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Roger Waters discusses boycott with Israel's 'newspaper of the nation'

The interview with rock n’ roll’s lead boycotter of Israel was published in Yedioth Ahronoth, but it could have been put out by the Ministry of Public Diplomacy.  

I love when Israelis describe the media here as “leftist,” and when polite foreigners describe it as “robust” and “independent.” It goes along with our “vibrant democracy,” and our citizens who “all want peace,” especially, of course, our young people.

On Wednesday, Yedioth Ahronoth – the “newspaper of the nation,” by far the best-selling paper in the country – published a long interview with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, the unofficial leader of the rock n’ roll chapter of the boycott against Israel. Presumably the writer, Alon Hadar, is young, presumably at least some of the editors of the holiday supplement it appeared in are young, yet the interview and its packaging had no youthful, open-minded spirit. It could have been put out by the Ministry of Public Diplomacy.

“He declares a boycott against us,” reads the intro, “floats a toy pig at his concerts with a Star of David on it and demands of his musician friends not to come to Israel. Now Roger Waters, founder of Pink Floyd, explains for the first time what he has against the government of Israel and why he automatically takes the Palestinians’ side, yet is in no rush to get involved over the massacre in Syria. Yedioth Ahronoth’s writer accompanied one of the greatest musicians in history, and examined why he insists on building a wall around us.”

Some of the writer’s questions:

“You talk about the apartheid regime in South Africa. But the situation here is completely different.”

“You forget that Netanyahu has declared his support for the idea of two states and has called on the Palestinians to enter negotiations without preconditions.”

“Israel never annexed the territories. It declares at every opportunity that the situation is temporary. There isn’t a citizen in Israel who isn’t interested in peace.”

The writer accuses Waters of “hurting the feelings of the Jewish people” with the Star of David on the inflated pig, though he stops short of accusing him outright of anti-Semitism, and lets Waters answer his critics. “There are various symbols on it,” Waters says, “not just the cross and the Star of David, also the hammer and sickle, all the symbols are symbols of oppression.” (Aside from the cross and the Star of David, his show has also used the Muslim crescent as a symbol of oppression.)

Accompanying the interview are two short opinion pieces, one by Micha Shetrit of the Israeli pop group “Friends of Natasha.” Shetrit writes that the pig motif “shows where [Waters] draws his fascist aesthetic from, which is where he grew up and which is what he imbibed. … There’s nothing new here, it’s the same old Europe that’s now flashing again under the surface.”

The other opinion piece supposedly balances out Shetrit’s. Shuki Weiss and Oren Arnan, who produced Waters’ 2006 concert in Israel, take a tone of friendly reproach, saying Waters’ boycott “only deepens the walls that exist and creates new ones.” Instead, they argue, Waters and his fellow boycotters should “come to Israel and generate a dialogue among music lovers, [help] them understand that this can be a better place if we shine a light on the good people on both sides of the fence …”

This is a very popular idea – that foreign artists, scientists and others who oppose the occupation shouldn’t stay away, but rather come to Israel and “engage,” try to change people’s minds. Waters’ recollection of his 2006 concert in front of 45,000 Israelis addresses that point – and also says something about the young generation here, and about how rock music doesn’t set everyone free.

“The concert in Israel was wonderful, I enjoyed it very much and the crowd was amazing,” he says. “But at the end of the concert I said: ‘You are the generation that has to lead the way to peace with your neighbors.’ And suddenly the crowd went silent.”

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    1. Richard

      I guess you’re right – Israel really isn’t a democracy unless the national newspaper takes a totally neutral, dispassionate stance on grostesque pig balloons with stars of david on them.

      Reply to Comment
      • Yochanan

        Why is it that Waters has never been accused of Islamophobia, or anti-Christian bigotry, considering everyone knows that the cross and crescent were prominently displayed on the inflatable pigs also?

        Reply to Comment
        • Richard

          Because antisemitic cartoons depicting rats, snakes, and other vermin were, historically, part of the propaganda that marked the era of the Holocaust, and Europeans, including Waters, know this. There is nothing similar historically, no tragic, genocidal history being made reference to by the other balloons. You have to be really ignorant or intellectually dishonest to act like there’s really a double standard because the jewish pig is being singled out. Its a special case, so don’t be obtuse.

          Reply to Comment
          • Lighten up on the invective, please.

            Reply to Comment
          • Y-Man

            Hey guess what man: Israel has created a “tragic, genocidal history” for the Star of David whether you like it or not. He’s not referring to anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda when he puts a Star of David on the pig, you fragile dandelion, you. He’s referring to the fucking Nakbah, the 46 years of Occupation, the numerous wars Israel started, its colonization in the West Bank, its modern, bloody history. Wrap your mind around that and quick crying like a fucking baby.

            Reply to Comment
          • See above. Stop the insults.

            Reply to Comment
          • Y-Man

            Oh come on, Larry, I told him to “stop crying like a fucking baby” and sarcastically called him a “fragile dandelion.” That really counts as insulting to you?

            Reply to Comment
          • Yeah, it’s insulting, of course it’s insulting.

