Nick Cave Rebuffs BDS To Play Tel Aviv

Nick Cave is the latest artist to face pressure from activists pressing for boycott, divestiture and sanctions – better known as the BDS movement – for his decision to perform two reportedly sold-out shows at Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel, Nov. 19-20.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Bart Heemskerk /
– Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Lowlands Festival, Netherlands

But the Australian musician is pushing back, saying he is taking a “principled stand against anyone who wants to censor and silence musicians” and accused pro-Palestinian activists of trying to bully musicians.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel called Cave’s shows at the 7,500-capacity arena a “propaganda gift” that helps “art-wash” Israeli policies toward Palestinians.

The Bad Seeds frontman gave a press conference Nov. 19 to explain his position, noting that he “felt a huge connection with Israel” when he first performed in the country some 20 years ago.

He explained the band hadn’t returned to the country in the intervening years citing poor record sales, the time and expense to tour there and, “on top of that, you have to go through a kind of public humiliation from Roger Waters and Co.,” according to

“No one wants to be publicly shamed,” he was quoted saying. “It’s the thing we fear most, in a way, to be publicly humiliated. And I think, to my shame, I did that for maybe 20 years. Israel would come up and I would say, ‘Let’s not do it.’”

His change of heart, he told NME, came about when Brian Eno asked him to sign on to a group called Artists For Palestine  some three years ago. He decided not to sign on, but also not to play Israel. “And that just seemed to me cowardly, really,” he told

Waters quickly responded. “Nick thinks this is about censorship of his music? What?” Waters wrote in a message reported by Rolling Stone. “Nick, with all due respect, your music is irrelevant to this issue. So is mine, so is Brian Eno’s, so is Beethoven’s. This isn’t about music – it’s about human rights.”

Eno told the magazine Cave’s statements were “rather grating when used in a context where a few million people are permanently and grotesquely silenced.”

The BDS campaign has asked artists to not perform in Israel “while apartheid remains,” according to NME.  It’s been successful in some cases, not so in many others.

Guns N’ Roses and Justin Bieber each played to more than 57,000 at Tel Aviv’s

Thom Yorke of Radiohead in July rebuffed requests by Waters and AFP to cancel a show, tweeting, “Playing in a country isn’t the same as endorsing its government.

“We’ve played in Israel for over 20 years through a succession of governments, some more liberal than others. As we have in America. We don’t endorse Netanyahu any more than Trump, and we still play America.

“Music, art and academia are about crossing borders, not building them, and about open minds not closed ones, about shared humanity, dialogue, and freedom of expression.”