Roger Waters on why more artists don’t speak out against Israel
Have you ever wondered why more musical artists don’t speak out on the occupation of Palestine? This is actually a question put recently by a journalist to someone who could be considered an expert on the matter–Roger Waters.
His answer? To state it bluntly, “They’re scared shitless.”
More than a quarter of a century ago, black South Africans were waging a struggle against apartheid–and there was no shortage of western musicians expressing open solidarity with them–not only with words, but even in their music. In 1980, British rocker Peter Gabriel made an overnight folk hero out of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, while in 1985 musician Steven Van Zandt enlisted a host of famous entertainers in his musical production, “Sun City: Artists United Against Apartheid.” Those who participated in the project included Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Lou Reed and many others (click here for the full list). All expressed the same thing: they would honor a boycott and refuse to perform in South Africa.
The message these artists helped to transmit was that while South Africans were fighting a ruthless and brutal government, a good portion of the world was with them. By contrast, the Palestinians, with the exception of Waters and a few others, have had to go it alone.
“The only response to BDS is that it is anti-Semitic,” Waters told The Independent. “I know this because I’ve been accused of being a Nazi and an anti-Semite for the past 10 years.” He added:
“My industry has been particularly recalcitrant in even raising a voice [against Israel]. There’s me and Elvis Costello, Brian Eno, Manic Street Preachers, one or two others, but there’s nobody in the United States where I live. I’ve talked to a lot of them, and they are scared s***less.
“If they say something in public they will no longer have a career. They will be destroyed. I’m hoping to encourage some of them to stop being frightened and to stand up and be counted, because we need them. We need them desperately in this conversation in the same way we needed musicians to join protesters over Vietnam.”
Especially interesting is the bit about musicians’ fears of having their careers destroyed–and there is evidence to substantiate what the former Pink Floyd bassist says on the matter. In 2014, singer Rihanna tweeted the hashtag #Free Palestine. The tweet was later removed, and a spokesperson for the singer said it had been posted by accident, however, as the TMZ celebrity gossip website commented, the explanation is “curious” because “in order to tweet, someone would either have to type the message or cut and paste it, and then click the ‘Tweet’ button.”
Of course, it isn’t only musical artists. Sports stars, too, for all their valor in the contest arena, seem to suffer from a lack of nerve when it comes to speaking out on the conflict in the Middle East as well. Like the singer Rihanna, Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard got in trouble with a pro-Palestine tweet. The tweet prompted a backlash from the Zionist Organization of America and was hastily removed, the athlete following up the deletion with not one, but two follow-up tweets in which he apologized profusely.
Both Howard and Rihanna posted their tweets in the summer of 2014, both apparently prompted by Israel’s murderous carnage in Gaza. And both probably had good reason to fear, or we could presume at least that certainly Howard did. Leslie Alexander, owner of the Houston Rockets, is Jewish.
Waters, of course, seems to be made of sterner stuff. Over the past ten years he has faced a tide of cacophonous criticism, and clearly today is on the blacklist of the Simon Wiesenthal Center as well as a number of other organizations. Oddly, though, it doesn’t seem to have eroded his fan base much. Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned in that for other musicians. The Independent article comments on the irony of it all:
Waters expected to be shouted down by critics, but it is the Nazi accusations that he considers the most absurd, especially given that his father, Lt Eric Waters of the 8th Royal Fusilliers, died aged 31 fighting the Nazis at Anzio, Italy, in early 1944. His body was never found but his name is commemorated at the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery at Monte Cassino.
The pain of not knowing his father, who was killed when Waters was five months old, influenced some of Pink Floyd’s most famous songs.
Waters went on to say:
“I have veterans coming to all my shows and meet them at half time. At a gig in 2013, one veteran came up to me, took my hand, wouldn’t let go and looked me in the eye… I can hardly tell you this now without welling up. He said: ‘Your father would have been proud of you.’
“My father died fighting the Nazis, my mother [a strong CND and Labour supporter] devoted her life to doing everything she could to create a more humane world.”
Contrast the hastily-removed tweets by Rihanna and Howard with the list of some 300 people who signed on to a letter of support for Israel. This too, like the tweets, came out in 2014, and the signatories include a number of big-name celebrities–Sylvester Stallone, Bill Maher, Sarah Silverman, Ziggy Marley, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lon Lovitz, Kelsey Grammer and many others. Posted in 2014, the letter is still online today. Obviously none of those who signed on were too worried about any setbacks for their careers.
“The Interior Ministry asked the producer of Elton John’s upcoming concert in Israel to sign a declaration of loyalty on John’s behalf as a condition of his appearance here in May, concert producer Shuki Weiss has said. The Interior Ministry called Weiss’ statement “wacky and crazy” and “a blatant lie.”
Later, Weiss’ office produced the standard form for obtaining an entry permit to Israel and pointed out what it considers the problematic clause, which reads, “I declare that I have never acted against the Jewish people or the security of the State of Israel.”
brilliant article..look how quick rihanna and dwight howard changed their tune once “alerted” to their mistake!
elton john story above is another example of how israel controls entertainers..
“If they say something in public they will no longer have a career. They will be destroyed.”