Nick Cave: Boycotting Israel is 'cowardly and shameful'

Bad Seeds singer shares a letter he wrote to Brian Eno about BDS: 'Israel is a real, vibrant, functioning democracy.'

December 12, 2018 10:11
2 minute read.
Cast member Nick Cave talks during a news conference promoting the movie "20,000 Days on Earth" at t

Cast member Nick Cave talks during a news conference promoting the movie "20,000 Days on Earth" at the 64th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 10, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS/THOMAS PETER)


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Nick Cave, the lead singer of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, elaborated on his opposition to the boycott of Israel in a post on his website on Tuesday.

Cave, who played two shows in Tel Aviv last year, was pressured to cancel his visit by Roger Waters, Ken Loach, Brian Eno and other BDS supporters. But the rocker stood strong and refused to pull out of the Tel Aviv shows.

Cave was asked by a fan to elaborate on his position, and chose to answer on his site, To clarify his view, Cave posted a letter he sent to Eno, a British musician, on the topic.

“I do not support the current government in Israel, yet do not accept that my decision to play in the country is any kind of tacit support for that government’s policies,” Cave wrote. “Nor do I condone the atrocities that you have described; nor am I ignorant of them. I am aware of the injustices suffered by the Palestinian population, and wish, with all people of good conscience, that their suffering is ended via a comprehensive and just solution, one that involves enormous political will on both sides of the equation.”

Despite that, Cave said he does not and cannot “support the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement, as you know. I think the cultural boycott of Israel is cowardly and shameful. In fact, this is partly the reason I am playing in Israel – not as support for any particular political entity but as a principled stand against those who wish to bully, shame and silence musicians.”

Cave wrote that he doesn’t believe a boycott is the right decision, nor would it have the intended effect.

“It struck me while writing this how much more powerful a statement you could make if you were to go to Israel and tell the press and the Israeli people how you feel about their current regime, then do a concert with the understanding that the purpose of your music was to speak to the Israeli people’s better angels,” Cave wrote. “That would have a much greater effect than a boycott... Ultimately, whatever the rights and wrongs of official Israeli action in the disputed territories, Israel is a real, vibrant, functioning democracy – yes, with Arab members of parliament – and so engaging with Israelis, who vote, may be more helpful than scaring off artists or shutting down means of engagement.”

Cave did not share whether Eno responded to his letter. But he did add his own postscript, reflecting on his two Tel Aviv shows in November 2017.

“How far must we have strayed from the transformative nature of music to feel justified in weaponizing music and using it to punish ordinary Israeli citizens for the actions of their government,” he wrote. “Occasionally, I wonder if The Bad Seeds did the right thing in playing in Israel. I cannot answer that question. I understand and accept the validity of many of the arguments that are presented to me. Indeed, some of my dearest friends in the music industry found my decision very difficult to accept, but... after much consideration, the decision was made: I simply could not treat my Israeli fans with the necessary contempt to do Brian Eno’s bidding.”

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