            Reply to Comment
          • rsgengland

            While you are talking about the nakba, please don’t forget the expulsion and exile of nearly one million Jews from the Middle East/North Africa in little over a generation.
            This expulsion of the Jews was driven by the Antisemitism that swept the Arab/Muslim lands in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
            Over 2500 years of civilization and culture, which had preceded Islam by over a thousand years, wiped out in little over a generation.
            At least the Jews finally had a country they could flee to in the face of the blatant, and often violent Antisemitism they faced.
            But I don’t suppose Jews have the right to be safe in your studied opinion.
            Jews should just suffer and endure in silence to make you and your like minded co-travellers happy

            Reply to Comment
          • Y-Man

            The expulsion of the Mizrahim is a tragedy– no one is saying otherwise, but at least the Middle Easterners let the Jews leave, as opposed to trying to kill all of them like animals (see Europe). However, Jewish colonizers have not been constantly stealing land from Germans for the last 30 years (at least), so I guess that’s a moot point and not really a tragedy you can exploit in this context. Or maybe you can.

            Reply to Comment
          • rsgengland

            Y-Man as I said; at least the Jews from the Arab/Muslim lands had a country to flee to.
            If the Jews of Europe had had a country to flee to, there would have been far less Jewish dead.
            If Israel had existed then maybe there would have been no Holocaust.
            If the Nazis did not have their Jewish scapegoats maybe there would not have been the Second World War.
            Interesting thought to get your brain operating, or maybe something stuck in your throat.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bill Thompson

            Israel did not start all of the wars that it has fought. Rather, Israel’s contiguous Arab neighbours started the wars against Israel.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Danny

      I have become completely fed up with Israelis like this Alon Hadar fellow, who, for some strange reason, sounds like a member of Im Tirzu (Israel’s version of David Duke). His interview with Waters is so embarrassing that I doubt he is a real journalist, and instead just happens to know someone who helped him get his job (kind of like how Yair Lapid developed his journalistic career early on).

      Roger Waters, to his credit, gives this loser his precious time and manages to show quite gracefully just how inflexible and unaccommodating to peace and coexistence the average Israeli has become, and why BDS is so important at this point in time.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Empiricon

      Amen Danny. Add Micha Shetrit to the list of nationalist Zio-bots, their brains polluted by endless hasbara. In that very interview, Waters recounts that 1) his father died when he was an infant fighting fascism and 2) that his mother “was a declared communist” and their “house was filled with documentation of the cruelest crimes committed in the name of Nazi ideology and the Third Reich.”

      Reply to Comment
    4. Philos

      My cousin said of the 2006 concert that it was “great” but Waters ruined it by getting “political” and, to paraphrase, who the hell is he to lecture us? He’s not from here. Just play the damn music and shut the hell up. My cousin is Labour Party supporter and member.

      Reply to Comment
    5. “But at the end of the concert I said: ‘You are the generation that has to lead the way to peace with your neighbors.’ And suddenly the crowd went silent.”
      That’s a terrible responsibility to place on others.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Oren Arnon

      couldn’t agree more with your take on the yedioth piece… the writer was given a fantastic opportunity to ask some real questions and give roger a real chance to engage his audience here and tell them the truth as he sees it.
      but the opportunity was missed, badly.

      on a personal note, i am sorry though that our column was hacked down into the mishmash that was published there, and its a shame that this (“friendly reproach”) is the bottom line you took from it.
      “coming and engaging” would be great, but coming and engaging and EDUCATING oneself about the realities here, leading perhaps to legitimate criticism in the artists’ homeland (especially the US) of the crimes ongoing here would have larger resonance – as roger himself and his experience here prove.
      Rogers efforts command respect, but his quest to disable his fellow artists of the right to allow themselves the experiences he’s enjoyed in israel and the better understanding he achieved from them, is questionable to say the least.

      the full letter (that was published openly to roger waters) can be read here.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Tom

      This is the key point of the whole interview. Understand it and you will understand Waters’s point of view:

      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.”

      Reply to Comment
    8. Harvela

      Sorry to burst your bubble guys , but your man has serious form .
      He was unable to contain himself when attacking Baroness Deech for writing to the BBC reminding it that its remit did not include a political diatribe on its flagship proms broadcast .
      Waters referred to Baroness Deech ( nee Fraenkel ) an obvious nudge and a wink to his PSC acolytes that of course Deech being a Jewess was bound to use her influence to edit the broadcast . Two canards for the price of one .


      Now stop the war have adopted damage limitation by editing out the ‘ Nee Fraenkel .

      Pity he was doing so well up to that point but he just couldn’t leave it at that .
      For sure he has ulterior motives . We’ve seen it time and again . Greta Berlin to name just one .
      As they say not all anti Zionists are antisemites but for sure all antisemites are anti Zionists

      Reply to Comment
      • I interpret the “nee Fraenkel” remark as meaning “she’s Jewish, so there’s good reason to think she has an axe to grind,” which is not a substantive point, but neither is it anti-Semitic. It’s as reasonable to suspect a Jew of “special pleading” for Israel as it is to suspect a Muslim of special pleading against it. But such a suspicion of Muslims is not likely to come to the surface because you’re not likely to find a Baroness with power over the BBC who is a “nee Ibrahim” or “nee Mohammed.” And if there was, imagine the reaction from organized British Jewry if she’d insisted, over British Jewry’s protests, on broadcasting Kennedy’s remarks?

