Big Thief have extended their world tour by adding two dates in Tel Aviv, Israel, cushioning the announcement with a statement claiming to be “open to other people’s perspectives” regarding the country’s conflict with Palestine.
Noting that bassist Max Oleartchik is from Israel, the band explained that they wanted to explore Oleartchik’s hometown and meet his family and friends in the same way that he had done for them as they toured the United States. “It is important for us to go where we have family to share space and play for them,” the band said. “It is foundational. It is in that spirit that we made our decision to play in Israel.”
Aware that many fans would likely not support their decision to perform in a country currently occupying another, Big Thief went on on to add, “We are well aware of the cultural aspect of the BDS movement and the desperate reality of the Palestinian people. In terms of where we fit into the boycott, we don’t claim to know where the moral high ground lies and we want to remain open to other people’s perspectives and to love beyond disagreement. We understand the inherently political nature of playing there as well as the implications. Our intention is not to diminish the values of those who support the boycott or to turn a blind eye to those suffering. We are striving to be in the spirit of learning.”
With that in mind, the band concluded their statement by announcing that the profits from the shows — slated for July 6th and 7th — would be donated to humanitarian organizations that aid Palestinian children, “including joint efforts between Palestinians and Israelis working together for a better future.” Of course, that qualification led many fans to argue that the band did, in fact, see a particular “moral high ground” in the situation.
“By donating profits to Palestinian NGO’s, you’re admitting you all know it’s wrong!” one user commented. “There’s no both sides-ing this. One side is ethnically cleansing the other. End of story.”
Another fan commented, “bad choice, in bad faith, yall know for a fact this is not the right thing to do,” while others simply added “delete,” “This sucks,” and “Laaaaaame.”
What’s more, another Internet sleuth discovered that the band posted almost the exact same statement two years ago when they announced two shows in Israel for March 2020. In that post, the group again said that they were not going to the country to make a political statement, but acknowledged the inherently political nature of the move. See Big Thief’s 2020 and 2022 statements, and their current backlash, below.
Last year, 600 musicians, including Rage Against the Machine, Julian Casablancas, and Run the Jewels, signed a letter calling upon their peers to boycott performances in Israel in a show of support for Palestine. Big Thief released their latest album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, in February.
Two years apart, the exact same preemptive apology for playing in Tel Aviv. I love this band a lot but they’re just not listening to people. pic.twitter.com/1QVotaDuJ4— mr nasty no drama (@mrnastynodrama) June 4, 2022