Why Radiohead Should Perform in Israel, Writes an Arab Playing With the Band

Radiohead's Thom Yorke
Thom Yorke from Radiohead performs on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival site at Worthy Farm in Pilton on June 23 near Glastonbury, England. Matt Cardy/Getty

Much has been said and written ahead of Radiohead’s concert in Tel Aviv this week. The successful British rock band has been under pressure to cancel its visit to Israel, in another attempt to boycott the only democracy in the Middle East. 

Among the critics was director Ken Loach, who called on the band not to perform in Israel and "whitewash the country’s human rights violations."

But such an approach is counter-productive and only hurting those who wish to promote peace and tolerance in a troubled region.

This approach is hurting me. I am a Muslim Arab woman. I am a singer. And this Wednesday, I will share the stage with Radiohead in their concert.

I was born in Haifa and grew up in Lod—two cities with a mix of Arab and Jewish communities, living side by side. It wasn’t always easy, but my personal experience has taught me that open dialog is the only way to overcome our differences. Ever since I won a singing competition on Israeli TV, my music and my story have inspired many in Israel to open their minds and hearts to Arabic music and my people's culture.

I have dedicated my life to music, and dedicated my music to breaking down borders and bringing people closer together. That is why this past year I did what no other Arab-Israeli has done before, and sang in Israel's official Independence and Memorial Day ceremonies.

"Playing in a country isn't the same as endorsing its government," Yorke wrote in response to Loach claims. However, I believe that it has everything to do with endorsing its people, and using music to engage with them. After all, if we don’t engage one another, and work together, we will never find peace between us.

This Wednesday, I will also perform alongside one of Israel's most talented artists, Dudu Tassa—a Jewish singer—to bring a message of co-existence to every corner of the country. The two of us were fortunate enough to be invited by Thom Yorke to tour with Radiohead across the U.S. earlier this year. 

I must admit, I had never heard of Radiohead before receiving Yorke’s invitation, but that tour changed my life and was one of the peaks of my career. A peak I am looking forward to ascending again this week when I share the stage with Radiohead in front of a sold out crowd in Tel Aviv.

An Arabic proverb says "music is the nutrition of the spirit." Music feeds people’s spirits and opens them up. Music builds bridges and this is exactly what I am hoping to achieve through this concert.

Those who call for boycott are only trying to divide us. They are trying to shut down the music. I will not be a part of that. Sadly, there are too many countries in the Middle East in which such a concert could have never taken place.

I was lucky to be born in Israel, and I am grateful for the opportunity to build bridges of understanding.

Alongside Thom Yorke and Radiohead I plan on rocking Israel this Wednesday.

Nasreen Qadri is an Arab-Israeli singer who rose to national prominence in 2012 after winning the singing contest “Eyal Golan is Calling You.” Radiohead perform in Tel Aviv on Wednesday July 19.