        Reply to Comment
        • harvela

          You appear to be out on a limb somewhat . It’s highly unusual to refer to a maiden name in this manner . It’s usually associated with registry entries ie births , deaths marriages etc . If it is wholly innocuous as you allude to , Waters would have simply stated her ethnicity which is not clear from Baroness Deech but is from Fraenkel , a common Jewish family name .
          Your Ibrahim comparison is simple ‘ what iffery ‘ mere conjecture on your part .
          More important is the fact that the UK Palestinian Solidarity Campaign has distanced itself from the remark by editing the nee Fraenkel to read ****.

          Here is Mark Elf ,a UK antizionist of the blog Jews Sans Frontiere on the subject

          Mark Elf
          Aug 29 5 of 5
          I thought the thing was fairly dodgy from the outset and not even that
          careful. Roger Waters has emphasised the Jewishness of Baroness Deech by
          reference to her “N�e” name, ie Fraenkel and this video omits even that
          “subtlety” in its title.

          This Nigel Kennedy thing could be a result for us but antisemitic vultures
          are circling. This guy who made this video is one.

          Sometimes it’s best to call it as it really is .

          Reply to Comment
          • Waters’ remark falls into a category that unfortunately doesn’t exist when talking about minorities: unfairly critical, but not bigoted. He shouldn’t have argued against Deech’s decision by pointing out that she’s Jewish, because it’s a bullshit argument. But I don’t think the subtext of the remark was that “the Jews control the media,” which is an anti-Semitic statement (tho to say Jews have a disproportionate presence in the media isn’t anti-Semitic, it’s obvious fact) but rather to try to undermine the legitimacy of Deech’s opinion with the subtext “she’s Jewish so she’s biased toward Israel.” Waters can’t prove that so it’s not a valid argument – but neither is it anti-Semitic to suggest that Jews are likely to be biased toward Israel, no more than it’s Islamophobic to suggest Muslims are biased against it.

            Reply to Comment
          • harvela

            Really not sure why you are trying to formulate a disclaimer to what to an outsider is a clearly disingenuous and a typical ‘Old English ‘ means of pointing out Baroness Deech s ethnicity . It’s readily apparent that he became carried away by his own vitriolic writing , forgot himself and added the nee Fraenkel thus forgetting the first law of antizionism – no reference to Jews /Judaism only Zionists / Zionism .
            Why do you suppose the PSC are in damage limitation mode to the extent they are editing the letter . ? More to the point , why are you still defending him ? He’s useful but not overly so

            Reply to Comment
          • Saying something like that will get you branded an anti-Semite, even if it’s not fair – that’s why the PSC is taking its stance. I’m defending Waters from the charge of anti-Semitism because I don’t think it’s fair.

            Reply to Comment
          • harvela

            Fully concur with you regarding the last point . We are well aware that anti Zionist organisations , PSC etc are most concerned when embedded racism / antisemitism is exposed within the movement . We have seen the lengths UK chapters have had to go to divest from such individuals . Unfortunately it has little to do with opposition to antisemitism per se and everything to do with how such racism affects their public image and the impact it has on the Palestinian cause .

            Anyway thanks for the exchanges . It has become a little clearer as to just how an obsessive cause can cloud ones judgement in what in this instance is an open and shut case of overt antisemitism

            Reply to Comment
          • If noting a person’s ethnicity to cast doubt on her argument for her ethnic group’s interests is an open and shut case of overt bigotry, then I am a bigot and everyone I’ve ever known is a bigot. Waters’ “crime” was that he wasn’t politic enough to keep it to himself like everyone else.

            Reply to Comment
          • harvela

            So by the same token you have no problem whatsoever with a Palestinian spokesperson having his ethnicity spelt out , Muslim or Christian as a means of casting doubt on that individuals argument . In your books , that’s not bigotry . Remarkable !
            You also restate what I mentioned earlier, that Waters crime was to forget the necessity of being politically correct ‘ like everyone else ‘ by referring to ethnicity instead of Zionist / Zionism .
            Equally remarkable . I think best to hang up at this point . We appear to have exhausted reasonable channels .
            Thank you for your time

            Reply to Comment
          • Like I said, that tactic is unfair, so I do have a problem with it, but it’s not bigotry. Thanks for your time too – and I mean that!

            Reply to Comment
    9. Richard Witty

      The reason that the “crowd went silent” was not because of criticism of the policies of Israel, but because of his utter disconnect between seriousness of an adult talking about responsibility and the reason that kids come to Pink Floyd concerts (to get high).

      Reply to Comment
    10. […] Roger Waters meets Israel’s ‘newspaper of the nation’http://972mag.com/roger-waters-meets-israels-newspaper-of-the-nation/79107 […]

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