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Roger Waters Comes Across As Antisemitic As Ever in Interview With Der Spiegel

Following Roger Waters’ announcement he is going to sue Frankfurt over their cancellation of his concert, Germany’s Der Spiegel have published an interview with him and also facilitated a discussion between him and a leftist Israeli called Meron Mendel.

Waters has reproduced the interview on his website, apparently thinking it paints him in a good light.

It doesn’t.

In fact, after reading his responses, his antisemitism has never seemed more apparent.

Even the leftist Mendel sees it.

I have reproduced the most telling parts below, as well as my comments.

Waters: Yes, of course. I am not an anti-Semite. I have never been an anti-Semite and I will never be one. I have stressed that on many occasions. It is bizarre that my career should now be attacked on the basis of allegations made by the Israel lobby.

How not to deny you are antisemitic! Speaking about an all powerful lobby is an antisemitic trope. Using the word “Israel” instead of “Jewish” to describe it does not change this fact, given this so-called “lobby” is made up of mainly Jewish organizations.

SPIEGEL: Can you understand that there are statements and artistic choices that suggest such an assessment? A flying pig, for example, is a highlight of your shows – there was a Star of David on it.

Waters: And therefore I am supposed to be an anti-Semite? The flying pig is part of every show where I play the song “In the Flesh”. This particular pig flew ten years ago as a prop for “The Wall” concerts. In the statement of the magistrate of Frankfurt it says that I gave 200 shows in which a Star of David was supposed to be on it. That is nonsense. I researched it again, there were less than twenty concerts, and only five of them in Europe. Because as soon as people complained about it, on social media after a show in Belgium, I said: Okay, I can understand why some people, some religious Jews, are upset.

SPIEGEL: And then?

Waters: And then I immediately removed the Star of David from that pig. But I stand by my original decision to use it. It was one of many symbols for dogmas of all kinds. Religious dogmas like Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And commercial symbols representing capitalist dogma. In addition to the Star of David, the crucifix and the crescent moon, the McDonald’s logo, the dollar sign and the Mercedes star were also on display at these shows…. No company complained, no Christian, no Muslim. Only the Israel lobby. At the time, the ADL took a close look …

Spiegel: The Anti-Defamation League, based in New York, an organisation that campaigns against the defamation of and discrimination against Jews.

Waters: They decided that there was no anti-Semitism here.

This is not entirely true. At the time, they decided to take him at his word. But in 2013, Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL National Director at the time, explained in an open letter they no longer believed there was no antisemitic intent.

Over the past few years, you have incorporated Jewish imagery into your concert performances, painting a Star of David on your famous floating pig alongside other symbols, including a dollar sign and the sickle and hammer. You repeatedly rejected accusations of a malicious subtext to the use of the Star of David, assuring fans that you were in no way equating Jews with money or communism. We took you at your word, and defended your actions as artistic expression void of anti-Semitic intent.

In recent months, however, your relentless attacks against Israel and calls for a boycott of the Jewish State have caused us to reexamine your attitude towards Jews.

In fact, the ADL have a whole section on Waters’ antisemitism on their website.

Mendel: I have been in the Israeli peace movement for 30 years and an opponent of the occupation of Palestine ever since. I wonder why you still cannot admit that your pig action not only hurt religious feelings, but that linking the Star of David to symbols of capitalism reproduces classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. And I wonder why you criticise Israel so vehemently but do not apply the same standards to Vladimir Putin or Bashar al-Assad.

Waters: You sit here and tell me you are against the occupation.

Good, we have something in common there. Are we against the occupation for the same reasons? My reason is that the occupation contradicts the very idea of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Paris 1948, according to which all people should have universal and equal human rights? Even those who live in Palestine or Israel – call it what you will?

Mendel: Of course.

Waters: Well, I have the impression that the Israeli government does not believe that.

Mendel: Yes, that’s true.

Waters: Then we have no disagreement.

Note Waters does not address Mendel’s concerns regarding the antisemitic imagery of the pig, as well as Waters’ double standards when it comes to the likes of Russia and Syria.

Mendel: I have been wondering for years how to get the majority of people in Israel to think in terms of human rights. Israel is not perfect, but it is a democracy …

Waters: Aha, a dissent! Everyone knows that Israel is not a democracy. A democracy needs equal rights for all citizens. And Israel doesn’t have those. It is a state in which a certain group, the Jewish people, have supremacy, and Jewish citizens enjoy rights that are denied to their fellow citizens. The government says so openly.

