Thom Yorke has responded to calls from a number of other prominent musicians—most notably, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters—to cancel an upcoming Radiohead show in Israel, calling the arguments and requests “offensive.” Waters, a leading voice in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, is one of several musicians who have signed a petition asking Radiohead not to perform in Israel, citing the country’s “system of apartheid” that’s been ”imposed on the Palestinian people.”
Yorke has stayed quiet on the controversy, as the band continues the last stages of its tour supporting last year’s A Moon Shaped Pool. (A tour that’s seen people holding up signs and banners denouncing the upcoming Tel Aviv concert.) But he finally opened up this week to Rolling Stone, calling the whole situation “extremely upsetting.” Firing back at critics, Yorke questioned those who’ve judged the band, or presented the decision to them as black and white, saying, “It’s 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. It’s offensive and I just can’t understand why going to play a rock show or going to lecture at a university [is a problem to them].”
Yorke was especially defensive of the campaign’s impact on Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood:
He has both Palestinian and Israeli friends and a wife who’s an Arab Jew. All these people to stand there at a distance throwing stuff at us, waving flags, saying, “You don’t know anything about it!” Imagine how offensive that is for Jonny. And imagine how upsetting that it’s been to have this out there. Just to assume that we know nothing about this. Just to throw the word “apartheid” around and think that’s enough. It’s fucking weird. It’s such an extraordinary waste of energy. Energy that could be used in a more positive way.
Yorke notes that he’s probably being counterproductive by talking about the band’s decision to continue with the July show, noting that, “anything I say cooks up a fire from embers.” But, he adds, “If you want me to be honest, yeah, 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. It’s extraordinary.”
You can read Yorke’s full comments—including the perceived strain placed on producer Nigel Godrich, who’s worked with both Radiohead and Waters—right here.