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Nick Cave: The Palestinians, not you, are censored, bullied and silenced - by Israel

What's more important than a sensitive artist's ability to perform wherever he likes without being made to feel ashamed for turning a blind eye to the brutal and systematic repression of the voiceless?

Poor Nick Cave. You have to feel sorry for the internationally acclaimed Aussie rock star and his band, the Bad Seeds, when human rights activists and a handful of fellow artists call on them to uphold a plea by a people repressed for decades by one of the most heavily armed nations on earth.

In a press conference on the eve of his two Tel Aviv gigs last weekend, Nick said he felt censored, bullied and silenced.

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The last thing a rock star needs on flying into a country imposing the longest military occupation in modern history is to have to deal with moral compunction as well as jet lag, surely.

Israeli apartheid

Like Radiohead, who were similarly "harassed" by a bunch of do-gooders to cancel their Tel Aviv date months ago, Nick Cave made no mention whatsoever of the millions of Palestinians subjected to Israeli apartheid who have asked international artists to boycott Israel to support their non-violent struggle for self-determination.

I mean, why bother? When in Rome, right? So when in Israel, you ignore the occupation and the occupied, who are routinely treated as sub-human by their colonial rulers.

Nick is Australian, after all, so he'll be familiar with that game.

Fans wait to attend a concert by Radiohead in Tel Aviv on 19 July after the band defied boycott calls from prominent artists to play in Israel (AFP)
What it boils down to, he insinuated, is this: What's more important than a sensitive artist's ability to make his millions wherever he likes without being made to feel ashamed for turning a blind eye to the brutal and systematic repression of the voiceless – and nameless – people who have asked him to stay away until justice is served?

And as for those artists who have tried to give a voice to those dispossessed of their voice by Israel and its allies, like Roger Waters and Brian Eno, whom he named during his press conference?

How dare they? How dare they engage in a public humiliation to try to "silence" Nick and others in the name of justice. (Eno, Waters and other artists and pro-Palestinian groups responded in a statement. "We regret that in a land of injustice Nick Cave is giving comfort to the unjust," said the statement.)

No one appreciates nor needs that public humiliation, Cave noted.

Except for millions of Palestinians who face daily public humiliation at the hands of their Israeli oppressors, of course – but Cave wasn't in Israel to perform to them even if they could somehow get beyond scores of checkpoints and over Israel's illegal separation wall to the gigs. 

Musician Roger Waters performs during his Us and Them Tour at Staples Center on 20 June 2017 in Los Angeles, California (AFP)

Who is censored, bullied and silenced?

He loves Israel and Israelis, Nick said. "Palestinians? What? Who? Get lost! Don't spoil my f***ing party!" 

No, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds were in Israel to make a point: "It suddenly became very important to make a stand, to me," said Nick, "against those people who are trying to shut down musicians, to bully musicians, to censor musicians and to silence musicians."

Bully? Censor? Silence? Really, Nick, open your eyes. For your own sake if not for the sake of the millions whose picket line you've just stomped on.

When asked what plans he had after this tour, Nick reportedly replied: "I'm just going to turn the internet off and just read and write, think about my work and stuff like that, stop thinking about whether I should be playing Israel or not playing Israel."

An Israeli soldier stands guard as Palestinian children look at a protest against Jewish settlements in the West Bank (AFP)

Creative isolation - in Gaza

If Nick fancies that kind of creative isolation, he could hang out in Gaza for a few months – sun, beach, and acute power cuts - the perfect for some guaranteed isolation.

But being on the road, free to move about across borders, can be stressful and has taken its toll, so Nick plans to head home: "It’s just nice to be able to go back into your home and not have to worry about all those sorts of things. I would say I want to make a new record and write words and stuff like that, that's the plan. And kiss my wife."

Ahh. To have the luxury to (a) just go back to your home, (b) tune out from the issues that trouble you and (c) to kiss your wife – why, these are three things so many silenced Palestinians can't do, courtesy of your hosts.

Nick: Rampant levels of house demolitions, an occupation dictating every aspect of their lives; arrest and detention levels affecting 40 percent of the male Palestinian population - its all so complicated, Nick.

For thousands of disappointed fans, this was Nick Cave’s "ball of collusion”. And, of course, the band played on, to the rapture of 'Brand Israel' and all of its advocates whose free and comfortable lives depend on silencing the Palestinians they oppress and their critics.

Silence is golden, Nick.

- Frank Barat is coordinator of the War and Pacification programme at the Transnational Institute. He has edited a few books, the latest being Freedom is a Constant Struggle with Angela Davis.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Nick Cave (ArtistsforPalestine website)

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