Former Pink Floyd bassist and lyricist Roger Waters never misses an opportunity to attack the Jewish state. Recent performances in California by the progressive rocker underscored why he is widely regarded as the voice of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Over the past two weekends, 75,000 music lovers converged on the Empire Polo Field in Indio, California, for the inaugural Desert Trip music festival. The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Young and The Who were all part of the Hall of Fame lineup that also included Waters. But only Waters felt it necessary to use the spotlight to voice his political agenda.
“I’m not going to allow this moment to pass,” Mr. Waters told the audience. “I didn’t last Sunday, and I’m not going to let it pass now without… giving my love to my brothers and sisters… who are standing up for their brothers and sisters in Palestine and supporting the BDS movement.”
For the second weekend in a row, the 73-year-old prog rocker co-opted the microphone to provoke animosity toward Israel and solidarity with the BDS movement. During his performance the previous Sunday, Waters told the crowd, “I’m going to send out all my most heartfelt love and support to all those young people on the campuses of the universities of California who are standing up for their brothers and sisters in Palestine, and supporting the BDS movement in the hope that we may encourage the government of Israel to end the occupation.”
In recent years, Waters’ shows would feature a flying pig with a Star of David on its side. His 2010 Wall tour featured a video that juxtaposed the Star of David and dollar signs. Labeled anti-Semitic by the Anti-Defamation League, Waters has called the Jewish state a “racist apartheid regime” that practices “ethnic cleansing” and compared Jews to Nazi collaborators.
In his recent Desert Trip performances, Waters used the pig to show his disdain for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, the subject of most of his political rhetoric during both shows.
According to the artistic peace group Creative Community for Peace, “Waters expends a great deal of energy attempting to convince artists to embrace the cultural boycott of Israel and refrain from performing there. Four out of the other five acts at Desert Trip, however — The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and Neil Young — have been victimized by — and explicitly rejected — BDS pressure, including personal appeals from Roger himself.”
In 2008 McCartney performed in Israel to celebrate the nation’s 60th birthday. The former Beatle received death threats before his Tel Aviv concert. The Rolling Stones “Rocked Out” in Israel back in 2014, ignoring Waters’ pleas to cancel.
Sunday night’s performance and anti-Israel incitement were met with calls for peace by the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs in the form of an airplane that flew over the concert during Waters’ set, displaying the message, “Support Israeli-Palestinian Peace — Not Hateful Boycotts.”
Outraged over Waters’ anti-Israel rant calling for BDS on college campuses the weekend before, concerned community members appealed to StandWithUs. “They wanted us to take action that could be implemented at his October 16 concert,” explained Sara Miller, Director of SWU San Diego. “We quickly decided that flying a plane would reach a huge and diverse audience, and we crafted a message of peace for both sides. It also served notice on Waters and the public that this type of bigotry against Israel will not go unchallenged.”
Miller added, “BDS campaigns on college campuses often result in anti-Semitic and sometimes very aggressive bullying incidents against pro-Israel students.”
In an email to the Haym Salomon Center, Miller referred to swastikas painted on a Jewish fraternity house after a student government BDS vote at UC Davis. She also noted events earlier this year at UC Irvine, where Students for Justice in Palestine blocked the entrance to a room where a pro-Israel film was being screened, forcing one girl to flee for safety to another building.
“Thanking the students for disruptive behavior and supporting BDS does not advance the peace process, nor does it improve the lives of Palestinians. Since Mr. Waters refuses to perform in Israel, he misses the opportunity to see the many businesses and endeavors that involve Israelis and Palestinians working side by side,” said Miller.
According to the L.A. Times, one fan was overheard saying, “I want my rock ’n’ roll to be about peace and love. I’m not a Trumper, but [Waters] has no right to say those things — he’s not even American.”