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When pigs fly…the Star of David

Regardless of Roger Waters' intentions, his use of the Jewish symbol mirrors both historical and contemporary anti-Semitism

Singer Roger Waters, in the midst of a European tour that will include gigs in Warsaw and Germany, is upset that I called him out for anti-Semitism for introducing a Star of David on a huge inflatable pig at a recent concert in Belgium. The Magen David — the only symbol of a people and its heritage on the floating pig — was affixed alongside icons of fascism, dictatorships and multinational corporations.

Roger Waters Concert Pig
Flying pig at Roger Waters’ ‘The Wall Live’ concert

Far from being an original, if odious idea, linking Jews to the ‘treif’ pig is an image deeply embedded in Europe culture. Long before modern mass communication, dating back to the Middle Ages, Jew-haters were carving woodcuts engraved with derision and hate of Jews and their values.

Medieval anti-Semitic illustration
Medieval anti-Semitic illustration

By the 20th century, more sophisticated and deadly bigots-from the Nazis’ Der Sturmer to official publications in the Soviet Union, deployed such imagery to violent anti-Jewish animus.

As for the Jewish state, Waters has never hidden his loathing for Israel. While we aren’t sure he condemned Palestinian suicide terror attacks that murdered and maimed Israel civilians he vehemently opposed the Israeli West Bank barrier that put an end to such cross-border horrors, labeling the fence an “obscenity” that “should be torn down.” In 2009, he pledged support to the Gaza Freedom March, and has since played a prominent role in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Ah yes! The righteous ‘pro-peace BDS bullies, whom Waters lends his voice in support, presents a public face that speaks of “nonviolent pressure to end the Occupation”— but whose real goal isn’t peace and reconciliation — rather the isolation and demonization of Israel as an ‘apartheid state’.

Another exaggeration?

Mr. Waters: Forget this Zionist Rabbi, but listen carefully to one of Israel’s harshest critics, Norman Finkelstein, slam boycott activists:

“Stop trying to be so clever, because you’re only clever in your cult. The moment you step out, you have to deal with Israeli propaganda. . . . They say, ‘No, they’re not really talking about rights; they’re talking about they want to destroy Israel.’ And in fact I think they’re right, I think that’s true. . . . [It is] not an accident, an unwitting omission, that BDS does not mention Israel: they know it will split the movement, because there’s a large segment-component-of the movement that wants to eliminate Israel.”

I have no doubt that Roger Waters finds some support among self-anointed celebrity Middle East activists — especially in the United Kingdom. Evidence, the protest letter signed by three-dozen British celebrities, including actressEmma Thompson, following an unsuccessful demonstrations at London’s Old Globe Theater to cancel a Hebrew language performance of The Merchant of Venice by Israel’s renowned Habima Theater. Habima’s sin? “…a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory.” These cultural icons’ outrage was absent however— despite brutal Chinese repression in Tibet, when an official performance of Richard III inMandarin was presented.

Waters correctly claims his right to slam Israeli policies, but by abetting the cultural boycott of all Israelis he crosses into 21st century anti-Semitism; fulfilling all of Natan Sharansky’ 3-Ds -Double Standard, Delegitimization and with his Star of David pig, Demonization.

While Mr. Waters crisscrosses Europe this summer, here is a reality check from European Jewish communities he may not have time to see: Virtually every Synagogue and school has armed guards. Hate crimes against Jews surge in Scandinavia and Western Europe. Core Jewish practices are being criminalized from Poland to Norway. Do Jews really to be subjected to their music-loving neighbors cheering this hateful image again and again?

Roger Waters states he isn’t an anti-Semite and that he has friends and family who are Jewish. But if he doesn’t want to see his talents, energies and name serve those who seek Israel’s demise, he should denounce the BDS movement and permanently lose that Star of David on his pig.

About the Author
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Associate Dean and Global Director of its Ed Snider Social Action Institute
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