Big Thief Cancels Shows in Israel Following Online Backlash, Venue Responds

Earlier this week, the indie rock group Big Thief announced that they would play a run of shows in Tel Aviv, Israel in July. The concert announcement was backed up with a defense of the shows saying they wished to share their “homes, families, and friends” with one another to garner a “deeper understanding” of how each member of the band grew up.

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With bassist Max Oleartchik being an Israel native, the group argued they needed to visit the country just as they have toured around the U.S., the home of all the remaining three members.

Due to the long ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, many fans and social media users were quick to offer criticism of the shows, saying the band was showing support to Israel and making a “big deal” of the tour’s announcement.

In response to the backlash, the group took to Twitter Thursday (June 9) to announce they would be canceling the run of shows.

The group began their statement by saying: “We would like to start by clarifying a few things from our first post. 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.”

They continued, “This was not in reference to the Israeli occupation and the displacement of Palestinians. To be clear, we oppose the illegal occupation and the systematic oppression of the Palestinian people. We believe in total freedom and self-determination for all Palestinians.”

They then went on to apologize for the first post in defense of the tour saying they “have much to learn.”

“We acknowledge that aspects of our previous post were written unclearly and in avoidance of the magnitude and importance of this conversation,” they wrote. “Our intent in wanting to play the shows in Tel Aviv, where Max was born, raised, and currently lives, stemmed from a simple belief that music can heal,” the band added. “We now recognize that the shows we had booked do not honor that sentiment. We are sorry to those we hurt with the recklessness and naïveté of our original statement on playing Israel.”

The band ended their statement by saying they hoped fans who were planning on attending the shows understood their choice to cancel them. Find their full statement below.

Barby, the venue in Tel Aviv where the band was scheduled to perform, responded on Facebook to the cancelation by deeming the band “a bunch of spineless musicians who are afraid of their own shadow.”

The venue’s statement continued, “Big Thief canceled their show in Israel !!! We did not call, we did not ask, there was no producer who contacted and bought the show. It came from them, a request to perform in Israel, and that after canceling following the corona. BDS has been with us for 20 years, it has not changed since the last time they were in the country.”

“The insults on Instagram, just made you fold / scared. Some paid protesters outside the hall in Europe made your managers kneel, ‘and the solution’—let’s skip Israel, let’s give up our audience, where it’s less important…Wish you all the evil in the world just as you did to your fan base in the country, and hope that just as you rose like this you will go down, and become another passing episode.”

Photo by Alexa Viscius

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