Roger Waters’ recent Salon.com commentary about Dionne Warwick’s tour in Israel is insulting, profoundly presumptuous, and smacks of sexism.
When Ms. Dionne Warwick declared to the Jerusalem Post that she had her own unique views on world matters and would honor her contract to perform for her fans in Israel, Roger Waters wasted no time before attacking her. In a recent op-ed in Salon.com, he disregarded her right to independent thought, calling her “profoundly ignorant” and declaring her comment about artists being victimized by boycott pressure tactics “deeply disingenuous.”
Although Ms. Warwick was perfectly clear that she knew her own mind, Waters insisted otherwise. In spite of her unequivocal statement that she was no stranger to Israel and enjoyed the wonderful audiences there, he persisted, saying she must “harbor reservations in [her] heart,” and insinuated that her decision was guided by profit not principle.
This isn’t about her or her belief that art has no boundaries, he chides. No, indeed. As the self-appointed poster boy for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, Waters leaves little room for the opinions of those who want to use their art to bring people together.
In fact, Waters seems to feel he knows what resides in the hearts and minds of other artists as well. “As I’m sure you know,” Waters lectures, “Lauryn Hill canceled her gig in Tel Aviv last week. She did not explicitly cite Israeli oppression of Palestinians as her reason for canceling, but the subtext of her actions is clear and we thank her for her principled stand.” The only thing clear in this pontification is Waters’ gift for magically turning what was never said into an affirmation for his boycott propaganda.
Notwithstanding Mr. Waters’ mindreading powers, silencing someone does not mean you have their agreement. Badgering an artist until they cave hardly constitutes voluntary consent, much less confirmation of one’s agenda.
Predictably, Waters’ words were parroted on Warwick’s social media platforms, including slanderous accusations that she was betraying the black community, selling out for the sake of money, and supporting genocide. Waters’ hollow charges against Israel are soundly refuted in David Collier’s “BDS: An open letter to Roger Waters,” yet another artist’s reputation was attacked and her character questioned, much as I described here.
The entire tone of Waters’ commentary was condescending and patronizing, as illustrated by his reassurance that in his view she is, “a truly great singer.” As the world’s second most-charted female vocalist of all time, with over 69 hit records, including, “That’s What Friends Are For,” it’s a wonder she got along all these years without his approval.
Waters even pretends to be puzzled that Warwick could possibly infer that his incessant, well-publicized calls for all artists to boycott Israel included her. Waters writes “Until today, I have not publicly commented on Ms. Warwick’s Tel Aviv concert or reached out to her privately. But given her implicit invitation, I will comment now.”
Seriously, does anyone believe Waters needs a written invitation to stand on a soapbox? He has called on entertainers to nix their Israeli performances in publications like Rolling Stone, CBS, and Counterpunch. He has written “private” letters imploring “friends” like Alan Parsons and Cyndi Lauper to cancel their scheduled tours – letters which he subsequently made public. He has personally attacked artists who disagree with him like Scarlett Johansson, Neil Young, and Robbie Williams and droned on about Israel for twenty-five long minutes at the UN.
When Warwick said “art has no boundaries,” she was saying “no” to Roger Waters’ strong-arm attempts to control thought and “no” to a creeping evisceration of freedom of expression.
And Mr. Waters, when an artist says “no,” she means “no.”