The Institute for Middle East Understanding has published a translation of an interview with Roger Waters by Alon Hadar that appeared in Hebrew in the September 18, 2013 issue of Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. Waters is a highly controversial figure in Israel because he has vigorously supported the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) call. Here are excerpts of the very long interview. He defends his use of the term apartheid to describe the occupation, says blaming the Palestinians for the conflict is like blaming a rape victim for being raped, and says the Israeli separation wall is 100 times more horrifying than the Berlin wall– and the Berlin wall was taken down.
Go to the link to see his views on an attack on Syria (he’s against it). Excerpts:
Hadar: Israel is one of the few states in the Middle East where an artist like yourself can come and express his opinions without fearing for his life. Don’t be a big hero abroad, come here and try to convince us that you’re right.
Waters: “I tried to convince, it was not effective. I never saw a visit of a popular musician having an impact on Israeli policy, other than the fact that those singers legitimize that policy.”
H: The international artists that ignored your calls argued that you shouldn’t mix politics and music.
W: “I know these arguments: “I’m only a humble musician,” “I’m only doing my show.” That was the position of Alicia Keys.”
H: You tried to convince her with no success, she arrived here and performed here.
W: “She’s a grown woman and can do whatever she wants.”..
H: And meanwhile, your fans feel quite hurt by you.
W: “I want the fans to understand that I’m not just talking in order to criticize. I am criticizing the government’s policy. I don’t want to criticize Israeli citizens.”
H: And still, you boycott them.
W: “I’ve been in your country, I’ve traveled throughout the West Bank, I visited Jenin. I saw the checkpoints, the settlements, the occupation forces. I decided that I wanted to protest. What do they expect me to do in order to protest? To chain myself to the railings at Buckingham palace? That doesn’t seem particularly effective.”
H: But a cultural boycott is an exceptional and extreme step.
W: “When white activists started to organize protests outside South Africa to awaken world public opinion, they said: ‘You have to take apart the system because it is wrong.’ The movement progressed slowly over the years and developed the idea of a cultural boycott. The only reason for the boycott is that it is effective.”
H: You’re talking about an apartheid regime in South Africa. Here the situation is totally different.
W: “In the occupied territories, Jews are governed by civil laws and there are totally different laws for the Palestinians and the Arabs, who are under military laws. That is exactly like the old Pass Laws that were in South Africa. That’s apartheid! Clear and simple. No question.”
At this point, Waters refers us to the dictionary, to check the exact definition of apartheid, to prove that he is right. And indeed: “Population separation on the basis of race, a regime where the ruling race has privileges that members of other races do not have.” This doesn’t help, Waters continues: “When one race or ethnic group controls another race or ethnic group by means of its power, this is the crime of apartheid and that’s the status quo, all day, every day, in the occupied territories,” he says and raises his voice. “That’s how it is in Israel itself as well, there are different laws depending on whether you are Jewish or Arab.”
H: You forget that Netanyahu already declared his support for the idea of two states and called on the Palestinians to enter into negotiations without preconditions.
W: “There are some politicians who say something about the two-state solution and that they want peace, but their policies don’t show any sign that that’s true. They continue building settlements, they continue the occupation.”
H: Israel has never annexed the territories. At every opportunity, it declares that this situation is temporary. There is not one Israeli citizen who is not interested in peace.
W: “If you look at the map and see where the settlements are and where the wall passes, then you see that it’s not something temporary. There is a deliberate attempt here to annex the entire territory. By the way, they already annexed East Jersualem and the Golan Heights officially, not just de facto.”…
H: 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?
W: “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.”
H: You’re supposed to be a peace loving man, and here you are doing a boycott. Is that really the right way?
W: “Yes, just like in South Africa. In the end, it was very effective and the only state that continued to support the whites in South Africa was Israel. Even though South Africa is still not a perfect place in any sense of the word, there is no discrimination there anymore. I want you to get to that situation in Israel.”…
H: Did you grow up in a political household?
W: “My mother was a declared communist. Our house was filled with documentation of the cruelest crimes committed in the name of Nazi ideology and the Third Reich. I was never in the gas chambers, obviously, but I was exposed as a young child to its results, and I have never forgotten the Holocaust. My mother (who died a few years ago at the age of 96) dedicated the rest of her life to political activism that she believed would provide great benefit to a great number of people.”
H: Your father was killed when you were only five months old, in that same war.
W: “My father died fighting the Nazis while in the British army in south Italy. Before the war, he was very involved in Palestine, he was a teacher at Saint George’s School in Jerusalem and dearly loved the country and its people. So I feel a kind of connection to this country through him. They ask me, “why do you do it?” I have no choice but to do what I’m doing. My political life and the feeling that I have to take part and be active are totally connected to the example I got from both my parents. My parents could have been two complete idiots, and then I guess I wouldn’t be what I am today. I feel very lucky that my parents were good, decent, thoughtful people.”…
H: That is not a wall, that is a separation fence that was built after a series of suicide bombings that originated in Palestinian Authority areas. You insist on continuing to see it as a symbol of ethnic separation.
W: “You listen to the official position of every Israeli government for generations, that you need the barrier for defense, and then you look at the map, and you understand that it is there for land theft and annexation in every possible sense. So why do you lie? Why pretend that it has any connection whatsoever to security matters? You need to be on the Green Line, on the 1967 borders, as you intended. But you’re not, it’s another piece of untruth, they are lying and I don’t understand how they expect to advance toward peace this way.”
H: Come on, is it really possible to compare the separation wall with the Berlin wall?
W: “Your wall is a hundred times more horrifying, and yours still exists – theirs was destroyed a long time ago.”…
H: All you do is criticize. How should the West act in the chaos of the Middle East?
W: “The first step is to leave them alone. Don’t decide that you know what’s best, that you can be the cop of the region. We need to stop sending them arms. You want to fight? Go pick up a rock. Let’s not make it into an industry that starts wars and makes trillions of dollars. One day, you’re playing in the backyard of your garden and a minute later you have no legs. Why?…”
H: You celebrated your 70th birthday. Do you have thoughts about your age? Until when will you continue to perform?
W: “I don’t think about my age when it comes to anything that has to do with my performance on stage or my work. I think about it in my own personal context – how much longer I have to live. You can’t reach the age of 70 without fearing for your condition and without feeling that you’re creaking.”