Julian Schvindlerman

Roger in Troubled Waters

Photo credit: Daniel Bockwoldt/dpa via AP - The Times of Israel.
Photo credit: Daniel Bockwoldt/dpa via AP - The Times of Israel.

Roger Waters’ Latin America tour is proving bumpy

This month, Roger Waters began touring Latin America. He kicked off in San Pablo, moved on to Montevideo, is about to arrive in Buenos Aires, and will continue through Santiago, Lima, San José, Bogotá and Quito. The tour has barely started and has already caused a lot of controversy. The same is due to the hateful personality of the rocker and the political content of his concerts.

As is known, in previous shows he wore a Nazi-style uniform and shot at the audience with a fake submachine gun. He projected on the stadium screens the names of Anne Frank (a girl murdered by the Nazis) alongside that of Shireen Abu Aqle (a Palestinian journalist for Qatari Al-Jazeera television killed by an errant Israeli bullet while covering a shootout between soldiers and terrorists), creating a scandalous equivalence. He launched a giant pig-shaped balloon with insignia painted on its body, including the Star of David, and waved the Palestinian flag onstage. He has also supported the anti-Zionist BDS movement and pressured musicians not to give concerts in Israel. “If you do play Israel,” acknowledged pro-Israel Australian musician Nick Cave, “you have to go through a certain kind of public humiliation from Roger Waters and Co.”

His personal statements have been even more extreme. He sided with Russia after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, and already in 2018 with the war in Syria unleashed in all its bloody breadth, he condemned the White Helmets, an organization of Syrian rescuers. “The White Helmets are a fake organization that exists only to create propaganda for jihadists and terrorists.” Furthermore, he questioned the largest terrorist attack in the history of the United States: “What actually happened on the American 9/11? Nobody knows. Clearly the official narrative has huge holes.” Yet, he has reserved his sharpest darts against the Jews and Israel.

In the run-up to the Latin American tour, Waters expressed during an interview with journalist Glenn Greenwald (the same one who published Edward Snowden’s secret leaks) what possibly are his most offensive and insulting statements about Israel and the Jews to date: “ These fuck**s [the Jews] will kill us all, not just us in this room, they will kill everybody on the planet in order to fulfill the prophecies that they believe [figure] in their God-given literature.” After a question from Greenwald about the October 7 Hamas massacres, Waters questioned its happening: “There is something very fishy about that.” When asked if Hamas’s actions were justified, he replied: “Well, we don’t know what they did.” Due to his public and private attitudes, last February novelist Polly Samson described him thus: “Sadly [Waters] you are antisemitic to your rotten core. Also a Putin apologist and a lying, thieving, hypocritical, tax-avoiding, lip-synching, misogynistic, sick-with-envy, megalomaniac.” Her husband -Waters’ former partner in Pink Floyd, David Gilmour- liked the post. A few months later, the Frankfurt city council canceled Waters due to his anti-Jewish hatred.

Waters attempted to cover himself against accusations of antisemitism. Last May, prior to a concert in Berlin, this phrase was projected on the screens at the Mercedes-Benz Arena: “Just to be clear. I condemn antisemitism unreservedly.” But what exactly did Mr. Waters mean, considering that during his July 2018 concert in London’s Hyde Park the screens announced “Resist Israeli anti-Semitism”?

Roger Waters is bringing his anti-Jewish hatred to Latin America in a global context rarified by the situation in the Middle East, which impacted Latin American diplomacy. Very few countries in the region have officially classified Hamas as a terrorist group. Some have called Hamas’ actions on October 7 “terrorist,” but they have also criticized Israel for its military retaliation. Iran’s allied nations such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Venezuela have obviously harshly condemned Jerusalem. Bolivia cut diplomatic ties. Colombia, Chile and Honduras withdrew their ambassadors from the Jewish state. The governments of Brazil and Colombia accused Israel of carrying out a “genocide” against the Palestinians. Mexico declared itself “neutral”, placing itself in the clinical middle between civilization and barbarism. Argentina and Chile denounced “violations of international humanitarian law.” Paraguay, Uruguay and Guatemala have been more benign toward Israel. Argentina could soon join them: the country has just elected a new president who has been openly pro-Israel in the campaign. Brazilian President Lula and former Uruguayan President Mujica met and hugged the British rocker.

Beyond governments, people also spoke out publicly. Several important hotels in Montevideo and Buenos Aires refused to accommodate him, forcing Waters and his band to settle in San Pablo. In response, the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of State Workers made its union hotels available to the musician and his entourage. During his show in Montevideo, Waters blamed the “Israeli lobby,” publicly insulted the president of the Jewish community of Uruguay and projected messages that said “stop the genocide.” He told the leftist Argentine newspaper Página 12: “[Israelis] are a colonial society that stops at nothing, not even mass murder, from proclaiming its supremacy over other peoples and other religions. The peoples of the world have to stop them. As human beings it is an absolute moral duty to confront them.” In anticipation of his arrival in Buenos Aires, the recently created Argentine Forum Against Antisemitism, to which I belong, has publicly denounced the British musician’s Judeophobia and has informed the press about his hateful record. Prominent Jewish organizations have arranged for a prosecutor to be present during his two concerts in Buenos Aires to monitor possible breaches of local anti-discrimination laws. A Holocaust survivor and his son have denounced Waters in court for discrimination, crime apology and incitement to violence.

What Roger Waters is going to do or not do during his shows in the remainder of his Latin American tour is anyone´s guess. However, one thing is certain. It became manifestly clear to him that for portions of the Latin American population, he is not welcome here.

About the Author
Julian Schvindlerman is an Argentine writer and journalist specializing in Middle East affairs. He lectures on World Politics at the University of Palermo (in Buenos Aires) and is a regular contributor to Infobae and Perfil. He is the editor of Coloquio, the flagship publication of the Latin American Jewish Congress. He is the author of Escape to Utopia: Mao's Red Book and Gaddafi's Green Book; The Hidden Letter: A History of an Arab-Jewish Family; Triangle of Infamy: Richard Wagner, the Nazis and Israel; Rome and Jerusalem: Vatican policy toward the Jewish state; and Land for Peace, Land for War.
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