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Michael Stipe Joins the Radiohead / Roger Waters Spat

Nicholas Hunt / Ian Gavan  / Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Nicholas Hunt / Ian Gavan / Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Despite a lengthy protest led by Roger Waters, Radiohead’s performance in Tel Aviv, Israel will go on as scheduled this Wednesday (July 19). Now, another rock legend, R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, has entered the fray, and he’s on the side of Radiohead.

Last night, Stipe posted a photo of flowers growing with a high-rise apartment building in the background on his Instagram feed. “I stand with Radiohead and their decision to perform,” he wrote. “Let’s hope a dialogue continues, helping to bring the occupation to an end and lead to a peaceful solution.”

The day before, Waters again spoke out against the band, as well as frontman Thom Yorke’s complaints about the controversy in a chat on Facebook and transcribed by Rolling Stone. “I know Thom Yorke’s been whining about how he feels insulted, people are suggesting he doesn’t know what’s going on,” he said. “Well Thom, you shouldn’t feel insulted because if you did know what’s going on, you would have a conversation with [director] Ken Loach, who’s been begging you to have a conversation, or with me, I begged you, Thom. I sent you a number of emails, begging you to have a conversation. As did Brian Eno; you ignored us all, you won’t speak to anyone about anything. So it’s that kind of isolationism that is extremely unhelpful to everybody.”

Yorke has defended his band’s decision by taking exception to the idea that they aren’t aware of the issues. “It’s deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw s— at us in public,” he said. “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].”

Last week, Yorke addressed Loach’s directly on Twitter, saying, “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 [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu any more than [President Donald] Trump, but we still play in America. Music, art and academia is about crossing borders not building them, about open minds not closed ones, about shared humanity, dialogue and freedom of expression. I hope that makes it clear Ken.”

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