System Of A Down’s Serj Tankian shares thoughts on boycotts and the Israel and Palestine war

System Of A Down‘s Serj Tankian has weighed in on the current situation in Palestine and the movement to boycott companies with ties to Israel.

Hamas attacked Israel on October 7 in response to its occupation of Palestinian territories, killing 1,189 people. Israel’s ongoing operations in the interim have killed 37,702 Palestinians [via Al Jazeera].

Recently, record labels, promoters and more have called for a cultural boycott of Israel through the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), an offshoot of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) which was behind the huge wave of drop-outs from The Great Escape, Latitude Festival and Download Festival this year.

In an interview with NME about his new autobiography Down With The System, Tankian has given his take on current world events and the ongoing boycotts. Though he pointed to the way activism is “taken hostage” by “certain fringe elements of society”, he believes most activists have good intentions. He also goes on to suggest Israel’s president Benjamin Netanyahu is a war criminal.


“It’s important for the youth to raise their voice, because we are not living in a just world,” Tankian said. “I think in some cases, pure activism is taken hostage by certain fringe elements of society, including in the US – certain anti-Semites who have gotten into that world. However, I think the majority of the activists and their intentions are pure, and I think what they’re doing is important.

He continued: “In terms of the Hamas invasion of Israel, I want to say that was obviously a terrorist act and they are war criminals and deserve to be punished. But, the Netanyahu government’s response is also – as we can see with the number of civilians that have died – a war crime.”

Serj Tankian
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 04: Serj Tankian of System of a Down performs at the Banc of California Stadium on February 04, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Tankian also touched on the less-discussed story of Azerbaijan’s invasion of Nagorno Karabakh last September, having frequently raised awareness of the conflict and the Armenian genocide in 1915 which remains unrecognised by many governments, including the UK’s.

“Azerbaijan attacked the 120,000 residents of this area who have been living there for time immemorial,” he said. “Incredible injustice, humanitarian catastrophe, genocide, war crimes, is happening today – so yes, there is going to be pushback.”

In other news, Tankian revealed in the book that System Of A Down began looking for a new singer in 2018 after he offered to quit the band.

Tankian detailed in the memoir: “Toward the end of 2017, we had a band meeting at [the band’s manager] Beno’s office. When I arrived, I told everyone that I had an item I wanted to add to the agenda. We went through the rigamarole of regular business discussions, and then it came time for my item.”


“‘So, who’s going to throw me a going-away party?’ I asked the group. ‘Do one of you guys want to be the master of ceremonies?’ I laughed a little, but I was serious. ‘Look guys, I’ve been very clear that I’m no longer interested in touring both due to my back and because it’s just no longer something within my vision.’”