Mendel: You must not ignore the fact that the founding of Israel as a Jewish state took place against the backdrop of the pogroms in Europe and the Holocaust – Israel is the only home for Jews worldwide. And you must have noticed that in the last five or six weeks hundreds of thousands of Israelis have protested against this government.  And they are not backing down today. You and I, we may have the same opinion about the current Israeli government …

Waters: Okay, good. That’s a start!

Mendel: And there is no perfect democracy. But the last coalition government involved an Arab party. Israelis themselves fight each other on the political stage. You say yourself, when you talk about other states in the world, that there is not only black and white. Why should it be different in Israel? Maybe Israel is something in between, and you could recognize that.

Waters: We are getting off topic.

Again, Waters does not address Mendel’s valid points and instead wants to change the subject. Note too how he speaks of Jewish supremacy, a notion notorious Jew-hater David Duke has popularized.

Waters: Do I understand you correctly? You say that the boycott movement has destroyed the peace process?

Mendel: Yes, they have made all initiatives for dialogue impossible. Because dialogue and boycott do not go together.

Waters: We have an organization here, BDS, that campaigns for equal human rights for all those who live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea – I’m just talking about the geographical space. Because people live there who are deprived of their basic human rights. BDS is an attempt to draw worldwide attention to this problem. And you are telling me that this would destroy the peace process? How is that possible?

Mendel: BDS is against any rapprochement. I will give you an example. Rami Aman, a Palestinian peace activist from Gaza, took part in a Zoom conference with activists from Gaza and from Israel. BDS activists denounced him on Facebook and informed the military arm of Hamas. One day later, Hamas arrested him, put him in prison for two months and tortured him there. Since then, Rami Aman has not been active. I could give you many more examples of people in Israel and Palestine who dedicate their whole lives to peace and understanding between the parties – and are opposed by BDS. That is my problem with this movement.

Waters: I don’t know anything about this case, so I can’t comment on it.

How can Waters, who makes himself out to be knowledgeable on the conflict and goings-on here, not know about Rami Aman’s case? It received much publicity, including in the New York Times and his beloved Ha’aretz. This response shows Waters only cares when Israel is painted as the villain.

And if he was telling the truth that he never heard of Rami Aman, why is his only response “I don’t know anything about this case, so I can’t comment on it.” Why does he not say something like “This concerns me, please send me more information about his case after this interview.”

We all know the answer.

SPIEGEL: Then I ask, not as an Israeli, but as a German whose grandfather fought against your father in the Second World War, why this opportunity to communicate does not apply to Israelis, why they have to be boycotted.

Waters: Well, let’s go back to the beginning. I played in Israel and there was not a single Palestinian there. I played in a field of chickpeas near Neve Shalom …

SPIEGEL: … a peace village between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Waters: Yes, that was in 2006. That was when I first saw with my own eyes what was going on…. I was there.

Mendel: Why were there no Palestinians there?

Waters: Because they are not allowed free movement even if they want to see a pop concert.

Mendel: Palestinians from the occupied territories I can understand. But weren’t there Palestinians from Israel there?

Waters: Maybe. How many will there have been? I don’t know. I didn’t go around asking everyone

Note how Waters goes from stating definitively that there were no palestinian Arabs there to “there may have been, I did not ask.” Again, he is showing how he cares not for the facts. He just tries to demonize Israeli Jews until he is called out on it.

…. But I remember saying to that young audience there, “You are the generation of young Israelis who must make peace with your brothers and sisters, the Palestinians.” Before I said that, 60,000 fans were screaming at the top of their lungs: “Pink Floyd! Dark Side of the Moon! Roger!”. After my plea for peace, there was absolute silence.

Mendel: This is a great moment! This is exactly what these people need!

Waters: The mood tipped from frenzied enthusiasm to: “This guy is nuts”.

Mendel: Isn’t that a great opportunity? There are maybe 50,000 people, mostly Israelis, and Roger Waters tells them, “You are blind! You have to make peace!”.

Waters: Well, they didn’t do it, did they?

Mendel: It would be megalomaniacal to believe that a rock star alone could fix it. But who knows, maybe you made one or two concertgoers think back then?

