Big Thief Cancels Tel Aviv Shows After Fan Backlash

Photo: Burak Cingi/Redferns

Big Thief has canceled their previously announced shows in Tel Aviv after facing backlash from fans in support of the BDS movement. On June 4, the band made an Instagram post that couched the tour date announcement in preemptively defensive language. “We are well aware of the cultural aspect of the BDS movement and the desperate reality of the Palestinian people,” they wrote. “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,” the statement continued. “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.” They noted that bandmate Max Oleartchik is Israeli and that this would be a “hometown” show for him and finished their statement by saying, “The show’s profits will be donated to NGOs that provide medical and humanitarian aid to Palestinian children, including joint efforts between Palestinians and Israelis working together for a better future.”

Twitter user @caccababy pointed out that the bulk of this statement was copy-pasted from a Facebook post the band published when they announced a Tel Aviv show in 2020, and many fans tweeted their objections to both the concert and the phrasing of the band’s announcement.

Then, on June 9, the band made another Instagram post announcing the cancellation of their two shows in Tel Aviv. “When we spoke of loving ‘beyond disagreement’ and not knowing ‘where the moral high ground lies,’ that was in specific reference to playing shows in Israel during a time when BDS is calling for a cultural boycott. This was not in reference to the Israeli occupation and the displacement of Palestinians.” They clarified that they “oppose the illegal occupation and the systematic oppression of the Palestinian people. We believe in total freedom and self-determination for all Palestinians,” and wrote that their desire to play shows in Israel “stemmed from a simple belief that music can heal” but that they “have more learning to do so we can take more informed action.”

In response to the cancellation, the Israeli concert venue where they were meant to perform, called Barby, made a post on its Facebook page calling Big Thief (per Facebook’s translation) a “bunch of miserable spineless musicians who are afraid of their own shadow” while referring to the backlash as “Nazi fear boycotts on Instagram.” The strong language continues, “I wish you all the evil in the world just as you did to your fans in Israel and hope that when you went up like this you will come down and become another passing episode.”

Big Thief Cancels Tel Aviv Shows After Fan Backlash