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American musicians are ‘scared sh*tless’ their careers ‘will be destroyed’ if they speak up for Palestinians — Roger Waters

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For years now we have admired Roger Waters’s moral courage, his refusal to back down from his criticism of Israel even if his career is torched by his witness. And I have heard rumors of that career-blackmail being levied at the legendary musician who never met his father or grandfather (because they died freeing Europe) and who burst into rock and roll fame without even wanting that when he was in his early 20s because he was political before he was musical.

Those rumors are confirmed; now this committed soul has burst out in the English press with a description of the vicious smears the Israel lobby has used against him, which he has overcome, in an effort to get others to join him in speaking out against Israeli apartheid. Pointing out that British musicians have supported BDS– Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign– Waters says that American artists are “scared shitless” against such actions because their careers “will be destroyed.” But we need them desperately, as we did in Vietnam days.

Here are some of Waters’s statements to the Independent:

“The only response to BDS [] is that it is anti-Semitic,” Waters told The Independent, in his first major UK interview about his commitment to Israeli activism. “I know this because I have been accused of being a Nazi and an anti-Semite for the past 10 years.

“My industry has been particularly recalcitrant in even raising a voice [against Israel]. There’s me and Elvis Costello, Brian Eno, Manic Street Preachers, one or two others, but there’s nobody in the United States where I live. I’ve talked to a lot of them, and they are scared s***less….

“If they say something in public they will no longer have a career. They will be destroyed. I’m hoping to encourage some of them to stop being frightened and to stand up and be counted, because we need them. We need them desperately in this conversation in the same way we needed musicians to join protesters over Vietnam.”

“My father died fighting the Nazis, my mother [a strong Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Labour supporter] devoted her life to doing everything she could to create a more humane world.

“We are asking questions that have never been asked until the last couple of years, which are bringing the wrath of the Israeli lobby down on people like me and all the others who dare to question and criticise.

“[The Israeli lobby] is determined not to let that conversation develop into one that people can listen to and that is why they accuse us of being Nazis. This idea that BDS is the thin end of some kind of genocidal Nazi wedge that ends up in another Holocaust – well it isn’t.”

This is the sort of brave testimony we have come to expect from Waters. Four years ago I saw him at the Russell Tribunal patiently describing Palestinian conditions. Last week I saw him speaking at a Palestinian solidarity event in lower Manhattan. He has freely extended his fame and his most famous work, The Wall album, to the Palestinian people– as I know that he would be doing for Jews if it was my people being persecuted.

Remember that Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel let a bit of this truth slip out a few years ago– the Jewish lobby intimidates people on Capitol Hill, he told Aaron David Miller — and he was dragged through every sewer in Washington by the Israel lobby, and damaged. But that tactic is wearing out, and by standing tall, Waters is helping to defeat it. Let’s hope his latest bravery inspires and frees others. Like what about Stevie Van Zandt, who helped to lead the South African artistic boycott movement, but who has defied calls on him as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s band to stay away from Israel this summer. Van Zandt wrote:

“You and the other Israel boycotters are politically ignorant obnoxious idiots… Israel is one of our two friends in the Middle East. In addition to the fact that a boycott in that case would accomplish nothing. Go get educated.”

Roger Waters is providing a moral education. Every age brings fresh injustice, which calls on those of conscience who have strong spines to stand up. Waters and others have beaten a path. Let more and more join them.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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17 Responses

  1. pabelmont on May 11, 2016, 10:26 am

    He’s right about a career-blackmail. I the 1980s, my wife (a pianist and a Palestinian) learned from one of her musical friends, a professional, that there was (or it was believed that there was) am “Israeli Mafia” in classical music which acted through the musicians’ agents and would deny a career to anyone who, having been offered a concert in Israel, turned it down.

    Same mechanism, in a way, that AIPAC uses against politicians. Accept all AIPAC-gigs or we’ll support your opponent next election. Just look at the relatively TINY amounts of money AIPAC and Big-Zion generally actually give to politicians. It’s not the gifts that turn the trick, but the threat of major gifts to an opponent.

    If the entire USA congress, or a big chunk of it, rebelled against Big-Zion and did it on a single day, a predetermined day of protest and revolt, it would be (IMO) impossible for Big-Zion to punish them all, and its strength would be broken. But the Congress has no way, no secret discipline, to seize on a single day for that protest.

    Even less do all musicians and other entertainers have a disciplined way to confront the Israeli mafia.

    • WH on May 12, 2016, 2:16 am

      Private ‘Big Zion’ donors like Adelson or Saban certainly do donate large sums.

  2. Marnie on May 11, 2016, 10:51 am

    “Like what about Stevie Van Zandt, who helped to lead the South African artistic boycott movement, but who has defied calls on him as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s band to stay away from Israel this summer. Van Zandt wrote: “You and the other Israel boycotters are politically ignorant obnoxious idiots… Israel is one of our two friends in the Middle East. In addition to the fact that a boycott in that case would accomplish nothing. Go get educated.”

