We missed this, but it’s important. Ten days ago the Alan Parsons Project played Israel despite an appeal from Roger Waters, the legendary activist and Pink Floyd bassist, to stand up for Palestinian human rights by boycotting the country as artists had boycotted South Africa under apartheid.
The story was picked up by Rolling Stone, which described the musicians’ exchange as a “war of words.” And indeed, if you read the exchange below, it ends with an “ad hominem attack” by Parsons on Waters. It was also picked up by this rightwing site, which featured an interview arranged by the anti-boycott group Creative Community for Peace, in which Parsons said he was under a lot of pressure but that art has nothing to do with politics– and besides, his bassist is an Israeli:
Parsons: “Guy would have killed me [if I had decided to boycott]”
[Bassist Guy] Erez: If he doesn’t come and visit my country, we have a problem.
The story is important for Roger Waters’s passionate, forthright and respectful appeals despite the invective. He has become the ambassador of BDS for a reason. Below are excerpts from the postings on his Facebook page. Followed by statements from Alan Parsons.
Waters announced the dialogue in this manner:
I’ve been in email exchange with Alan Parsons, an English musician and recording artist, who was, coincidentally, an engineer at EMI when Pink Floyd made Dark Side of The Moon. Alan has plans for The Alan Parsons Project to play a gig in Tel Aviv on February 10, 2015. I am an active supporter of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), a non-violent global organization that seeks to promote a just solution to the disastrous Israel/Palestine impasse. I wrote to try to persuade Alan to stand with me and Nick Mason and Brian Eno and Elvis Costello and Massive Attack and Stephen Hawking and thousands of other artists world-wide who support a cultural and academic boycott of Israel to support all those brave Israelis and Palestinians who are resisting the Israeli occupation and anti-Palestinian discrimination.
Waters published his first letter to Parsons, in January. Excerpts:
It’s been 40 years since we worked on Dark Side of the Moon together. If you recall, I was the pimply bass player, you were the tall engineer. Congratulations on your many successes since then.
The reason for my letter today is that I see you have plans to do a gig in Tel Aviv in February. I am writing to ask you to reconsider those plans. I know you to be a talented and thoughtful man, so I assume you know of the plight of the Palestinians and that there is a growing nonviolent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement protesting against the abusive policies of the Israeli government…
While I know you don’t want to disappoint your fans by canceling this gig, you would be sending a powerful message to them and the world by doing so. As with Sun City, more and more artists are standing up to say they will not perform in Israel until such time as their occupation ends and equal rights are extended to Palestinians.
I ask that you consider joining me, and hundreds of thousands of others, by lending your voice to a conversation that rejects violence, embraces international law, and helps the global community pursue a just peace for all the people of the Holy Land.
Advancing a better future for Palestinians and Israelis is a matter of fundamental importance to us all. As John Lennon observed, “Life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting my friend”. I would be happy to discuss all this with you further. More food for thought, here is the public statement Nick Mason and I issued last May referencing the similarities of this campaign to the Sun City boycott in South Africa.
Parsons replied, but asked Waters not to publish his reply. Waters then sent a second letter, which he also published:
I will honor your request not to publish your response to my letter, but note that your argument is similar to that of the few other musicians who have crossed the picket line to play in Israel.
I regret that you have decided, for now at least, to stand with the minority of artists and academics who support the policies of the current Israeli government.But, by all means, let us continue our dialogue.
I, for my part, will be open and clear. My own decision to join BDS was formed by my experience in front of the Apartheid Wall that this and previous Israeli governments have built, and continue to build. Hopefully, should you visit the occupied territories, you will have a similar moment of insight.
I see from your bio that you played in Israel in 2010, a year after Operation Cast Lead, when you might have been forgiven for not knowing any better. Now, it is a year after Operation Protective Edge, when the al-Kilani family (see photograph accompanying this post) were killed. If we didn’t know before, we do now. If you go through with your visit maybe you will be as shaken as I was back in 2006/7.
By ignoring the boycott, you are turning your back on a beleaguered people who are desperately in need of your support. Even at this late hour, please reconsider.
After that letter, Parsons responded on Facebook:
Roger Waters honoured my request not to publish my reply to his first letter to me, but he failed to comply with my clearly stated desire that the whole matter of his ‘problem’ with my concert in Israel should remain private between the two of us. He has now pressed his case in two open letters on his Facebook page without any published defence from me. So in the circumstances, I have decided to make my (originally personal) reply to him public – see below. I will be making no further comment on this matter and thank all our Israeli fans in advance for their loyalty, support, and for attending our show in Tel Aviv.
Here is Parsons’s letter to Waters:
I appreciate your note and your passion.
However, this is a political matter and I am simply an artist. I create music, that is my raison d’être. Everyone – no matter where they reside, what religion they follow, or what ideology they aspire to – deserves to hear it if they so choose.
Music knows no borders, and neither do I.
It was with profound disappointment that I saw you posted this link on your Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/alanparsons/posts/10153127029387958
It is painful to see an important debate lowered to this level of unhelpful mudslinging. To be clear, despite this blogger’s claim, I do not hate Israel – or Israelis or Jews. Along with my many Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, and Arab colleagues, I seek ways to make sense of the current deadly debacle and to encourage a solution that gives equal rights to all the peoples of these troubled lands. The end of the occupation, a primary aim of BDS, is generally acknowledged in the wider debate as a pre-requisite to any peaceful, just, and lasting solution.
Your resorting to posting ad hominem attacks against me from an obscure extremist website informs the conversation not at all and serves only to muddy the already muddy waters. I continue to hope that while in Israel you took the time to take a look at the Separation Wall – from both sides and to educate yourself further on the injustices Palestinians are routinely subjected to by Israeli military forces. I refer often to a just and lawful resolution of this conflict to the benefit of all the people of the“Holy Land” to provide an environment where all their children, regardless of race or religion, could prosper, equal under the law. I know you have stated that your last words were your final words on these subjects. So be it. Those of us who still dare to dream of peace will continue the conversation without you. For us, “Not to talk is not an option”.