent, it certainly doesn’t hurt. No, they’re friends of the Jews because they are treating the people of Israel as they would any other diverse and free people. The idea that artists should engage in a cultural boycott of one liberal democracy but then go play in China, Russia, or wherever, is morally absurd.

Then again, the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement”– in this kerfuffle, represented by odious former Pink Floyder Roger Waters–isn’t merely anti-Semitic because it is critical of the government of Israel, or even because it peddles a bunch of age-old anti-Jewish tropes. It’s anti-Semitic because its ire and condemnation is reserved for the Jews (and their allies), and Jews alone. If Israel — the idea itself — is worthy of your ire but not the actions of Iran, Turkey, or, well, pick any illiberal regime in the region, there is almost surely a historic animosity driving your position.

And to be fair, Waters isn’t exactly hiding it, playing in front of a giant evil pig with Jewish star and blaming the failure to recruit more artists to his cause on the “Jewish lobby,” which he says is “extraordinarily powerful here and particularly in the industry that I work in, the music industry.” Of course, he will explain that he abhors “Zionism” rather than Jews. That’s what they all say.

Now, I’m not a fan of calling criticism of Israel anti-Semitism just because it’s criticism of Israel. As a sovereign nation, they’re no more immune to criticism than anyone else…within reason. Harsanyi goes on to agree that it’s possible to do just that as well.

Clearly, Roger Waters goes beyond that. He’s not criticizing a policy of Israel because he disagrees with it. He’s blasting the entire country because they merely exist. That’s all anti-Zionism is — a refusal to believe that Israel has a right to exist in any way, shape, or form.

Harsanyi goes on to note that while Israel is supposedly a major bugaboo for leftists, these same people are remarkably silent regarding Iran. You know, the nation that wants to exterminate the Jews but claims the Holocaust didn’t really happen, executes gays, and severely restricts women’s rights yet seems to enjoy support from the left unlike anyone else?

Why is it acceptable to criticize Israel for even existing while ignoring the legitimate crimes taking place in Iran?

Radiohead has argued that playing in Tel Aviv has nothing to do with politics, nor is it an endorsement of the government…kind of like how they play in the United States without necessarily endorsing President Trump.

It’s almost like they recognize they’re musicians and their job is to entertain people first and foremost. Who would have thought that? In the process, they show what tolerance actually looks like.