Campaigners are trying to silence Israeli artists – Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood

Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood has accused campaigners of trying to “silence” Israeli artists following a backlash against him playing a show in the country.

The 52-year-old British musician, keyboardist and composer performed in Tel Aviv alongside Israeli-born rock musician Dudu Tassa last week, who he says he has collaborated with for more than a decade.

The pro-Palestinian group Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) claimed that Greenwood had engaged in “shameful art-washing” by taking part in the event amid the Hamas-Israel war and bombing of the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

“We call for peaceful, creative pressure on Radiohead to convincingly distance itself from this blatant complicity in the crime of crimes, or face grassroots measures,” a statement on Instagram said.

World Premiere screening of the BBC’s Blue Planet II
Radiohead’s Johnny (left) and Colin Greenwood (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Greenwood wrote on Tuesday that he has been asked to explain why he is doing festivals in Europe with Tassa and his band the Kuwaitis, a nod to his relatives, Daoud and Salih Al-Kuwaity, who wrote Iraqi and Kuwaiti songs.

“I’ve been collaborating with Dudu and releasing music with him since 2008 – and working privately long before that,” the post on X, formerly Twitter, said.

“I think an artistic project that combines Arab and Jewish musicians is worthwhile.”

He also said that though people “believe this kind of project is unjustifiable, and are urging the silencing of this or any artistic effort made by Israeli Jews” this is not something he wishes to do.

Greenwood added: “The silencing of Israeli film makers/musicians/dancers when their work tours abroad – especially when it’s at the urging of their fellow western film makers/musicians/artists feels unprogressive to me.

“Not least because it’s these people that are invariably the most progressive members of any society.”

He also said he was “grateful to be working the remarkable musicians I’ve met during this project, all of whom strike me as much braver and taking far more of a principled risk than those who are trying to shut us down”.

Greenwood also dismissed “ulterior motivations”, saying the musicians are “honouring a shared culture, and I’ve been involved in this for nearly 20 years now”.

“So: that’s why I’m making music with this band,” he wrote.

“You’re welcome to disagree with, or ignore, what we do but I hope you now understand what the true motivation is, and can react to the music without suspicion or hate.”

He shared the post alongside a link to YouTube, where he pointed to the 2023 album Jarak Qaribak with Tassa.

BDS later posted, saying it “rejects” his “excuses”.

When Radiohead performed at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv in 2017, frontman Thom Yorke reportedly told the crowd: “A lot was said about this, but in the end we played some music.”