Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood plays show in Israel, reportedly protests for hostage deal and elections

Radiohead‘s Jonny Greenwood has played a gig in Tel Aviv, the capital of Israel, a day after he reportedly participated in protests calling for hostages held in Gaza to be released and new elections to be held.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Greenwood performed alongside Israeli musician Dudu Tassa in Barby on May 26. They played material from their collaborative album of Arabic love songs, ‘Jarak Qaribak’, which was released last year.

There were repeated calls for peace throughout the gig with Tassa reportedly saying: “There are musicians here, not politicians. Music has always worked wonders, may we know better days and may everyone return safely.”

Greenwood’s wife, the artist Sharona Katan, is Israeli. Their family had a nephew who was serving in the Israeli defense Force and was killed in the ongoing war against Hamas.


Greenwood’s performance was criticised by pro-Palestine activists who accused him of “artwashing genocide”.

Jonny Greenwood
Jonny Greenwood. Credit: Burak Cingi/Getty

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a founding member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement called for “peaceful, creative pressure on his band Radiohead to convincingly distance itself from this blatant complicity in the crime of crimes, or face grassroots measures.”


PACBI also pointed out that at the same time that Greenwood’s concert was taking place, Israeli forces were bombing displaced Palestinians sheltering in tents in Rafah, Gaza, which had prompted a large outcry on social media in the last week. In the last two decades, activists have called for musicians “to refuse to work with Israeli cultural institutions that are complicit in Israel’s apartheid regime”.

Radiohead has performed in Israel numerous times throughout their career and their show there in 2017 proved especially controversial.

The band faced calls to cancel the gig, with an open letter recently issued by Artists For Palestine UK – and signed by musicians including Roger Waters, Thurston Moore and Young Fathers, as well as Archbishop Desmond Tutu – asking the group to “think again” about their decision amid an ongoing and widespread cultural boycott of the country.

Radiohead Fans for Palestine also wrote, in an open letter to Thom Yorke, “it is the Palestinian people who have asked you to boycott and if you’re going to justify your show in Tel Aviv it is them you should be addressing.”


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PACBI added: “Regardless of excuses, crossing the Palestinian picket line and performing in apartheid Israel during its genocide against 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza is to consciously whitewash – or artwash – Israel’s genocide and underlying 76-year-old regime of settler-colonial apartheid.”

Yorke also engaged in a Twitter altercation with director Ken Loach over the Israel gig, with the latter asking the band whether they would “stand with the oppressed or the oppressor?”

Drummer Philip Selway said in response that playing the show “felt like the right decision”. Asked by NME whether he felt like the band had burned bridges by playing the show, Selway replied: “I honestly don’t know. That wouldn’t have been the basis to make our decision to play there. You know, I think we stand by what we have said and that feels like the right decision.

Campaigners also organised a protest at Glastonbury 2017, aiming to wave 100 Palestinian flags in front of the Pyramid Stage during the set.

Meanwhile, Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien called for a ceasefire in Gaza back in January. “Like so many of you I have found the events of October 7 and what has followed too awful for words.. anything that I have tried to write feels so utterly inadequate. Ceasefire now. Return the hostages,” he wrote on Instagram.