Roger Waters to Rolling Stones: Anywhere But Israel

So Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, and sidekick Nick Mason, in a Salon blog post criticize the Rolling Stones for scheduling a show in Tel Aviv, calling it “the moral equivalent of playing Sun City at the height of South African apartheid. “

The septuagenarian rocker, who might be considered by some to be a few bricks short of a wall, and who himself has played Tel Aviv, has brought attention to himself recently through the use of colorfully provocative gestures and language for demonstrating antipathy toward the Jewish state. At a 2013 concert in Belgium, Waters released an inflatable larger than life pig prominently inscribed with a Mogen David tattoo. Defending that bit of showmanship in an interview last December with the vehemently anti-Israeli CounterPunch magazine, Waters compared Israel’s policies toward Palestinians — which he characterizes as ‘ethnic cleansing’ — to those of apartheid South Africa, Vichy France and Nazi Germany.

The inestimable Mr. Waters — by way of deflecting charges of anti-Semitism — is quick to mention that his own father was killed in action fighting Nazi’s during the World War II Allied invasion of Italy, leading to speculation that gravity works in mysterious ways so that every once in a while an apple does fall far from the tree.

Waters, a United States resident, is a vocal proponent of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, whose aims are to pressure Israel “to fully realize that its injustices against the Palestinian people are legally and morally unacceptable . . .”
Nowhere in Waters’ statements is there mention of other regimes or nations deserving of such pressure – not Iran, not the religious apartheid of virtually every Arab state that neighbors Israel, not the totalitarianism of China, not the Taliban or their state financiers, not despotic Islamist dictatorships of Africa. Only Israel.

Which may be the reason Waters feels no need to explain why, during the height of what his comrades on the left would term the U.S. aggression against Viet Nam, Pink Floyd played 188 gigs throughout the United States between 1967 and 1975. – and would have played more if poor advance sales hadn’t led to the cancellation of nearly two dozen scheduled shows. Or why in 2006 – coincidental with the public testimonies and photographic disclosures of human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib — Waters saw no problem doing shows in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Nor why he didn’t flinch in the slightest from performing at Coachella, Denver, Dallas and Houston in 2008 even as the news buzzed with reports of U.S. water boarding of prisoners and the continued confinement of detainees in Guantanamo.

After all, moral conscience alone doesn’t pay the bills, and there’s no payday like an American payday – with the exception of Abu Dhabi, where Waters has appeared a number of times.

Thus far there is no news of any planned concerts for Pink Floyd, Waters, or Mason in the United States during the coming year. The reason – political principle or lack of demand – isn’t entirely clear. But human rights and rock fans should be pleased to know that, as of this date, neither the band nor Waters has taken steps to halt the sale or distribution of their recordings in the United States, Israel, or anywhere else.

Mick Jagger and company have not responded as yet to Waters’ and Mason’s Jiminy Cricket admonishments.

My guess is that the Rolling Stones, who have never sought moral, political or career advice from lesser talents, or suffered fools patiently – are not about to start now.

About the Author
Louis Nayman, a labor union organizer for more than 30 years, has conducted education and training programs for trade unionists in Poland, Russia, Romania, Palestine and Lebanon. His writing has appeared in Tablet Magazine and In These Times.