Roger Waters brought his national tour to New York this week. Tonight he is on Long Island, and regrettably the New York media have given a platform to Israel fanatics to smear the songwriter/bassist. Local TV stations have passed on outrageous statements, that Waters is an anti-Semite and that Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is bigoted.
Waters is an outspoken critic of Israel, and critics believe his message is bigoted…
Waters says he is not an anti-Semite and that his message is being misunderstood.
Waters supports economic sanctions against Israel, but denies he’s anti-Semitic.
Nassau County came out against the BDS movement but by then the contract for Waters’ appearance had already been signed…
This is hateful journalism. Waters’s “denials” of a charge that is not really a charge but a smear come across as hollow when screamers are given the opportunity to run down his character out of ignorance. And the journalists make no effort to report the other side: that Waters’s show has almost nothing to do with Palestine, and a whole lot to do with Donald Trump (who is portrayed as a pig and nincompoop) and that many justice groups support BDS, which is a nonviolent campaign aimed at ending discrimination and apartheid, very much like the South African BDS campaign of 30 years ago.
There is no suggestion here of what many on the left understand: Roger Waters is a leader, a rock star who has placed his magnificent reputation and career on the line for the sake of Palestinians. How many cultural figures would so such a thing? Very few. Yet Waters has staked his reputation again and again, and forced other musicians to take a stand. His stance is simply noble, especially when you consider the power imbalance.
Waters’s tour-de-force performance mentions Palestine once. One of the videos that screens during his songs — I think it was Dark Side of the Moon, I was in Brooklyn Monday night — shows the Israeli separation wall going through the West Bank. It zooms in on the wall for a few seconds, as an example of man’s cruelty to man’s fellows.
Waters explained that BDS is the voice of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott, in the New York Times last weekend. And on Thursday he told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! about the actual spirit of his show, and BDS:
But my show is all about the idea that if this—if this race, the human race, is to survive even the next 50 or 100 years, we need to start looking at the possibility of the transcendental nature of love, and we have to start looking after one another and recognizing our responsibility to others, which is what BDS is about, really.
That Democracy Now segment contrasted Waters’s courage with the cowardice of Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. It featured an excerpt of the documentary, the Occupation of the American Mind, which is frank about the role of the Israel lobby. Here’s Maddow, quoted during the Gaza onslaught of 2014:
It’s been a constant cycle of fighting between Israel and Hamas for the past several years in Gaza. And the fighting and the cause of the fighting feel terribly familiar, because this is basically a recurring war. And if it feels like déjà vu, feels like, “Ugh, I’ve heard all of this before,” you are right, because this really does keep happening, over and over and over again.
To which Rula Jebreal responds:
Rachel Maddow, the most important woman on MSNBC, the leader when it comes to politics, in six weeks of war, never mentioned the word “blockade,” “occupation,” “illegal settlements,” never mentioned the support that Congress have for Israel, unconditional amount of money, billions of dollars. What is that? What a disappointment! Our media operations, national media, is a scandal when it comes to Israel.
Waters was also pointed on the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which would criminalize some forms of support for boycotting Israel.
WATERS: I’m really glad that [NY Senator] Kirsten Gillibrand has taken her name off it. She’s still against BDS, but almost certainly, she—almost certainly, she doesn’t know. She hasn’t traveled enough, though she did say—to her credit, she did say that she had a meeting with Netanyahu when on a visit to Israel. And she asked him a question of what was his plan for what should happen in the future. And he went, “Next.” You know?
SUT JHALLY [of the Media Education Foundation]: Well, because his plan is to never leave. His plan is to take over the entire thing.
WATERS: But they can’t say that.
Waters described the rise of BDS in the real context here: the utter failure of partition over 70 years, the failure of the international community to deliver on its promises of sovereignty to Palestinians. A farce, actually:
We’ve been asked by Palestinian civil society to join them in their struggle against the occupation of their land, let’s be clear, OK, land that was laid out in the U.N. resolutions in 1947 as land that should be for a Palestinian state. Whatever your feelings may be about the creation of the state of Israel or whatever, the U.N. decided that partition was a good idea, and whatever, OK? So—and it’s not happened. And as Sut just said, it’s been whittled away, piece by piece by piece, by illegal settlements. The land is slowly being stolen. The indigenous population, the Palestinian people, are being forced out, or the attempt is. Their resolve to protest their situation nonviolently, using something like BDS, is one of the most admirable pieces of resistance that we’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. You know, it’s quite extraordinary.
BDS is one of the most admirable pieces of resistance that we’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. What a great statement. And one that is underlined by Israel’s ferocity in opposing BDS, and in the supine US political establishment’s efforts to destroy the movement.
P.S. There is also no inkling in these TV reports of the bigotry of Waters’s critics. When a friend asked a demonstrator outside Barclays Center on Monday night– whose poster said that Waters wants Jews to leave Israel– what should happen to the Palestinians? this individual said, There are no such thing as Palestinians.
Thanks to Marty Brod, Todd Pierce, and Scott Roth.