Alon Hadar of Yediot Ahronoth has interviewed rock’n'roll BDShole Roger Waters, who agreed to do it in an attempt to address his fans in Israel to explain his actions.
Some of the “highlights” of the interview include:
His thoughts on his last concert in Israel:
“The performance in Israel was great, I enjoyed it and the crowds were amazing. At the end of my performance, I said: “You are the generation that needs to lead toward peace with your neighbors” and suddenly, at that moment, the entire crowd became quiet.”
Do you regret that performance?
“Absolutely not, it was an eye-opening experience for me, that concert in Neve-Shalom was really wonderful. But I played music in an apartheid state. If this state stopped being an apartheid state, I will return to play for you. I can’t wait for the moment that that happens.”
Why he supports a cultural boycott of Israel:
Israel is one of the few states in the Middle East where an artist like yourself can come and express his opinions without fearing for his life. Don’t be a big hero abroad, come here and try to convince us that you’re right.
“I tried to convince, it was not effective. I never saw a visit of a popular musician having an impact on Israeli policy, other than the fact that those singers legitimize that policy.”
Besides refuting accusations of anti-Semitism, he wants to make you Israelis think differently. This is what made him agree to have us accompany him on his European tour. He has no new show or album to promote, only a genuine will to try and explain himself, to send a message to his fans in Israel. “I’m worried for them, because they’re in a very difficult situation because of the government’s policy,” he begins. “The problem is the occupation and the denial of the rights of the Palestinian people. I want my fans to put pressure on the government. The power is in their hands.”
And meanwhile, your fans feel quite hurt by you.
“I want the fans to understand that I’m not just talking in order to criticize. I am criticizing the government’s policy. I don’t want to criticize Israeli citizens.”
And still, you boycott them.
“I’ve been in your country, I’ve traveled throughout the West Bank, I visited Jenin. I saw the checkpoints, the settlements, the occupation forces. I decided that I wanted to protest. What do they expect me to do in order to protest? To chain myself to the railings at Buckingham palace? That doesn’t seem particularly effective.”
But a cultural boycott is an exceptional and extreme step.
“When white activists started to organize protests outside South Africa to awaken world public opinion, they said: ‘You have to take apart the system because it is wrong.’ The movement progressed slowly over the years and developed the idea of a cultural boycott. The only reason for the boycott is that it is effective.”
His response to Bar Refaeli’s well publicized demand he stop using her photo in his shows:
Bar Refaeli tweeted “Roger Waters, you should take my photo off the video art in your shows. If it’s boycott you want, go all the way.” ..Waters did not respond to these claims thus far, and only answered Refaeli: “No problem,” quickly removing her photo from his performance.
His comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa:
You’re talking about an apartheid regime in South Africa. Here the situation is totally different.
“In the occupied territories, Jews are governed by civil laws and there are totally different laws for the Palestinians and the Arabs, who are under military laws. That is exactly like the old Pass Laws that were in South Africa. That’s apartheid! Clear and simple. No question.”
At this point, Waters refers us to the dictionary, to check the exact definition of apartheid, to prove that he is right. And indeed: “Population separation on the basis of race, a regime where the ruling race has privileges that members of other races do not have.” This doesn’t help, Waters continues: “When one race or ethnic group controls another race or ethnic group by means of its power, this is the crime of apartheid and that’s the status quo, all day, every day, in the occupied territories,” he says and raises his voice. “That’s how it is in Israel itself as well, there are different laws depending on whether you are Jewish or Arab.”
You mean the “Law of Return”? That is the basis of the idea of Israel as a Jewish state.
“That’s one of them. You only need five or six discriminatory laws and you already have an apartheid state. So long as you don’t have equal rights for all, you are practicing apartheid, so I can repeat this again and again, and Benjamin Netanyahu can deny it a thousand times until the end of his days. It’s not something that is controversial. I apologize if some of my fans in Israel are sensitive to this, but it’s a fact.
His automatic acceptance of the palestinian narrative, which includes understanding palestinian terror and rejecting Israel’s security concerns:
You forget that Netanyahu already declared his support for the idea of two states and called on the Palestinians to enter into negotiations without preconditions.
“There are some politicians who say something about the two-state solution and that they want peace, but their policies don’t show any sign that that’s true. They continue building settlements, they continue the occupation.”
Israel has never annexed the territories. At every opportunity, it declares that this situation is temporary. There is not one Israeli citizen who is not interested in peace.
“If you look at the map and see where the settlements are and where the wall passes, then you see that it’s not something temporary. There is a deliberate attempt here to annex the entire territory. By the way, they already annexed East Jersualem and the Golan Heights officially, not just de facto.”
Let’s not forget that thousands of Israeli citizens were murdered in terrorist attacks in Israel and abroad. Some of the most severe terrorist attacks were launched from the city you visited, Jenin.
“I am speaking to you from the perspective of the BDS movement, which is a group that does not support violence. I don’t support violence from any side. I don’t think that this problem can ever be solved using violent means. When I was in Jenin, I went to a refugee camp and spoke with the elders. They told me about the events of 2002 (Operation Defensive Shield) what happened and how it affected their children. It’s horrifying.”
(his acceptance of the lies is horrifying – Aussie Dave)
You are painting a picture of black and white, of the good guys and the bad guys. And what about the Palestinians? Aren’t they partly to blame for the situation?
