Eddie Vedder shrugs off controversy over recent anti-war comments

Pearl Jam singer responds to criticism after an onstage speech was branded a 'harsh anti-Israel diatribe'

Eddie Vedder has brushed aside the controversy over his recent comments said to be regarding the conflict in Israel and Gaza. "Imagine that – I'm still anti-war," the Pearl Jam singer wrote in a statement. "[War] hurts no matter which sides the bombs are falling on."

Vedder was apparently surprised by the furor over his remarks at an 11 July concert in Milton Keynes. "I swear to fucking God, there are people out there who are looking for a reason to kill," he said that night, mid-way through a performance of the song Daughter. "They’re looking for a reason to go across borders and take over land that doesn’t belong to them. They should get the fuck out and mind their own fucking business … We don't want to give them our taxes to drop bombs on children."

Although Vedder and Pearl Jam never overtly referenced Israel, Gaza, or even the Middle East, the Jerusalem Post branded his monologue a "harsh anti-Israel diatribe". Pro-Israeli fans flooded the Pearl Jam's Facebook page, criticising the speech, while Israeli rock DJ Ben Red published an open letter telling Vedder to stay away from Israel now that his "true face has finally been revealed".

On Wednesday afternoon, Vedder posted his own letter on the official Pearl Jam website. Once again he avoided any direct reference to the violence that has broken out between Hamas and the Israel Defence Force. "With about a dozen assorted ongoing conflicts in the news every day, and with the stories becoming more horrific, the level of sadness becomes unbearable," he wrote. "Some of us, after another morning dose of news coverage full of death and destruction, feel the need to reach out to others to see if we are not alone in our outrage."

"I don’t know how to process the feeling of guilt and complicity when I hear about the deaths of a civilian family from a US drone strike," Vedder went on. "When attempting to make a plea for more peace in the world at a rock concert, we are reflecting the feelings of all those we have come in contact with so we may all have a better understanding of each other. That's not something I'm going to stop any time soon … I'd rather be naïve, heartfelt and hopeful than resigned to say nothing for fear of misinterpretation and retribution."

Vedder's letter was met with an inevitable mixture of praise and condemnation. "Beautifully said … Brought me to tears," tweeted one reader. "Your ignorance was breathtaking before, but you've outdone yourself here," replied another.

Pearl Jam are not the first musicians to be drawn into the fray over Israel's new offensive. Neil Young and Crazy Horse cancelled a concert booked in Tel Aviv after Pink Floyd's Roger Waters sent a letter pleading with him to drop the show. Swizz Beats, TI and Waka Flocka Flame have all tweeted their support for the "#FreePalestine" campaign, as did Rihanna, although she deleted the post within minutes. "Let's pray for peace and a swift end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict!" the pop star wrote instead.

Vedder's next scheduled gig is a solo set at this week's Super Bock Super Rock festival in Portugal.

• This article was amended on 18 July 2014. An earlier version said in error that DJ Ben Red had deleted his open letter.


Sean Michaels

The GuardianTramp

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