Uproar over anti-Israel performer on Long Island

There’s an uproar over archly anti-Israel Roger Waters performing Friday evening at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor on Long Island. Waters, a founding member of the band Pink Floyd, is active in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel and is an extreme critic of Israel.

Those protesting his appearance are calling for a boycott of Waters’ performance at the Bay Street Theatre. “What I want to do is boycott him,” art dealer Ruth Vered of Sag Harbor told The Southampton Press. “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 appearance is also planned.

Goldie Baumgarten, co-director of Chabad of East Hampton, told The Southampton Press that although Waters claims he is not anti-Semitic but anti-Israel, “she explained that anti-Semitic and anti-Israel opinions often take on the same meaning, especially in this case—considering Mr. Waters has said that Israel does not belong to Jewish people.” She said: “It is a terrible accusation, a terrible thing to say. It is lies, and it is revising history,”

Also, “It is not condonable to put Israel like the villains, when all they are doing is trying to protect themselves and trying to make peace with people who just want to murder them,” said Ms. Baumgarten.

Some of Waters’ performances include a large pig-shaped balloon, featuring a Star of David, which inflates at the end of his shows.

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

The Southampton Press 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.”

The Bay Street Theatre was founded in 1991 by 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 is also director of shows at both the Bay Street Theatre and the John Drew Theatre at Guild Hall in East Hampton.

Waters is a part-time resident of Bridgehampton.

Dr. Harry E. Heller, a social psychologist and resident of East Hampton, questions 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 throughout history” comes when, as Dr. Stephen M. Berk, Union College history professor says, “a solution to a multi-causal problem is addressed through mono-causal blame of one group.”

“So,” says Dr. Heller, “when Hitler blamed the Jewish bankers and intellectuals for the economic problems in Germany in the early ’30’s—he was being anti-Semitic even though countries the entire world, with and without Jews, were having economic problems. Later in history Reverend Farrakhan blamed the “Jewish doctors” for AIDS in the black communities although AIDS was common in other communities.”

States Dr. Heller: “Throughout history racists and anti-Semites can be identified by the use of their 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.”

Moreover, “When he claims that Israel is occupying the West Bank he ignores that Israel’s experience of voluntarily leaving their occupation of the Gaza Strip giving it to the Palestinians resulted in Gaza being used as a base for Hamas to fire rockets at its population.”

Further, “in the world, Israel is not the only country with a border issue with its neighbors. China has inflamed borders with its Pacific neighbors and its inland minorities. If Waters wants to be consistent, I expect him to give up his iPhone (made in China) and prevent artists to do concerts there. Similarly the Soviet border issues with the Ukraine and Crimea should cause him to boycott concerts there and boycott Russian products.”

Dr. Heller says that the management of the Bay Street Theatre, for which, he notes, he has been a volunteer, “should rescind the invitation to Waters as they would have done to any other extremist guest.”

“If Walters threatens other artists, why should we give him artistic freedom?” asks Dr. Heller. Dr. Heller adds that before his 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 Hamptons resident, also recently challenged Waters attack on Bon Jovi’s Israel performance with a seven-minute long declaration on his Sirius 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.” It calls for people to assemble at Bay Street Theatre on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, starting at 7 p.m. Friday, October 30, in protest of Waters’ performance.

The Bay Street Theatre website, meanwhile, declares that the Waters’ appearance has been “SOLD OUT.”

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.
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