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On ‘NYT’ stage, Roger Waters calls BDS ‘valid and legitimate picket line’

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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.”

Loud applause.

“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.”

More applause.

“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.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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8 Responses

  1. festus on May 5, 2017, 4:46 pm

    The loud applause Roger Waters received for his comments scares the Israeli apologist/propagandists. His words are obviously both true and ethical — two items the apologists completely lack. Hence the desperation to shut down free speech.

    • oldgeezer on May 5, 2017, 9:11 pm

      Ethics, truth, morality, fairness, and justice are foreign concepts to zionists. They have no perception what it means. Everything is filtered through a zionist filter which translates into does this benefit Israel. If yes then it’s good and if not then it’s evil or antisemitic. I truly don’t think they realize it. I don’t think that some of them realize that things can be good for Israel and for others.

      No matter…. zionism is an immoral 19th century political philosophy which is rooted in pure racism. Similar to white supremacy and other foul belief systems of the period.

      Much is made about the desire to return “home” over the passed millenia but if it was a belief of the time they would have. And if it was a belief of the time zionists would not have been held in such low regard by Jewish people. And if it was a belief of the religion they would be waiting for the coming of the messiah which was a precondition for that return.

      Regardless it is a scourge. The proof that it is a scourge is their attack on the fundamental rights that people in the west used to have to free speech. That is their main target in this current age as free speech will show the lie of the perversion that is zionism.

  2. pabelmont on May 5, 2017, 7:37 pm

    The Zionists wanted, from 1930 or earlier, to get a country in which they could live and also rule — call it a Jewish majority country — call it a Jewish country — and they could see no way to do accomplish this except by a large influx of Jews and a large outflow of non-Jews; thus the channeling of European and Russian Jews to Israel (the influx) and the Nakba (the outflow). and they felt (or told themselves so many times until they believed it that they were) entitled to this outcome to the point that they taught American Jewry that they were entitled to it and taught their own children that they were entitled to it (much as Americans taught our own children that we are entitled to the American West or indeed to all of America which Americans took vi-et-armis from the Indians). Because America’s crime happened so long ago, on the whole, many Americans are able to feel a bit bad about it; because Israel’s crime is on-going, Israelis are not, on the whole, able to feel bad about what they did and continue to do.

    But the mere fact that a bunch of adventurers, pirates, terrorists, decided once upon a time that they had a “right” to take over someone else’s country and expel most of the inhabitants should not of itself persuade anyone else that what they did was right.

    Roger Waters seems unpersuaded. Good for him. A “BDS Picket Line”, indeed!

  3. JosephA on May 5, 2017, 8:50 pm

    The enthusiastic applause from the silent majority. It’s funny how equality can be seen as controversial, but only by those who are in positions of unchecked power and authority.

  4. Citizen on May 6, 2017, 6:16 am

    The Nazi leadership was tried under ex post facto law, establishing modern international law in the mid 20th Century and quickly expressed by Geneva IV; this law was earned by the blood spilled and mass destruction from the first two world wars, the second basically a continuation of the first. The American Indian wars ended in the late years of the 19th Century. The creation of Israel by force of Zionist terror, and its expansion to this day by violation of the UN charter itself is a “legal” aberration and anomaly. (Similarly, the seminal Balfour Declaration itself was a promise Britain had no legal authority to make).

  5. Boo on May 6, 2017, 8:47 am

    “𝑰’𝒎 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒕𝒓𝒚𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒐 𝒅𝒆𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒐𝒚 𝑰𝒔𝒓𝒂𝒆𝒍.”

    Nor am I.

    But I won’t stop an inch short of destroying apartheid and oppression.

  6. Kay24 on May 6, 2017, 1:20 pm

    What can the Palestinian people do? If they resort to violent protest, they are killed and criticized by the zionist allies around the world, and if they protest through BDS movements, they are accused of being anti-semitic. It is time the accusations of being anti-semic for protesting was put to rest.

  7. Darcha on May 7, 2017, 11:03 am

    I clicked the like button on the Youtube video and got a warning message saying that the video is unlisted and that I should ‘be considerate and think twice before sharing’. Of course, no other Times Talks video carries any such warning. I suggest people get others to share/like the vid.

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