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Roger Waters appeals to fellow musicians — Endorse the cultural boycott of Israel

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403884 10151267505329992 766366707 n Roger Waters at the Separation Wall in 2006. (Photo: War on Want)

18th August 2013, Warsaw
To My Colleagues in Rock and Roll:

Nigel Kennedy the virtuoso British violinist and violist, at The Recent Promenade Concerts at The Albert Hall in London, mentioned that Israel is apartheid. Nothing unusual there you might think, then one Baroness Deech, (Nee Fraenkel) disputed the fact that Israel is an apartheid state and prevailed upon the BBC to censor Kennedy’s performance by removing his statement. Baroness Deech produced not one shred of evidence to support her claim and yet the BBC, non political, supposedly, acting solely on Baroness Deech’s say so, suddenly went all 1984 on us. Well!! Time to stick my head above the parapet again, alongside my brother, Nigel Kennedy, where it belongs. And by the way, Nigel, great respect man. So here follows a letter last re-drafted in July.

25th July 2013
To My Colleagues in Rock and Roll:

In the wake of the tragic shooting to death of un-armed teenager Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer Zimmerman, yesterday, Stevie Wonder spoke at a gig declaring that he will not perform in the State of Florida until that State repeals its “Stand your ground” Law. In effect he has declared a boycott on grounds of conscience. I applaud his position, and stand with him, it has brought back to me a statement I made in a letter I wrote last February 14th, to which I have referred but have never published.

The time has come, so here it is.

This letter has been simmering on the back burner of my conscience and consciousness for some time.

It is seven years since I joined BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) a non violent movement to oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. The aim of BDS is to bring international attention to these Israeli policies, and hopefully, to help bring them to an end. All the people of the region deserve better than this.

To cut to the chase, Israel has been found guilty, independently, by international human rights organizations, UN officials, and the International Court of Justice, of serious breaches of international law. These include, and I will name only two;

1. The Crime of Apartheid:

The systematic oppression of one ethnic group by another. On 9 March 2012, for instance, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called [1] on Israel to end its racist policies and laws that contravene the  prohibition against racial segregation and apartheid.

2. The Crime of Ethnic Cleansing:

The forcible removable of indigenous peoples from their rightful land in order to settle an occupying population. For example, in East Jerusalem non Jewish families are routinely physically evicted from their homes to make way for Jewish occupants.

There are others.

Given the inability or unwillingness of our governments, or the United Nations Security Council to put pressure on Israel to cease these violations, and make reparations to the victims, it falls to civil society and conscientious citizens of the world, to dust off our consciences, shoulder our responsibilities, and act. I write to you now, my brothers and sisters in the family of Rock and Roll, to ask you to join with me, and thousands of other artists around the world, to declare a cultural boycott on Israel, to shed light on these problems and also to support all our brothers and sisters in Palestine and Israel who are struggling to end all forms of Israeli oppression and who wish to live in peace, justice, equality and freedom.

I am writing to you all now because of two recent events.

1. Stevie Wonder

Word came to me, the first week of last December that Stevie Wonder had been booked to headline at a gala dinner for the Friends of The Israeli Defence Force in LA on 6th December 2012. An event to raise money for the Israeli armed forces, as if the $4,300,000,000 that we the US tax payers give them each year were not enough? This came right after The Israeli defence Force had concluded yet another war on Gaza, (Operation Pillar of Defence), according to human rights watch, committing war crimes against the besieged 1.6 million Palestinians there.

Anyway, I wrote to Stevie to try to persuade him to cancel. My letter ran along these lines, “Would you have felt OK performing at the Policeman’s Ball in Johannesburg the night after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 or in Birmingham Alabama, to raise money for the Law Enforcement officers, who clubbed, tear gassed and water cannoned those children trying to integrate in 1963?”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu also wrote an impassioned plea to Stevie, and 3,000 others appended their names to a petition. Stevie, to his great credit, cancelled!

2. Earlier that week I delivered a speech at The United Nations. If you are interested you can find this speech on you tube.

The interesting thing about these two stories is that there was NOT ONE mention of either story in the mainstream media in the United States.

The clear inference would be that the media in the USA is not interested in the predicament of the Palestinian people, or for that matter the predicament of the Israeli people. We can only hope they may become interested as they eventually did in the politics of apartheid South Africa.

Back in the days of Apartheid South Africa at first it was a trickle of artists that refused to play there, a trickle that exercised a cultural boycott, then it became a stream, then a river then a torrent and then a flood. (Remember Steve van Zant, Bruce and all the others? “We will not Play in Sun City?”) Why? Because, like the UN and the International Courts of Justice they understood that Apartheid is wrong.

