What would be the reaction if a performing artist went around supporting a movement whose objective is the destruction of a nation and the denial of a people’s right of self-determination? If, when challenged, he resorted to some of the worst stereotypes and hateful language, what would be the reaction? It seems that when it comes to Roger Waters, Israel, and Jews, he goes on a concert tour and no one objects.
Not unlike Mel Gibson, who said some of the worst Jew-hating comments, but who now is heralded as the director of the new movie Hacksaw Ridged. If Waters or Gibson made comments such as they have about any other nationality or ethnic group, they would be shunned. But, somehow, when it comes to Israel and Jews, their hate is acceptable.
My wife and I split our time between Jerusalem and Sacramento, California. We’ve been back in Sacramento for about six weeks. The community is excited and proud because after years of planning and several false starts, a world-class, state-of-the-art arena has just opened. It is the new home of the Sacramento Kings, it is set to host a virtual parade of singers and other stars, and it is widely expected that it will be the catalyst for the long-awaited revival of the downtown. In short, it is a hopeful, happy time for the community.
Although only an intermittent resident of Sacramento these days, I was enjoying the excitement and pride of my hometown friends; its contagious. As I was skimming through a list of upcoming events, I was startled and, to put it mildly, disappointed, to see that Waters was scheduled for a show in June at the new Golden 1 Center. This is particularly offensive because the center received substantial funding from public funds.
If Mr. Waters made the kinds of comments about Mexico and Mexican Americans that he has made about Israel and Jews, the public justifiably would not stand for him appearing at the Golden 1 Center. And, yet, when it comes to Israel and Jews, he is booked and nary a word is said.
Just about two weeks ago I wrote to the primary owner of the team, who was the driving force behind the arena, and to several key personnel, as well as to outgoing Mayor Kevin Johnson and Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg. No response. Below is my letter.
I am heartened to note that American Express recently decided that it does not wish to be associated with Waters’ campaign of hate.
Dear Mr. Ranadive:
The opening of the new Golden One Center is understandably a moment of great pride to Sacramento and the area. It represents a renaissance for the city and the entire region. Having grown up and spent a good part of my life in the city, and as a lifelong resident of the county, I share in the excitement and pride that the new arena has brought to the city and the region. The Center could not have been built and opened without the active support of the citizens of the Sacramento, and without a sizeable contribution of public funds.
As a Jew, a resident of Sacramento County, and as a citizen of both the United States and Israel, I was shocked, saddened, and disappointed when I recently learned that the arena will be hosting Roger Waters in June. Mr. Waters is an unabashed Jew-hater who supports a movement whose objective is to deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination in our ancestral homeland.
Mr. Waters claims that he is not a Jew hater but, rather, that he just wants to cause a change in Israeli policy. However, his actions and words demonstrate that the claim is a lie. Mr. Waters is a vociferous supporter of the BDS (Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment) Movement. As stated clearly by its leaders, the objective of the BDS Movement is the destruction of Israel. (See here, for example)
Mr. Waters campaigns relentlessly in support of BDS, threatening and intimidating other artists to comply with the boycott of Israel. Criticizing Israel is legitimate. Engaging in a campaign that would destroy Israel and deprive the Jews of their homeland is plain and simply Jew hatred.
In his campaign of support for BDS and against Israel, Mr. Waters continuously engages in behavior which is defined by the US State Department as anti-Semitism. In addition to supporting a movement that would deny Jews their right to self-determination and Israel’s right to exist, he invokes images of classic anti-Semitism to characterize Israel or Israelis; he draws comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis; he applies double standards by requiring of Israel behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
If Mr. Waters’ support of BDS and his behavior toward Israel were not enough to demonstrate his Jew hatred, his own words leave no doubt. When people disagree with him, he invariably invokes age-old canards of Jewish influence, control of the media, and conspiratorial networks supposedly working to thwart him. In 2013, his assertions and behavior led the former head of the Anti-Defamation League, Abe Foxman, who had previously defended Waters’ statements as artistic free expression, to declare that he was, in fact, an anti-Semite invoking hateful conspiracy theories about Jews.
At one point Mr. Waters’ Jew-hatred became so egregious that the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano felt compelled to condemn it.
I anticipate some defending Mr. Waters’ “right” to express his opinion as freedom of expression or artistic expression. Mr. Waters has every right to go out on his driveway or onto the street to make Jew-hating statements and display Jew-hating imagery. He can go out on his driveway or onto the street and deny an entire nationality the right to exist and support a movement dedicated to its destruction. That is not the question here.
The question is whether the Golden I Center, built with significant public financial support and intended to be a welcoming place for ALL of the people of the region, will host a person who spews such hate. I would venture to guess that there would be no question that the Center would not host any speaker or artist who advanced such hatred toward any other ethnic group, or who so denigrated or denied the right of self-determination of any other nationality. It should not do so when it comes to Jews and the national homeland of the Jewish people.
The new Golden 1 Center is justifiably Sacramento’s pride and joy. It is a gem. It was built with public support and public funding. Allowing a hate mongerer like Waters to perform and to spew his hate against one nationality and religion will sully the arena while Sacramentans are reveling in its birth. It will leave a very bad taste in the mouths of many citizens and fans who have been strong supporters of the Kings, the arena, and the city. I respectfully urge you to cancel Mr. Waters’ appearance.