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Roger Waters Disputes Thom Yorke's Explosive Comments Over Radiohead Israel Controversy

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Roger Waters has responded to Radiohead’s Thom Yorke after Yorke accused Waters of being divisive and attempting to “throw shit at [Radiohead] in public” in regard to an open letter to the band, signed by Waters, asking that they cancel plans to perform in Israel later this year.

Last week, Yorke published a heated statement in Rolling Stone responding to the letter, signed by Waters and more than 50 others including filmmaker Ken Loach and musician Brian Eno, asking that Radiohead cancel their upcoming performance in Tel Aviv. Yorke called it “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 patronizing in the extreme.”

The petition was inspired by the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement against Israel, launched in 2005, which calls for a “cultural boycott” of Israel until Palestinians are granted “the right of return” and Israel’s West Bank barrier is dismantled.

The main point of contention in Yorke’s call-out was the aforementioned public shit-throwing. Yorke claims that the signees chose not to engage him in personal conversation about the issue. He also wrote that “There are people I admire [who have been critical of the concert like Ken Loach, who I would never dream of telling where to work or what to do or think. It’s really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years. They talk down to us and I just find it mind-boggling that they think they have the right to do that.”

In his reply on Monday, published in Rolling Stone, Waters disputed Yorke’s claims, writing, ”[Yorke’s statement] doesn’t tell the whole story.” He says he did try to start a private dialogue with Yorke via email, but assumes the emails were left unanswered after being misinterpreted as “threats.” In one email to Yorke shared in Waters’s statement, he writes, “Hey Thom, I’m sorry. My letter wasn’t meant to be confrontational. I was reaching out to see if we could have the conversation that you talked about in your reply. Can we? Love, R.”

Waters, a vocal defender of the BDS movement, was signaled out by Yorke last week because of their shared relationship with Radiohead producer Nigel Goodrich, who worked closely on Waters’s new album, Is This The Life We Really Want? “Imagine how this has affected me and Nigel’s relationship,” Yorke said. “Thanks, Roger. I mean, [Nigel and I are] best mates for life, but it’s like, fuck me, really?”

For his part, Goodrich is staying out of the clash, saying that he is “not in the middle of those two.”

Waters concluded his statement on Monday with, ”[June 5] is the 50th anniversary of the occupation of Palestine by Israel. Fifty years living under military occupation. Fifty years for a people with no civil rights. Fifty years of no recourse to the law. Fifty years of apartheid.”

Radiohead’s Israel show is set to take place at Park HaYarkon in Tel Aviv on July 19.

Read Waters’s entire statement below:

I read Thom Yorke’s interview in Rolling Stone. It needs a reply as it doesn’t tell the whole story.

On February 12th, hoping to start a dialogue, I sent an email expressing my concern about Radiohead crossing the BDS picket line to perform in Israel. A few hours later, Thom replied. He was angry. He had misinterpreted my attempt to start a conversation as a threat. So I tried again.

“Hey Thom,

I’m sorry. My letter wasn’t meant to be confrontational. I was reaching out to see if we could have the conversation that you talk about in your reply. Can we?
Love, R.”

I didn’t hear back. So silence prevailed for three weeks until March 4th when I sent a long heartfelt entreaty to Thom asking him again to talk.

In Thom’s interview with Andy Greene of Rolling Stone, in referring to Ken Loach and me, he says, “It’s deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public.”

That is not true, Thom. I have made every effort to engage with you personally, and would still like to have the conversation.

“Not to talk is not an option.”

Today is the 50th anniversary of the occupation of Palestine by Israel. Fifty years living under military occupation. Fifty years for a people with no civil rights. Fifty years of no recourse to the law. Fifty years of apartheid.

The BDS picket line exists to shine a light on the predicament of the occupied people of Palestine, both in Palestine and those displaced abroad, and to promote equal civil rights for all the people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea no matter what their nationality, race or religion. All human life is sacred, every child is our child, exceptionalism is always our enemy. There is no Us or Them, only Us.

Restiamo umani.

Love,

Roger Waters

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