August 22, 2013
Dear Mr. Waters:
Your recent statements about Israel and advocacy for BDS have garnered significant condemnation, with some going as far as to label you an anti-Semite. This is not the first time you have encountered such allegations.
Over the past few years, you have incorporated Jewish imagery into your concert performances, painting a Star of David on your famous floating pig alongside other symbols, including a dollar sign and the sickle and hammer. You repeatedly rejected accusations of a malicious subtext to the use of the Star of David, assuring fans that you were in no way equating Jews with money or communism. We took you at your word, and defended your actions as artistic expression void of anti-Semitic intent.
In recent months, however, your relentless attacks against Israel and calls for a boycott of the Jewish State have caused us to reexamine your attitude towards Jews.
In your July 25th letter to your “Colleagues in Rock and Roll” you offered full-throated unambiguous support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, writing that their goal is “to bring international attention to these Israeli polices [of ‘occupation of the West Bank and violations of international law and Palestinian human rights’] and hopefully, to help bring them to an end,” and imploring other musicians to join you in refusing to perform in Israel.
Important details are omitted from your letter, which is a classic propaganda technique. Why didn’t you point out that one of the stated objectives of the BDS movement, promoting a complete right of return for all Palestinians classified as refugees and the creation of a bi-national state, would result in the end of the Jewish character of the State of Israel and destroy Jewish national self-determination? Your writing also makes no mention of Palestinian terrorism, nor does it provide any context to the complex nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hamas, a terrorist organization which continues to advocate for Israel’s destruction, is entirely absent from your letter.
You accuse the Israeli government of committing ethnic cleansing by physically evicting non-Jewish families from East Jerusalem to make way for Jewish occupants, yet provide zero evidence for this frivolous claim. You argue that Israel is akin to Apartheid South Africa, despite the complete and equal rights enjoyed by Arab citizens of Israel.
Most disturbing of all is your decision to single out Israel for a boycott, while ignoring real human rights abusing countries around the world.
Where is your voice calling for a boycott of China for their persecution of Buddhists, or the persecution of Muslims by Buddhists in Myanmar? Why not Russia for its ongoing suppression of government opposition figures, and recent enactment of homophobic legislation? Not only have you never called for boycotts of those countries, you actually played concerts in both China and Russia during the past few years. You also seemed to have no qualms about performing earlier this month in Istanbul, despite Turkey’s questionable human rights record in dealing with its Kurdish population, as well as the previous month’s brutal government crackdown on protesters at Taksim Park.
By the way, Freedom House’s country index ranks both China and Russia as “not free” and Turkey as “partly free.” Israel, by contrast, is ranked as “free.”
Your single-minded obsession with trying to convince others to boycott the Jewish state, while ignoring the world’s true human rights violators, must be driven by something other than a guilty conscience. Taking all this into account, one must conclude that your views on Israel are in fact colored by offensive and dangerous undercurrents of anti-Jewish sentiment.
If you were truly interested in leading an honest human rights campaign, you could start by speaking out against policies of the above-mentioned countries, as well as many others that commit actual crimes against their citizens. And if you wanted to sincerely address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you could express your support for a two-state solution, and encourage your fellow musicians to embrace the notion of Israel living in peace and security with a Palestinian state. How about encouraging your fellow musicians to perform in both Tel Aviv and Ramallah, a gesture that would demonstrate the unifying force of music?
Mr. Waters, having many Jewish friends and relatives does not give legitimacy to your hostile campaign against the Jewish State, and while painting a Star of David on your pig may have been free of anti-Semitic intent, your strong animosity towards Israel is indeed riddled with it.
I hope you can recognize the flawed nature of your anti-Israel campaign, and use your artistic voice to more positively and constructively promote peace and tolerance across the Middle East and around the world.
Abraham H. Foxman