Big Thief

Indie rock band defends decision to perform in Israel, sparks criticism from BDS supporters.

By Shiryn Ghermezian, The Algemeiner

After the Brooklyn-based indie rock band Big Thief announced that it will perform in Tel Aviv next month, supporters of the anti-Zionist BDS movement have called on the group to cancel their two upcoming shows in Israel.

On Tuesday, the BDS movement urged Big Thief to cancel “their complicit concerts in apartheid Tel Aviv” and falsely claimed that the venue where the band will perform, Tel Aviv’s Barby Club, “openly celebrates the massacres of children.”

Big Thief, whose double album ‘”Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You” debuted in February, is extending their world tour by playing in bassist Max Oleartchick’s hometown of Tel Aviv on July 6 and 7, the four-piece band said in a statement Saturday on Instagram. The group explained that they want to explore Oleartchick’s native town, and meet his family and friends, just like they have done for the other band members as they toured the United States.

“Over the last seven years we’ve traveled constantly around 3 of our members’ home country, the United States, meeting each other’s families and childhood friends and sharing in the joys and sorrows of a complicated, beautiful and tumultuous home. We have grown so close,” the band said.

“It is important for us to share our homes, families and friends with each other in order to gain a deeper understanding of one another and the people and places that have made us who we are. It is important for us to go where we have family to share space and play for them. It is foundational. It is in that spirit that we made our decision to play in Israel,” the band stated.

Big Thief went on to say that it is “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,” the group added. “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.”

The band concluded by saying that proceeds from the two concerts in Tel Aviv will be donated to organizations that provide medical and humanitarian aid to Palestinian youth, “including joint efforts between Palestinians and Israelis working together for a better future.”

Big Thief performed in Tel Aviv in 2017 and was scheduled to hold another concert in the city in 2020, but the show was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After announcing their 2020 show, the band shared a statement on Facebook that is almost identical to the one posted on Instagram last week.