“I think that putting part of the blame on Palestinians is a bit like putting part of the blame of rape on the woman being raped. The victim is never guilty. In this case, Palestinians were expelled from their land in `48 by armed force and were not allowed to return to their homes. They are the victims. It is unavoidable that some of them will try to resist in ways that I do not agree with.”
His disdain of Binyamin Netanyahu:
If you were to meet Benjamin Netanyahu, what message would you have for him?
“I’m trying to think of how to say what I want and still be nice. OK, I guess I’ll say ‘it’s starting to look more and more unlikely that you will be the one that will solve this problem, so if you really care, you need to dedicate as much of your time as possible trying to find the Israeli leader that can do it.”
(I can only assume he would have been honored to have met Yasser Arafat, or at least more than willing to meet with him. And I also guess he would be willing to meet with Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas – Aussie Dave)
His continued defense of the infamous Star of David pig and those accusations of antisemitism:
”The song ‘Comfortably Numb’ describes the emotional breakdown of the main character in the album, who becomes a fascist and a demagogue,” explains Waters. “The inflatable pig is part of his demagogic fantasy. It has a bunch of symbols on it, not just the cross and Star of David, but also the hammer and sickle, all the symbols that it has on it are symbols of oppression. That’s what they are.”
And here you are, defining the Star of David as a symbol of oppression, it hurts the feelings of the Jewish people.
“I absolutely defend my right to express myself in my artwork in the way that I find the most appropriate and fitting. The Star of David is the symbol of the state of Israel. If you start to throw around the term “anti-Semite” at everyone who criticizes Israel – and that’s what they’re actually doing – that weakens your next attack on people who really are anti-Semites, ones that really don’t like Jews or Judaism or anything connected with it. I’m not an anti-Semite.”
So why do they accuse you of anti-Semitism, for no reason?
“Two years ago, I explained to the Anti-Defamation League the use of symbols like the Star of David on the pig and they said: ‘We don’t like it, but we don’t believe that it’s anti-Semitic.’ Suddenly, after I wrote the open letter to my colleagues in rock ‘n’ roll and offered that they join the cultural boycott of Israel, they changed their minds and declared me an anti-Semite. Maybe they felt my letter went a step too far.”
And here Waters suddenly grows nostalgic, missing his parents – his mother Mary and his father Eric Waters, who he never got to see. “When they accused me of being an anti-Semite, I told them that I still remember my mother’s friends after the war. I remember Miriam and Claudette, I remember the numbers on their arms. Two of the lucky ones who survived were an inseparable part of my life – so don’t call me an anti-Semite.”
His comparison of the security fence to the Berlin Wall, which he believes was less horrendous:
That is not a wall, that is a separation fence that was built after a series of suicide bombings that originated in Palestinian Authority areas. You insist on continuing to see it as a symbol of ethnic separation.
“You listen to the official position of every Israeli government for generations, that you need the barrier for defense, and then you look at the map, and you understand that it is there for land theft and annexation in every possible sense. So why do you lie? Why pretend that it has any connection whatsoever to security matters? You need to be on the Green Line, on the 1967 borders, as you intended. But you’re not, it’s another piece of untruth, they are lying and I don’t understand how they expect to advance toward peace this way.”
Come on, is it really possible to compare the separation wall with the Berlin wall?
“Your wall is a hundred times more horrifying, and yours still exists – theirs was destroyed a long time ago.”
His hypocrisy towards other places such as Syria, where he is more willing to believe there are two sides to the story:
Waters doesn’t make it easy for us Israelis. He puts all the blame on us, unwilling to acknowledge the responsibility of the other side. But when he is forced to deal with what’s happening in the rest of the world, he suddenly becomes much more forgiving and succeeds in internalizing the complexities of both sides of a conflict. Large massacres in Syria? “There are conflicts in the world where one side is absolutely just, like what was in South Africa, or the southern United States or like in your country,” he tries to explain. “In Syria, that’s not the situation.”
“Israel is unique in that it has a long history of human rights violations and actions that are contrary to international law, without anyone doing anything about it,” he tries to explain why we are always to blame. “It is protected in the United Nations, and in the UN Security Council by the US veto. Who goes and speaks in the name of the Palestinians? No one. And who attacks Iran and Syria and puts them under international sanctions? Almost everyone.”
A few days ago, horrifying pictures from the Assad regime’s chemical weapons attack in Syria were published. You have to agree that an American response is called for, maybe even an aerial attack.
“It’s problematic when they say, without having any proof, that they have no doubt that Assad used chemical weapons on innocent citizens and killed 1,500 people.”
You’re telling me that you believe him?
“Look, I am no fan of Assad and certainly don’t believe his every word. But after the lies of the Bush administration, I am happy that the citizens of the United States are now saying: ‘wait a minute, we heard all this talk before the invasion of Iraq.’ They are not becoming saints, but rather they are becoming selfish. That selfishness is good insofar as it stops Obama, who seems to be a bit cuckoo when he wants to launch missiles at a country that is already torn to ribbons and destroyed by a blood-soaked civil war.”
Do you want the world to continue to do nothing in the face of these horrific pictures?
“Who knows what is better for the citizens of Syria, the frying pan or the fire? Putin showed a video of one of the rebels tearing out the heart of a dead Syrian soldier and eating it on the street. So you’re sure you want to support the rebel side? What is happening there is beyond catastrophe. The existence of horrors is intended to keep the powerful powerful and the rich rich and the extremist extremist.”
Message received loud and clear, Waters.
It seems you truly do hate Israel.