Simon Wiesenthal Center Joins in Protest of anti-Israel Performer on Long Island

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, the leading human rights organization famed for its decades of hunting down Nazis, has joined in the protest involving archly anti-Israel Roger Waters performing Friday at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor on Long Island.

It issued a statement yesterday headed, “Wiesenthal Center: New Yorkers Should Give Anti-Israel Boycott Leader Roger Waters what he Deserves—an Empty Theatre.”

The Simon Wiesenthal statement quoted its dean and founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier, and its associate dean, Abraham Cooper, saying: “Roger Waters is an entertainer who hates the Jewish State of Israel. He is a major promoter of the anti-peace Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This extreme anti-Israel campaign has never helped a single Palestinian as it is designed only to demonize and denigrate the lone democracy in the Middle East and the only society in the region where freedom of speech and artistic expression flourish.”

“His words and actions have been condemned by the full spectrum of Israelis—from the Progressive Left to followers of Likud on the Right,” they said.

The statement continued: “Waters, who in the past has used a pig with a Star of David as props for his concerts, has vilified other performers for the ‘crime’ of performing before Jews, Christians and Muslims in Tel Aviv and elsewhere in the Jewish State.”

“Waters’ commitment to freedom of expression extends only to those who agree with him and does not apply to anyone who wants to share their talents with the people of Israel,” added Mark Weitzman, the center’s director of government affairs. “At this time, when Israelis are being butchered by Palestinian terrorists, it is indeed unfortunate that he was invited to Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theatre this Friday to what he would block others from doing in Israel.”

The statement went on: “The Simon Wiesenthal Center therefore calls on New Yorkers to give Roger Waters the reception he deserves: an empty hall. We urge people who may have been unaware of his hate-filled boycott campaign and bought tickets to his performance to vote with their feet and instead stand in solidarity—outside of the theatre—with the innocent victms of terrorism in The Holy Land.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which functions globally, has more than 400,000 member families in the United States.

An uproar has been caused on Long Island by the booking by Bay Street Theatre of Waters. A founding member of the band Pink Floyd, he is active in the BDS movement and is an extreme critic of Israel.

The has been a call on Long Island for a boycott of his Bay Street Theatre performance. “What I want to do is boycott him,” art dealer Ruth Vered of Sag Harbor has declared. “I want the people to understand that they have to stand for their rights and their honor, and not stand for people who are Jew haters…I am tired of being pushed around and saying nothing…It is not freedom of speech. It is freedom of hate.”

Picketing at Waters’ Bay Street Theatre performance is also planned.

U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin, whose district includes Sag Harbor and the rest of eastern Long Island and much of central Long Island, commented this week: “I’m proud of our community’s reaction to this performance. Roger Waters has been so wrong on his stances ing Israel so many times and on so many levels.”

Zeldin, of Shirley, is the only Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives.

Waters made news recently regarding his anti-Israel stance by criticizing rocker Jon Bon Jovi for performing in Tel Aviv on October 3. In an open letter to Bon Jovi published in Salon, Waters accused the singer of standing “should to shoulder” with “the settler who burned the baby.” According to an article in The Times of Israel, Waters “has published similar open leters” about “other performers with Israel gigs, including Dionne Warwick, the Rolling Stones and Robbie Williams.”

The Southampton Press has reported that Tracy Mitchell, executive director of Bay Street Theatre, in connection with the Waters’ appearance “said musicians are not interviewed on their political views before they perform.”

Bay Street Theatre was founded in 1991 by the late actress Sybil Christopher (once married to actor Richard Burton) along with Emma Walton Hamilton and Stephen Hamilton, the daughter and son-in-law of singer and actress Julie Andrews. Ms. Hamilton has also co-authored children’s books with her mother, and Mr. Hamilton has also directed shows at both the Bay Street Theatre and the John Drew Theatre at Guild Hall in nearby East Hampton.

Waters is a part-time resident of Bridgehampton.

Dr. Harry E. Heller, a social psychologist and resident of East Hampton, has questioned Waters’ claim that “he is against the government of Israel, not the Jewish people.” Says Dr. Heller: “One must wonder how Mr. Waters defines anti-Semitism before saying that he is not an anti-Semite. Perhaps he might better understand why people call him an anti-Semite and why his actions are anti-Semitic, not just a political screed against the government of Israel.”

Dr. Heller explains that the “common thread of anti-Semitism and racism through history” comes when, as Dr. Stephen M. Berk, Union College history professor says, “a solution to a multi-caused problem is addressed through mono-causal blame of one group.”

States Dr. Heller: “Throughout history racists and anti-Semites can be identified by the use of the targets as scapegoats blaming them for complex problems. This type of message can enable sympathizers to act on complex issues with simple answers and arguments as if there is an easy answer—usually to blame one group. Waters and his allies do just this.”

And Dr. Heller speaks of there being “more to” Waters’ “hatred of Israel” as evidenced by his use of “a disgusting image of a pig with a Star of David” at his performances. “He claims that the Star of David represents the Israeli government and is a symbol of the Jewish State. The Star of David was first seen in 6000 BC and on a 4th century synagogue in Israel. It became the symbol of the Jewish people in the 1800’s and preceded the State of Israel by hundreds of years.”

“If Waters threatens other artists, why should we give him artistic freedom,” asks Dr. Heller. He added that before Waters’ attack on Bon Jovi’s performing in Tel Aviv, Waters “tried to prevent” former Beatle Paul McCartney and also the Rolling Stones from appearing in Israel.

Media personality Howard Stern, also a resident of the Hamptons, recently challenged Waters attack on Bon Jovi’s Israel performance with a seven-minute long declaration on his Sirus XM Radio program in which Stern declared: “What is with Roger Waters and the Jews?”

Janet Lehr, an East Hampton art dealer, has sent out an email bulletin headed: “WHAT ARE THE STAFF/BOARD MEMBERS OF BAY STREET & THE CONCERT GOERS THINKING CELEBRATING A SUPPORTER OF BDS. IT IS ODIOUS.” The bulletin calls for people to assembly at Bay Street Theatre on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, starting at 7 p.m. Friday, October 30, in protest of Waters’ performance.

About the Author
Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury who has specialized in investigative reporting for 45 years. He is the host of the TV program “Enviro Close-Up,” the writer and presenter of numerous TV documentaries and the author of six books.