US indie-rock outfit Big Thief have announced their decision to cancel two upcoming dates in Israel this July following widespread criticism.
Earlier this week, Big Thief had taken to social media to share a statement confirming they were booked to perform two shows in Tel Aviv in early July, noting that due to it being the hometown of bassist Max Oleartchik, it was “foundational” that they “go where we have family to share space and play for them”.
The since-deleted statement was itself a near carbon-copy of a post shared by the band in early 2020 ahead of another Israel gig that was ultimately cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though the group also stated they were “well aware of the cultural aspect of the BDS movement and the desperate reality of the Palestinian people”, the announcement of the July concerts was met with swift backlash on social media.
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In a new statement released overnight, the group have since walked back their decision to play in Israel, maintaining that they “oppose the illegal occupation and the systematic oppression of the Palestinian people”, and admitting that their intentions in performing the shows were well-intentioned, if naïve.
“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,” Big Thief wrote in their statement. “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 naivete of our original statement on playing in Israel and we hope those who were planning to attend the shows understand our choice to cancel them.”
Despite the recent backlash, Big Thief had previously performed in Israel back in 2017 with little to no criticism.