Roger Waters urges Presbyterians to divest

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The Presbyterians are meeting in Pittsburgh today. They may vote on divestment resolutions starting today. And here is a stirring piece by Roger Waters in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette calling on the Presbyterian church to divest from three companies that do business in the occupation. What generosity of spirit: Waters says that when he wrote the anthemic song The Wall 30 years ago, he thought it was about his own emotional isolation because of his father’s death in World War II. As years went by, and South African demonstrators sang it, and it was banned in the country, he understood it had a larger meaning. Now when he sings it, he tells audiences about the Israeli occupation, which shocked him when he first saw it in 2006. Note that the Post-Gazette will be running a rabbi’s anti-divestment piece tomorrow, the balancing act. Waters:

The theatrical wall I build each night serves as a metaphor for all the walls erected to separate us, human being from human being: walls between rich and poor, between opposing cultural, political or religious ideologies and particularly between the oppressor and the oppressed. The Israeli wall in the West Bank is a particularly graphic example. I make reference to that wall every night in my concert, but the injustices faced by Palestinians living under Israel’s brutal occupation and apartheid are not adequately addressed through theater and music alone. They warrant other forms of comment.

I applaud the Presbyterian initiative. In fact, I support the more wide-ranging BDS campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel and have called on my fellow musicians to follow suit, just as we did in opposition to apartheid South Africa.

…The waters of this debate will inevitably be muddied, as they always are, by erroneous accusations of anti-Semitism leveled at those who favor selective divestment from companies complicit in Israel’s long record of human rights violations. I urge the Presbyterians assembled in Pittsburgh not to be intimidated, but to stand confident with the support of people of conscience everywhere, including tens of thousands of Jewish Americans who support divestment as an ethical obligation to end complicity in the occupation. I urge Presbyterians to adopt their selective divestment motion to make the price of collusion in human rights violations higher, and to send a message of hope to the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation and apartheid.

Good faith attempts to peacefully bring pressure on Israel to change its policies are no more anti-Semitic than similar actions against the South African apartheid regime were anti-Christian or anti-white.

In solidarity with Palestinian civil society and the nonviolent resistance movement in Israel itself, those of us involved in the struggle for Palestinian self-determination and freedom, including supporters of the BDS campaign against Israel until it fulfills its obligations under international law, will ignore the increasingly strident slanders of the Israel lobby and continue our nonviolent campaign. This is what solidarity and compassion look like. This is how we will win against injustice.

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