Former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters responded to criticism from Australian singer Nick Cave, telling him the artists’ boycott of Israel “isn’t about music – it’s about human rights.”

Cave and his band, The Bad Seeds, played to sold-out crowds on Sunday and Monday in Tel Aviv.

Prior to his concerts, Cave told a news conference that he was performing in Israel to take a stand against BDS, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel.

He took a dig at Waters, saying: “If you play Israel, you have to go through a sort of public humiliation from Roger Waters and Co., and no one wants to be publicly shamed. It’s the thing we fear the most, in a way, to be publicly humiliated.”

Waters is a leading proponent of the BDS movement against Israel and has been active in urging fellow artists to boycott performing in the country.

Nick Cave
Photo credit: Matt Crossick/PA Wire

“Nick thinks this is about censorship of his music? What?” Waters wrote in a statement following Cave’s concerts in Israel. “Nick, with all due respect, your music is irrelevant to this issue. So is mine, so is Brian Eno’s, so is Beethoven’s. This isn’t about music – it’s about human rights.”

“We hurl our glasses into the fire of your arrogant unconcern, and smash our bracelets on the rock of your implacable indifference,” Waters also wrote, adding “if at some point in the future you want to climb out of the dark, all you have to do is open your eyes, we, in BDS will be here to welcome you into the light.”

British musician Brian Eno also commented in a statement posted with Waters’ on the website of the Artists for Palestine organisation.

“I admire Nick Cave as an artist and I know he has been generous in his support for Palestinian humanitarian causes. I think he has every right to come to his own conclusions about whether or not he supports BDS. However, I think I also have the right to present him with another side to this argument,” Eno wrote.

“The BDS argument is simple enough: Israel has consistently – and lavishly – used cultural exchange as a form of ‘hasbara’ (propaganda) to improve the image of the country abroad, and to ‘show Israel’s prettier face’ in the words of a foreign ministry official. The BDS campaign is simply asking artists not to be part of that propaganda campaign,” he also said, adding “This has nothing to do with ‘silencing’ artists – a charge I find rather grating when used in a context where a few million people are permanently and grotesquely silenced. Israel spends hundreds of millions of dollars on hasbara, and its side of the argument gets broadcast loud and clear. Coupled with the scare-tactic of labelling any form of criticism of Israeli policy as ‘anti-Semitic’, this makes for a very uneven picture of what is going on.”