A Letter to Roger Waters

As has been reported in the news, Roger Waters has penned a letter asking for artists to uphold a cultural boycott of Israel due to its policies.  For all the good it will do me, this letter is to Roger;

Dear Mr. Waters,

It has been reported that you continue to focus your attention on a conflict that is, in almost every way that matters, peripheral to the cause of human justice and one that due to the influence of oil money is among the best supported, most widely publicized in the world today.  I’m speaking of course about the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which, as it happens, seems to be the “It” cause amongst the self-righteous and the myopic.  Why do I describe it so?  Because there is no doubt that it crowds out, by the attention it gets, almost every other urgent cause involving the poor and oppressed around the world.  Can it be compared to Darfur in terms of scale and ferocity?  No.  Rwanda? No.  Congo. No.  Syria?  Indeed there are literally dozens of conflicts which are more unjust and more murderous.  Even within the middle east it is not nearly the most urgent or lethal conflict, nor is the oppression suffered by the group who you support anywhere near the oppression of other minorities in the middle east, such as the Kurds or the Copts or indeed of Christians throughout the region. 

So to what then can we ascribe your single minded focus on Israel?  I would really like to understand because it puzzles me.  It seems to me that if you would simply take an unjaundiced look around you would see that the plight of the Palestinians is not nearly as dire as the plight of ordinary Arabs in many of the states where they make up a majority.  You would see that living standards in the West Bank and Gaza are higher than the average citizen of Egypt and you would see that while people are starving in sub Saharan Africa, Palestinians within the West Bank and Gaza do not go hungry.  In fact, the only places where Palestinians are suffering mightily are in the Arab lands of Syria, Lebanon and other Arab neighbors.  You will argue that this is all the result of an original injustice where the land of the Palestinians was stolen. One can argue the historical validity of this claim (and indeed I would take issue with it) but even if one were to grant it, it would not absolve the Arab countries from treating their Palestinian refugees like animals as they most certainly have.  Indeed if a Palestinian genocide is taking place, it is taking place within the borders of Israel’s Arab neighbors; not within the West Bank and Gaza, where the population continues to rise rapidly.   This is not to say that there is no injustice here.  Merely to point out that one cannot morally exaggerate the importance of one crime while averting ones gaze from more heinous ones are occurring in the same neighborhood. 

So what accounts for your blind hatred towards Israeli policy at the expense of more obvious injustices in other areas of the world?  Can it be that you consider the people of Israel to be so much better than the Arabs that they should be held to a higher standard than the Arabs themselves; in short a form of philo-Semitism as it were?  If this is your reasoning, do you not see that you are discriminating against the Palestinians themselves?  If self-determination is only a right that you grant to “non-enlightened” semi indigenous people then you are looking down on them, saying in effect that they should want their own state, but worldly educated people should not.  Is that what you are saying?  Indeed, writing your letter from your homeland in England, do you not see that you are riding on the backs of the many ancestors of yours who cleared out the indigenous tribal people around the world to carve an empire?  Do you not see it?  Of course you will argue that the sins of the parents should not be visited on the children.  After all, you were a musician, not an oppressor yourself.  But doesn’t this undercut the whole idea that the Israelis stole the land from the Palestinians?  We are, after all in 2013, talking about the children of the generation of 1948 not the people themselves. 

But that’s not really it is it?  You have claimed that you do not hate Jews but it is clear that you hate certain kinds of Jews; Jews who feel that Judaism is irrelevant to their lives are fine with you; Jews who believe in melting into the vast majority culture are fine.  So who do you hate?  It would seem that you hate Israelis and other Jews who feel that they have the right to national self-determination in their ancestral homeland.  Jew’s have no right to such things (in your worldview); Judiasm is a religion and nothing more.  But isn’t the very definition of self-determination exculpatory here?  Don’t people have a right to determine their own nationality?  If not, shouldn’t the United States still be paying taxes to England?  If not, shouldn’t the Hashemites go back to Saudia Arabia and not claim to be Jordanian?

No Mr. Waters, you cannot avoid the charge of being anti-Jewish here because you deny them rights that you enjoy yourself by the same means and that you claim for others by birth. Your language and speech is clearly one of hate and not of brotherly affection.  No Mr. Waters; you are a Jew hater, and your boycott is the means with which you express it.

David Sher

PS: I do not intend to boycott Mr. Waters music as I believe cultural boycotts to be an unenlightened and egotistical approach to achieving political ends.  I will continue to listen to Pink Floyd as I will to Wagner.


About the Author
David Sher has a keen, longstanding interest in Israel and spent a study year abroad in Israel in 1984. He is an entrepreneur who has founded four businesses including Greenbacker Renewable Energy Company, his current business.