Roger Waters, the iconic lead singer from Pink Floyd, will be in Philadelphia this week for three concerts. He is currently on a nationwide tour of some 20 cities in the U.S. and Canada.
Apart from his music, Waters is known for political activism that he regularly incorporates into his performances. Waters addresses a number of issues but, most prominently, he has become a well-known advocate for the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement (BDS campaign) against Israel. He has made many harsh accusations against Israel and issued numerous public calls to fellow artists to support the BDS campaign. For example, he has recently engaged in a very public fight with the band Radiohead who performed in Israel two weeks ago despite Waters’ urging them to cancel their concert. For most in the Jewish community, Waters’ actions and allegations, particularly his support of the BDS movement, cross the line from the normal, healthy debate essential to a pluralistic society into uncivil acrimony–and too often into bias and even bigotry.
While the BDS effort may have been endorsed by some well-intentioned individuals and organizations who see it as a non-violent mechanism for advancing the peace process in the Middle East, they are often unaware of the true nature of the movement. Many of the founders and leaders of the BDS movement have publicly called for the dismantling of Israel. Parties to any negotiation who at their core are motivated by the destruction of the other can hardly be trusted as honest partners for peace and constructive negotiations.
While we encourage debate and discussion about Israel’s policies, we reject conduct and language that demonizes, delegitimizes or challenges Israel’s right to exist, a common theme throughout Waters’ messaging on Israel. Specifically, manifestations of delegitimization include:
- Actively seeking to undermine recognition of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in Israel;
- Denying Israel the right of self-defense possessed by every other nation;
- Equating contemporary Israeli policies with those of the Nazis, a comparison that has been defined by the U.S. State Department as a form of anti-Semitism;
- Characterizing Israel as an apartheid state;
- Advocating and pursuing boycotts of Israeli goods, academic or cultural activities or other actions intended as punitive measures against Israel;
- Singling out Israel for international sanction by applying a standard that asks Israel to behave in ways that are not asked of other nations; and
- Employing certain anti-Jewish motifs, such as those that assert Jewish control or conspiracy to control financial institutions, media, or government.
These criteria have found broad support among American Jewish leadership and with those who are engaged in constructive dialogue about Israel. Sadly, Roger Waters can be accused of violating all of the above as you can read in the following articles from the ADL:
Whatever the differences of opinion in the Jewish community and in Israel about the peace process–and those differences are numerous and vigorously debated– there is widespread agreement, from left to right, that the BDS movement complicates the road to peace by focusing the blame on only one party to the conflict and by ignoring incitement and violence perpetrated against Israelis by some Palestinians, including terror inside the country and rocket attacks from Gaza. The BDS movement and Roger Waters refuse to accept that both Palestinians and Israelis share in their fear of the other, and further isolation of one from the other exacerbates tensions rather than alleviating them. BDS brings false hopes to Palestinians who believe that they can bypass negotiations with Israel by appealing to the international community for assistance. On a practical level, BDS advocates have offered no constructive political path to peace, instead relying on a vague dream in which the Israeli people will someday feel so isolated and under so much pressure that they will demand an end to the occupation without regard to valid security concerns.
The best option to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is by seeking two states for two peoples living in peace and security; a goal supported by the United States and Israel. Peace will only come through negotiation, dialogue, and cooperation between two people who share a homeland. Attempts to isolate Israel in the international community, as advocated by the BDS movement and Waters, make negotiation among the parties much more difficult.
Rather than retreat into recriminations, there are constructive things that those of us who live outside Israel can do to help create conditions conducive to a two-state solution. Such action includes:
- Supporting Israeli and Palestinian civil society leaders in building an infrastructure of peace through people-to-people initiatives. Such efforts will create the bonds of trust that can help lead to true long-term peace.
- Urging both parties to act in a fashion compatible with a two-state solution. For Palestinians, that means ceasing incitement against and de-legitimization of Israel. For Israel, that means limiting any construction to communities that will almost certainly not be part of a potential Palestinian state.
- Encouraging both parties, when the moment is right, to resume direct negotiations leading to a comprehensive conflict-ending agreement resolving all outstanding disputes.
Reports are that in his most recent concerts, Waters has been more focused on opposing President Trump than conveying any messages around BDS. We understand that the outrageous floating pig with a Jewish Star of David followed by dollar signs and a hammer and sickle which has appeared in past concerts has been replaced with a “floating Trump pig.” We hope that when Waters appears in Philadelphia this week, he will focus on his music and desist from attacking Israel and its supporters.
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