Radiohead’s headlining set at Glastonbury brought mixed reactions from the crowd as some festival-goers held up banners in protest against the group’s decision to perform in Tel Aviv.
While some waved Palestinian flags, one banner read: “Israel is an apartheid state. Radiohead, don’t play there”, and between songs, members of the audience could be heard shouting “free Palestine”.
The group walked on stage to huge cheers as they headlined the first night of music at this year’s festival.
Their appearance marks 20 years since the band’s heavily criticised 1997 show at the Somerset festival and the release of hit album OK Computer.
Earlier in June, after dozens of high-profile artists signed a letter in February urging Radiohead to cancel their concert in Tel Aviv.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, the band’s frontman Thom Yorke fired back at his critics for assuming that the members of Radiohead are uninformed on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
He argued that the authors of the letter — which rehashes the principle ideas driving the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, which aims to to exert economic and political pressure on Israel due to its policies toward Palestinians — waste their energy by throwing the word “apartheid” around.
I’ll be totally honest with you: this has been extremely upsetting. There’s an awful lot of people who don’t agree with the BDS movement, including us. I don’t agree with the cultural ban at all, along with J.K. Rowling, Noam Chomsky and a long list of others.
There are people I admire [who have been critical of the concert] like [English film director] Ken Loach, who I would never dream of telling where to work or what to do or think. The kind of dialogue that they want to engage in is one that’s black or white. I have a problem with that. It’s deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public. It’s deeply disrespectful to assume that we’re either being misinformed or that we’re so retarded we can’t make these decisions ourselves. I thought it was patronising in the extreme. It’s offensive and I just can’t understand why going to play a rock show or going to lecture at a university [is a problem to them].
Yorke also pointed out that Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood is married to an Arab-Israeli woman — and is subsequently uniquely informed about the nuances of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The person who knows most about these things is Jonny [Greenwood]. He has both Palestinian and Israeli fans and a wife who’s an Arab-Israeli. All these people to stand there at a distance throwing stuff at us, waving flags, saying, ‘You don’t know anything about it!’ Imagine how offensive that is for Jonny. And imagine how upsetting that it’s been to have this out there. Just to assume that we know nothing about this.