Waters’ Support of BDS, Criticism of Israel Worthy of Denigration

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By Steve Feldman, Lee Bender and Kevin Ross

Roger Waters, the former Pink Floyd bass player, is part of a chorus of activists who claim that they are not anti-Israel nor anti-Jewish, but rather that they are pro-“Palestinian.”

By many media accounts, the Palestinian-Arabs are beset with societal problems — not enough energy, poor sewage systems, no opportunity for political dissent; neither the Palestinian Authority nor Hamas have allowed elections in more than a decade; their leaders have stolen hundreds of millions in aid money (well, the media never mention those last three, though they are facts).

Yet Waters and those in league with him at the forefront of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) never raise any of those or other issues that might actually better the lives of Palestinians. No, they only sing one tune: Bash Israel, the one and only nation state of the Jewish people.

Waters is performing three concerts in Philadelphia this week at the Wells Fargo Center, following heavy promotion and free-ticket giveaways by radio station WMMR. One wonders why such a rabid Jew-hater is welcomed in one of the region’s largest venues and why radio tries to drive more people toward his potential anti-Jewish diatribes?

Waters is obsessed with Israel. He aggressively and relentlessly hounds musicians planning to perform in Israel to get them to cancel their Jewish-state gigs. His recent public dust-up was with Radiohead leader Thom Yorke, who courageously defied Waters and others, performing with his band there last month.

Waters narrated an anti-Israel, anti-Jewish pseudo-documentary that, among other things, claims undue influence by pro-Israel groups on U.S. public opinion and policy; he recently did a live Facebook chat with BDS founder Omar Barghouti, and in media appearances worldwide bludgeons Israel — distorting or completely lying about historical facts and contemporary situations.

Some examples:

  • In July, Waters told his Facebook audience: “I’m not sure that there are any regimes harsher than [Israel’s].”
  • On the Canadian TV show Tout Le Monde en Parle last November, Waters told the host: “In 1947, when the State of Israel was created, it was created against a background that it was suggested by the United Nations in resolution 191[sic] that two states should be created … and there have been no serious moves made to allow them [the Palestinians] to have a state.” He claimed further: “Palestinian-Arabs live under martial law,” and “none of them have any rights at all.”
  • In April during a New York Times live event, Waters endorsed the so-called Palestinian “right of return” that would facilitate the influx of millions of Arabs into Israel who claim to be refugees — an action experts across the political spectrum agree would mean the destruction of Israel.
  • A Facebook page promoting a screening of the film Waters narrated claims “the Israeli government, the U.S. government, and the pro-Israel lobby have joined forces, often with very different motives, to shape American media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict in Israel’s favor.”
  • During a 2016 concert, Waters praised BDS campus activists — the same activists who threaten and harass Jewish students and sponsor speakers who demonize Jews, creating an environment of fear and hostility.
  • His tour four years ago featured a giant inflatable pig marked with a Star of David and dollar signs that hovered over the audience.

Make no mistake: BDS is not a warm and fuzzy social-justice movement. It is a cousin of the Arab boycott of Israel, illegal in the United States since the 1970s. BDS is a racist drive to single out, isolate, delegitimize and economically harm Israel. While actual human rights violations occur throughout the world, BDS activists target only Israel — despite Israel’s record as a human rights beacon in a neighborhood where elsewhere rights are hard to come by.

The Zionist Organization of America condemned Waters, calling him an “unabashed anti-Semitic bigot.” The Simon Wiesenthal Center called Waters “an open hater of Jews.”

During Waters’ current tour, the Greater Miami Jewish Federation placed on ad on the Miami Herald homepage telling Waters: “Anti-Semitism and hatred are not welcome in Miami.” It noted in a statement that Waters’ “obsessive fixation on Israel betrays a bigotry that goes far beyond criticism of a nation’s policies.”

Chicago’s Jewish Community Relations Council stated that Waters is “repeatedly espousing anti-Israel rhetoric that often crosses the line from legitimate criticism of Israeli policies into anti-Semitism.”

While political and social commentary has long been a part of rock music, Waters goes too far. He is not picking on an individual politician or party, nor really trying to improve a situation. He is demonizing and engendering hatred against the homeland of the Jewish people, and thus Jews everywhere.

He should be denigrated, not welcomed; shown the door, not given a stage; and shunned, rather than promoted. Jew-hatred is too readily accepted. We know where it leads if it is not condemned and fought.

Steve Feldman is the executive director of the Zionist Organization of America: Greater Philadelphia. Lee Bender and Kevin Ross are co-presidents.