As I have shown before, Waters’ allegation of crowd silence here is a blatant lie. It is a shame Mendel did not call him out on it here.

Waters: Maybe but since then things have got worse and worse. And why? Because too many people in Israel are racist and don’t want peace with their neighbours. You, Mr Mendel, seem to be an exception to the rule.

This is utterly disgusting. Waters is claiming “too many” Israeli Jews are racist, and any who are not are an “exception to the rule.” How is this gross generalization not antisemitic?

Waters: How can it be that a monster like the radical settler Bezalel Smotrich is finance minister today? Well? Somebody must have elected him!

Mendel: Hundreds of thousands are demonstrating against him.

Compare to how Waters speaks of genocidal terror group Hamas, who he points out were “democratically elected.” And there are no Gazans demonstrating against them, yet it is Israeli Jews who are the racists?

Waters: If the people of Israel want peace, let them choose peace. Let them admit that this experiment was a mistake and give the people back their stolen land and the human rights they are legally entitled to. That is all. It’s not complicated.

Here Waters is calling for the dismantling of the world’s only Jewish state. But he is, of course, not antisemitic. Because he said so.

Mendel: Can’t you empathise with Israel’s certain concerns? Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. All around it are states that are hostile to Israel. Wouldn’t it be helpful to get Israelis to engage in dialogue?

Waters: Meron, you sound like a very old, very, very broken record. That’s why I’m making movements here like I’m pulling my hair out. No, it’s not complicated! Either we believe in equal human rights or we don’t. You can’t say: “Of course, the Rohingya in Myanmar! Of course, the blacks in South Africa! But in Israel? No! Jews live there…”, there is the Jewish state, it’s complicated.

Waters just dismisses Mendel’s valid point yet again.

Mendel: We agree that human rights are not only violated in Israel and Palestine, but also in China, Russia or Myanmar?

Waters: Of course we agree on that!

MendelSo Israel is the only place on earth where you wouldn’t play? What’s helpful about that?

Waters: My refusal to break out of the BDS picket line is disrupting the racist status quo in Israel. That’s what helps.

The people of Russia or Iran or Syria have not organised a BDS movement and asked me not to break the picket line. They are not listening! Why am I not playing there? Because there is a picket line organised by BDS. I was asked by the Palestinian people, by every man, woman, child, “Please, please, Roger Waters, creator of this beautiful music, don’t play in Israel!”. If you do, you will help normalise apartheid! So please don’t do it!”

Besides being a lame response, it is also disingenuous. The BDS movement does not represent “ever man, woman and child.” In fact, it hurts many palestinian Arabs who prefer to work with Israel. Sodastream, anyone?

Mendel: Suppose I were to introduce 500 Palestinians to them? And these Palestinians would ask you to play in Israel? So that you can point out the human rights violations in the occupied territories to your Israeli audience?

Waters: I have already been asked by the whole of Palestinian civil society to respect the boycott. So your 500 Palestinians have already spoken.

Again, this is blatantly false.

Mendel: You know that many Palestinians are afraid to speak out against BDS. If they do, they end up in Hamas prison. I’m amazed that for you the situation is always so simple and clear when it comes to Israel. Why is it suddenly complicated when Putin invades Ukraine? As a Jew and a peace activist, I wonder if you are my ally – or an anti-Semite. I’m not sure about that.

Waters: I am sure that your Judaism has nothing to do with it. I don’t want to talk about Russia and Ukraine today. That is a completely different topic. Maybe some other time. Such a conversation would obviously also touch on many questions about human rights.

Mendel makes a very good point here and again, Waters’ response is again to refuse to answer.

Mendel: Now if the Ukrainian people would ask you not to give concerts in Russia …

Waters: Which Ukrainian people? One part is for Russia, the other part is for Ukraine.

Mendel: The elected government of Ukraine …

Waters: The elected government of Ukraine was removed in an illegal government coup in 2014.

SPIEGEL: In a revolution.

Waters: Well, yes. We’re talking about the Maidan. You call it a revolution, I call it a coup. Let’s leave it at that. I don’t have any concerts planned in Russia.

Mendel: So you won’t give any concerts there as long as the war goes on?

Waters: That’s none of your business.

And once again, Waters reveals himself to be a nasty hypocrite who is intellectually dishonest. He clearly has it in for the Jewish state, and it should be clear to us why.

This post was sponsored by long time reader and Israellycool fan K.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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