This is very good. Last week Roger Waters was invited to speak at the New York Times on the occasion of his new tour/album, and after an hour of musical discussion, a man in the audience asked Waters about his endorsement of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) aimed at Israel– what is your end goal?– and about the artists’ letter to Radiohead appealing to the band not to play Israel in July.
The question clearly makes interlocutor Jon Pareles squeamish. Though Waters gives an extended, calm answer (at 1:00:40), and got a lot of applause for it. I’ve transcribed it:
My end goal is the same as the end goal of anybody who’s involved with BDS, which is as you know is a nonviolent movement, it was started by Palestinian civil society. And I became aware of it in 2006 when I went to Israel to play and I in consequence was approached by BDS and had to start negotiating with them and talking with them and entering into a conversation about the predicament of the Palestinian people. And this is such a long conversation that we will curtail it here a little bit–
Essentially I was convinced that all of the people who live in that region should have rights. They should have property rights, they should have the right to their religion, and they should have rights to self-determination. All of them. So that’s all our Jewish friends who are in Israel, who live there, but also all our Palestinian and Arab friends who are living in the occupied territories and also in Israel. They should have equal rights. And that is my only beef. Just as all the people living in the United States of America should have equal rights, all of them, regardless of their color, creed, race or religion– that is what I want for the Palestinians.
“Nothing more, nothing less. I’m not trying to destroy Israel. I have nothing against Jewish people. They accuse me of being an anti-semite, because it’s the only way they can attack this position– which is the basic position of BDS.
“BDS goes further, they want the right to return of the refugees, who were kicked out of their homes by force in 1947 and 48 and again in 1967 after the ’67 war. I personally agree with that. I think that to be turfed out of where you have lived and where your family have lived for hundreds of years is wrong.”
“So that’s it in a nutshell…
“I have engaged in a correspondence with some of Radiohead, and they seem to have decided that they’re going to go ahead and do a concert in Tel Aviv, so there’s very little more that I can say on the matter. They have to make up their own minds about what they decide to do with their lives and they have to go wherever their conscience lead them. So I’m not going to sit here and badmouth them or harangue them. My personal view is that there’s a valid and legitimate picket line that has been organized by BDS, and I would prefer it if colleagues in my business do not cross that picket line. But if people choose to, that is entirely a matter for them and their own consciences.”
“One more (question). I hope it’s musical!” Pareles says.
Good for the Times for staging the Waters event, with the inevitable risk that he would come forth with such an eloquent statement, and folks would applaud him. Another sign of breakage. A lot of the comments at Youtube are pro-Israel, and scorbutic.
Now: Look at that letter Waters co-signed urging Radiohead to stay home. Look at the signatories. Geoff Dyer, Juliet Stevenson, James Schamus, Bella Freud, Mike Leigh, Eve Ensler, Julie Christie, Remi Kanazi, Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker and others. That is some collection of serious folks.