    I just got educated on Steve Van Zandt – I didn’t realize he had gone over to the dark side and had believed the garbage that Bruce Springsteen was playing Tel Aviv. So sorry for my mistake and my apologies to Bruce Springsteen and his many fans, sorry I was so quick to believe BS and then believe Steve Van Zandt was still the same man who boycotted South Africa.

    • Boo on May 12, 2016, 3:48 pm

      Doubly ironic because Springsteen was so quick to cancel his North Carolina concert after they passed their anti-LGBT House Bill 2. PEPs really rankle me — their moral fovea handicaps them severely.

  3. YoniFalic on May 11, 2016, 11:53 am

    One would think that the Web provides means to alleviate the problem of “Jewish” BDS (Boycott, Defund, Smear).

  4. echinococcus on May 11, 2016, 11:59 am

    He has… as I know that he would be doing for Jews if it was my people being persecuted.

    They’re not “your people”, dammit. Your people are whoever fights Zionists.

    • Freija on May 12, 2016, 4:56 pm

      right! My people are the fighters against Zionism, which is a racist, heinous and barbaric ideology! Even when it comes to my family members I have to choose between the zionist family members and those of the family who fight against zionism! The family dinners finish always in a big fight for justice and understanding against lies and myths…

      • echinococcus on May 14, 2016, 1:03 pm

        Looks like a lot of people don’t understand that, no matter how ambiguous the situation before November 1947, since that time we are in a war. A real, boom-boom shooting war, fercrissakes, one in which our own family members are under orders to kill us if we assist their enemies or just uphold some principles. In fact, the Zionist camp are international terrorists and no one is immune anywhere.

        It’s not about Phil Weiss’ “war of ideas” but war period. Those of us who lived through WWII in their families know better.

  5. DaveS on May 11, 2016, 1:52 pm

    Roger Waters is one of the great heroes of the Palestinian rights’ movement. Not only does he refuse to back down, but he has brilliantly articulated his moral position at length in numerous writings.

    I read Van Zandt’s twitter rants and they amount to nothing more than name-calling and hiding behind the 140-character limit. In response to one tweet asking him about his solution to Israeli apartheid, he responded: “The problems there have existed for a thousand years and you want the solution in 140 characters?” If SVZ wants to publicly pontificate on the Middle East, he should do it with extended analysis rather than meaningless, dismissive one-liners like “go get educated” directed to “politically ignorant obnoxious idiots.”

    • WH on May 12, 2016, 2:17 am

      A thousand years? Obfuscatory bullshit, it’s about occupation not ancient cultural conflict.

  6. John O on May 11, 2016, 2:46 pm

    I am baffled. Who the hell is “our” other friend in the Middle East???

  7. just on May 11, 2016, 3:09 pm

    I have some superstars and heroes~ Roger Waters is one. Love listening to his words, his music, and observing his steady soul and conscience.

    Here’s another good man with a good cause and conscience:

    “Israel Prize Winner Donates Cash Award to Israeli Group That Helps Palestinians

    Hebrew University Prof. David Shulman will receive the prize on Thursday for his research into languages and culture in south India.

    Israel Prize laureate Prof. David Shulman announced on Wednesday that he would donate his 75,000 shekel ($20,000) cash prize to Ta’ayush, an Israeli group that assists Palestinian residents of the South Hebron Hills.

    Shulman, who is an active member of Ta’ayush, will receive his prize on Thursday, in the context of the Independence Day celebrations.

    The Hebrew University academic was awarded the Israel Prize in the field of religious research for his work on Indian languages and culture. He is regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on Sanskrit and southern India.

    In addition to his academic work, Shulman is a prominent left-wing activist.

    In a video posted online on Wednesday, Shulman explained his decision to donate the prize money to Ta’ayush and his deliberations over whether to accept the prize at all, due to the “general deterioration of the situation and the witch hunt against Ta’ayush, peace and human rights activists by a right-wing establishment determined to perpetuate the occupation.”

    Prof. David Shulman on the work done by Ta’ayush with the Palestinians of the south Hebron hills area (Hebrew)

    Shulman finally decided to accept the prize and donate the 75,000 shekel cash component to Ta’ayush. …”

    read more:

    • Marnie on May 12, 2016, 12:49 am

      That’s good to know. Thanks for posting that.

      • JulianaFarha on May 12, 2016, 4:48 pm

        Yes, David Shulman is inspiring and writes with such incisiveness and humanity, but I didn’t know about this, so thanks.

  8. John Salisbury on May 12, 2016, 10:29 pm

    These days some artists whose music inspired and delighted me no longer sound as good.
    Jarring notes and harmonies that are sour instead of sweet !
    How good they be so blaze? How could they be so nonchalant about 49 years of occupation?

    Roger Waters still hits all the right notes however.A wonderful man. Much to be admired for refusing to abandon his moral principles.

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