Nick Cave is preparing to play the second of two concerts in Israel. Justifying his decision to perform despite the cultural boycott of Israel, Cave framed his act as a statement against “the silencing of artists.”
A few miles away from Cave’s press conference celebrating his concerts, Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour remains under house arrest. Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was arrested in 2015 for posting a poem online. Numerous civil liberty organisations including PEN International, have campaigned for her release. 300 writers, including 11 Pulitzer Prize winners, signed a 2016 letter condemning the attempt to silence her voice. Tatour has announced that if she is released from detention she will leave Israel as she cannot be truly free under its apartheid regime.
“I don’t think they will leave me alone…I cannot live without poetry. They will examine everything I write. Therefore, I will do what every poet who wants to be free does: leave. I will look for my life elsewhere. It is very hard for me to say this, but it comes after much thought. They want me to stop writing. For me to be a poet without a pen and without feelings. But if I cannot mourn for my compatriots who are being killed, how will I be able to be a poet?”
Her lawyer, Abed Fahoum, told the press “I believe that they aim to use her to intimidate and silence all Palestinians.”
Dareen Tatour’s case is a prominent example of Israel’s systematic suppression of Palestinian culture, art and freedom of political expression. In recent years, these have included the banning of public readings of Palestinian poetry , closing down of plays as well as the detention of artists. The writer Ahmad Qatamesh, who has been declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, has been jailed in eight of the last 25 years.
But it is not the silencing of voices like Tatour, and Qatemeh, nor of any Palestinian suffering under Israeli oppression, that Nick Cave has chosen to protest. It is the threats he perceives to his own freedom of expression that concern him. As for the nature of those threats, they emerge it seems from his being asked to sign petitions and from fans and other artists asking him to make a moral choice not to perform in Israel until it ends its systematic violations of Palestinian human rights.
Nick Cave will play his concert tonight and like Radiohead before him will doubtless be celebrated by the Israeli authorities for his decision. Israeli diplomats worldwide celebrated Radiohead’s decision to play a concert in Tel Aviv earlier this year and the Jerusalem Post described their decision as “the best hasbara [advocacy] Israel has received lately”.
As Cave plays and celebrates his “artistic freedom” Dareen Tatour, entering the 769th day of her detention, will continue to receive support from the artists of conscience around the world who know the real meaning of artistic integrity and courage.
As the writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin said, “There is such a thing as integrity. Some people are noble. There is such a thing as courage. The terrible thing is that the reality behind these words depends ultimately on what the human being (meaning every single one of us) believes to be real. The terrible thing is that the reality behind all these words depends on choices one has got to make, for ever and ever and ever, every day.”
Ben Jamal, Director- Palestine Solidarity Campaign