The sports community joined the battle, no one would go and play cricket or rugby in South Africa, and eventually the political community joined in as well. We all as a global, musical, sporting and political community raised our voices as one and the apartheid regime in South Africa fell.

Maybe we are at the tipping point now with Israel and Palestine. These are good people both and they deserve a just solution to their predicament. Each and every one of them deserves freedom, justice and equal rights. Just recently the ANC, the ruling party of South Africa, has endorsed BDS. We are nearly there. Please join me and all our brothers and sisters in global civil society in proclaiming our rejection of Apartheid in Israel and occupied Palestine, by pledging not to perform or exhibit in Israel or accept any award or funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.

Roger Waters, 19th August 2013



Roger Waters

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27 Responses

  1. LanceThruster on August 19, 2013, 12:06 pm

    “The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, but It Bends Toward Justice” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

    This is truly significant. Silence equals assent.

    • on August 19, 2013, 8:45 pm

      roger, it’s great to have you on board. you need to organize a concert like bagladesh called something like “free palestine” and hold it at the garden. i think at the very least elvis costello and sinaid o’connor would come, but with you acting as ringleader who knows. and bring the old group with you, they weren’t too bad

    • asherpat on August 20, 2013, 9:01 am

      And how is the fact that Martin Luther King Jr. said this relevant to Israel?

      In fact, Martin Luther King Jr. was quite supportive of Israel, and not once, he also said in 1967 – “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism”. Is anti-Semitism off-limits at all on this blog?

  2. Chu on August 19, 2013, 12:35 pm

    Great speech. Why can’t one Congressperson in the United States make one similar?
    What about Bernie Sanders?

    Apartheid and Ethnic Cleansing are the basis of the Jewish State. They know it and the world knows it. But truth and facts don’t matter, when political financial power from a unregistered foreign lobby keeps the pathetic US government representatives in fear of losing their corrupted positions. And let’s not forget the New York Times for aiding the apartheid for decades, while masquerading as the newspaper of the left.

  3. bilal a on August 19, 2013, 2:31 pm

    [email protected] must show that journalists calling for the murder of other journalists, or, indeed, anybody, is never acceptable. @TheTinaBeast

    Michael Grunwald
    It was a dumb tweet. I’m sorry. I deserve the backlash. (Maybe not the anti-Semitic stuff but otherwise I asked for it.)

  4. Talkback on August 19, 2013, 3:59 pm

    For those who don’t know – Baroness Deech was a member of the Jewish Leadership Council.

  5. yrn on August 19, 2013, 4:07 pm

    Only five sites including MW mention this letter.
    Wow looks like Rogers is getting more attention then ever………………..

  6. Tuyzentfloot on August 19, 2013, 5:44 pm

    The situation in Belgium bothers me. If I look at comments on Syria and Egypt I get the impression anti-muslim propaganda is falling on a very fertile ground.
    First of all Belgium has many immigrants that aren’t well integrated and there are a lot of tensions.
    There is also a general background of anticlerical and antireligious sentiments here. Belgium has a catholic history but the religion has mostly atrophied and the churches are empty. It’s a commonly held opinion here that religion is the root of all evil, and Islam is religion squared.
    There’s a lot of sincere support for Israel. There’s considerable disgust as well, but the dominant opinion about mideast conflicts is that it’s in their nature to fight. And whatever evil things Israel does, it’s still mostly defending itself.

    Well, I guess I’m generalizing too much here. pessimistic mood.

  7. just on August 19, 2013, 8:14 pm

    Thank you Mr. Waters. I really hope that your colleagues heed your plea.

    (the picture is brilliant)

    A cultural boycott works especially well when it targets those that believe that they are a beacon of democracy, “progress”, and a bastion of tolerance while behaving criminally without any repercussions. We here in the US reward them for it!!! BDS is possibly the only thing that will ‘convince’ Israel into behaving within the constructs of humanitarianism, justice and international law for & toward their brethren, the indigenous Palestinians.

    Justice must be done. 1S1P1V.

  8. Kathleen on August 19, 2013, 11:41 pm

    Roger Waters is a courageous, brilliant and dedicated human rights activist. Was so great to witness him get involved with this critical issue.

  9. giladg on August 20, 2013, 2:31 am

    There are two things you do not understand Roger. The majority of Americans do not agree with you and they do support Israel. This was not the case with South Africa. The other thing is the violent nature of Arab culture, that you seem to ignore. This, also, was not the case with Black South Africans. Forcing the comparison is not going to work Roger. You would do better with your time calling on Arabs and Muslims to reject violence and to call for sharing with the Jewish people instead of the line that is deeply entrenched in many Islamic circles that if you are not Muslim then something is wrong with you. Radical Islam is driving the agenda Roger. Turn on your TV. By the way, radical Islam has been driving the agenda against Israel for a long time but few have really understood this. This is not the case with the families of the many dead and injured Israelis, who have been subjected to wars and terror campaigns over the past 100 years.

