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Big Thief cancel controversial Israeli shows

After coming under scrutiny over the past week for controversially scheduling two shows in Tel Aviv, Israel, Big Thief have now decided to cancel both dates.

The band released their new double album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, back in February and were set to play two dates in bassist Max Oleartchick’s hometown on July 6th and 7th. Oleartchick grew up in the Israeli capital and still lives there today.

“We are excited to announce two shows in Max’s hometown, Tel Aviv, Israel, on July 6th and 7th,” they initially on their Instagram page. They then defended their decision, and explained. “Accompanying this announcement, we would again like to clarify our motivations and intentions for playing in Tel Aviv, Israel, with as much transparency as possible.”

They added candidly: “Over the last seven years, we’ve travelled 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.

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“We have grown so close. 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.”

“We are 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. 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 message concluded: “With this in heart, 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.”

In a new development, the band have taken to social media once again to announce the cancellation of the Israel tour dates, and explain why the shows will no longer be going ahead.

Read their new statement in full below.

We will be cancelling our 2 shows in Tel Aviv.

We would like to start by clarifying a few things about 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. This was not in reference to the Israeli occupation and the displacement of the 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.

Although we have much to learn, these basic realities were never in question for us. We acknowledge that aspects of our previous post were written unclearly and in avoidance of the magnitude and importance of this conversation. We also recognize that there are limitations to our perspectives based on our various layers of privilege. We said we are “well aware of the cultural aspects of the BDS boycott” and we have since realized that that is not the case.

Since announcing these shows in Israel we have been in constant dialogue with friends, family, BDS supporters and allies, Palestinians, and Israeli citizens who are committed to fight for justice for Palestinians. It has been the only thing on our minds and in our hearts.

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. We now recognize that the shows we 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 understand our choice to cancel them.

We recognize that withholding our cultural labor alone cannot be the only action we take. We have more learning to do so we can take more informed action.

As a band, we consider each other family, forever reaching to understand each other. In your responses to our actions, you have helped us realize that we were in avoidance of entering this discussion about Max’s home in a more thoughtful way.

We are committed to growing from this, and moving forward with the transparency, accountability, and import that such a situation requires.

With love,

Big Thief