Nick Cave’s Open Email To Brian Eno: Boycotting Israel Is “Cowardly and Shameful”

Written by Jenna Dreisenstock

Image Credit: Chiaki Nozu / WireImage

In our hurricane of an emotionally apocalyptic – and with climate change worsening, physically apocalyptic – political climate, the unfortunate truth is that often our personal ideologies, views and outlooks on controversial issues (which is essentially every world issue at this point in time.) can drive wedges between those we are close to; those we admire and those who we never expected to shock us in their internalised, previously unrecognised toxic perspectives. Leaving us in a tizzy of heartbreak and disillusionment, finding ourselves in an all out feud with those around us as we all claim to have the answers, knowledge and insight to claim definitively what is objectively right and wrong: objectivity may not truly exist, yet in certain situations – it’s evident who is thriving on the right side of history.

In an open email to iconic experimental artist and composer Brian Eno, Nick Cave has addressed the musicians outspoken views regarding the boycott of Israel in support and solidarity with the Palestinian people. Eno confronted Cave about touring in Israel with The Bad Seeds in vocal opposition last year, yet Cave’s newly stated response came across as – albeit stating points that are indeed relevant which I will cover – rather defensive and jumbled.

The extremely controversial subject which I have covered many times before: Should Musicians Be Held Accountable in Using Their Platforms for Political Messages – Is It Fair? – regarding, specifically the issues surrounding the conflict within Israel and the issue of complacency by those who have access to make powerful statements in the face of hundreds of thousands of people or more; Nick Cave’s statement to Eno regarding the boycott of Israel is that it is  “cowardly and shameful.

Somewhat reminiscent of the break up of literary and philosophical icons Sartre and Camus back in the early 1900’s regarding Sartre on one side – revolution is necessary – as opposed to Camus’ – revolution is pointless – (perhaps the shortest explanation of one of the biggest bro-mance break-up scandals in the 1900’s there.) Cave’s remarks toward Eno in his open email state:

In fact, this is partly the reason I am playing Israel—not as support for any particular political entity but as a principled stand against those who wish to bully, shame and silence musicians.

This ties in to my previous articles: as I do believe that musicians who have such a massive platform like – Brian Eno and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – have a social responsibility to stand up for what is right and although I deeply disagree with Cave’s statements myself; it doesn’t mean Cave is necessarily all wrong – as he did mention his exceptional financial donations to Palestinian causes (at least the amount of hoarded wealth is going toward something meaningful, as opposed to a simple statement of solidarity on Instagram.) as well as the understanding that playing shows in Israel doesn’t particularly show personal support for the extremist right-wing policies: as obviously, many Israelis are extremely critical of their government’s policies.

Yet. The choice as a foreign citizen to play shows in Israel regardless, allows supporters to normalise their toxic right-wing perspectives and shows a rather selfish side on part of the artist – despite claiming altruism, Cave’s statements are a clear misunderstanding of the role cultural boycotts and sanctions play in toppling oppressive institutions.

To see artists supporting, albeit perceived as ‘indirectly’ – a country that is actively oppressing, harming and murdering innocent civilians: claiming that they, the famed musicians are the ones being “bullied and shamed” – it comes across as the wealthy, iconic musician playing the victim card (which completely contradicts the altruistic claims.) There are ‘sacrifices’ one needs to make in the face of breaking down oppression from its core; Cave had a difficult choice as to how to approach the situation and he admitted so in the open email, as it is truly a divisive topic amongst creators – however with a statement as such:

I simply could not treat my Israeli fans with the necessary contempt to do Brian Eno’s bidding.

This statement comes across as rather disingenuous, with an evident undertone of bitterness toward Eno as opposed to a real challenge of Cave’s cognitive dissonance regarding the situation; a childish and defensive act in the face of serious human rights abuse in which he himself is acting like the victim.

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