  10. asherpat on August 20, 2013, 2:46 am

    “Time to stick my head above the parapet again”

    What exactly is he afraid of? Violent pro-Israeli bloggers? Performance-disrupting anti-Palestinian flash-mobs at the Proms (hint hint)? Ostracising himself versus his hip Israel hating celeb friends?

    Quelle courage!

    • Woody Tanaka on August 20, 2013, 6:47 am

      “What exactly is he afraid of?”

      yeah, because the fanatical fans of you bigots have never conspired to ruin anyone’s career. Just ask Vanessa Redgrave or Helen Thomas.

    • on August 20, 2013, 9:10 am

      May be to be accused of a slander? You are a private person so you can say any nonsence (like Israel is apartheid) but he is not.

    • seanmcbride on August 20, 2013, 12:56 pm


      What exactly is he afraid of? Violent pro-Israeli bloggers? Performance-disrupting anti-Palestinian flash-mobs at the Proms (hint hint)? Ostracising himself versus his hip Israel hating celeb friends?

      What are the odds that some zealous elements of the Israeli government and the Israel lobby are running black ops against leading critics of Israel around the world?

      Waters probably knows the score.

      “Black ops” covers a broad gamut of activities — from behind the scenes harassment to assassinations. There is a well-known track record on this front.

  11. Bataween on August 20, 2013, 6:40 am

    Roger Walters
    What do you know about the Middle East ? What do you know about politics? Zilch.
    The true victims of ethnic cleansing are one million Jews who were driven out of Arab countries by those Arab governments who care so much about your precious Palestinians. Half the Jews of Israel came from Arab lands. Look at the Copts in Egypt, the Assyrians and other Christians in Iraq! They too are being driven out. If only you had eyes to see you would realise you are a shill for fascism and Arab colonialism. You have swallowed lies and misinformation about Israel apartheid when the true practitioners of apartheid against women and minorities are the Arabs, including the Palestinians.

  12. giladg on August 20, 2013, 7:56 am

    Roger, fortunately for Israel, the actions taken by Arabs and Muslims most often than not, speak for themselves. For those who want to listen that is. During the campaign against South Africa, the tag-alongs took the word from activists on how bad South Africa was. And even many activists did not have the full picture. What is your excuse in the day and age of free flowing info?

  13. on August 20, 2013, 8:26 am

    Is Israel an apartheid state?
    These simple facts must be allowed to be posted on this site.

    Moderators – if you ban this, you will be doing a job similar to what was done by KGB in a former USSR who was AFRAID that people will hear the thruth. Are you afraid of my posts? Israel does not block you and is nor affraid off letting its people hear what you have to say.
    The fact is – I am seeing your site freely as well as many vicious anti -Israeli sites and FB pages. You cant continue blocking me because I am not posting what you want me to post. This is anti-liberal, anti-democratic, etc, etc

  14. jonah on August 20, 2013, 8:26 am

    Poor man! He pretends to be an human rights activist, calling for a cultural boycott of Israel, but he hasn’t uttered a single word on the ongoing slaughter in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Darfur etc. and on the policies of segregation in the Arab world (including the Palestinian territories). Anti-Israel hypocrisy at its finest.

  15. on August 20, 2013, 8:28 am

    Two Syrian civilians injured by fighting between the army and rebels in their country were evacuated to Ziv Medical Center in serious condition.
    In addition, Saturday morning, ten injured Syrians were taken to Israeli hospitals. Two of them were evacuated to Nahariya Hospital, two to Poriya Hospital in Tiberias, and the others to Ziv Medical Center.,7340,L-4418922,00.html

  16. on August 20, 2013, 7:39 pm

    roger waters has a top billing over at catbirdseat

  17. kalithea on August 21, 2013, 5:56 pm

    Here is a reply from dumb and dumber; the model being the latter; the “lawyer” being the former.:

    Who brags about being a lawyer? Clue: it rhymes with “user” and starts with L.

  18. on August 22, 2013, 10:14 am

    Take My Pretty Face Out of Your Israel-Hating Concerts

    Bar Rafaeli takes on Waters, who supports the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS campaign. Good on you, Bar!

  19. on August 22, 2013, 10:15 am

    Is Israel an apartheid state?
    link to

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