Roger Waters, the co-founder and lead singer of the band Pink Floyd, is a leading anti-Israel activist and vocal supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. His activism has increasingly been characterized as playing into antisemitic tropes, including those about Jewish or “Zionist” power; comparing Israel to Nazi Germany; and disparaging anyone who conveys even tangential support for Israel’s existence.
Waters’ inflammatory rhetoric spans back to at least 2011, when he penned an op-ed announcing he was joining the BDS movement. Over the years, he has encouraged other artists to refuse to perform in Israel. He also narrated a 2016 documentary titled: The Occupation of the American Mind, where he stated that “defending a country like Israel by operating for collective murder and the genocide of occupied people is not defense.”
Below are select inflammatory and/or antisemitic statements from Waters:
- In May 2023 concert in Berlin, Waters desecrated the memory of Holocaust victim Anne Frank, compared Israel to the Nazis and paraded around on stage wearing an SS Nazi uniform.
- In an October 2022 webinar on Grayzone with anti-Israel activist Max Blumenthal, Waters vociferously advocated for comparing Israel to the Third Reich and called for Israel to "join the human race" and "stop imposing your hated, hated apartheid regime on the indigenous people of the Middle East."
- In a wide-ranging August 2022 interview with World Beyond War, Waters repeatedly promoted antisemitic conspiracies and themes, including that a nefarious “Israel lobby” prevented the election of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. In response to a question about fighting between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups, Waters claimed that Israel thinks Jews are superior to everybody else on the planet, saying: “...religious supremacy, the idea that the Jewish people are somehow superior to everybody else on the planet but particularly the Arabs, the Palestinian Arabs...the Israeli state who believe that the Jewish people are superior, more important than any of those people, those people’s lives are worthless.
- In a July 2022 video interview with the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Waters demonized Zionists as “settler-colonialist,” insinuated that Jews had no connection to the land of Israel, and referred to Zionists with the antisemitic canard “cabal,” saying:
- “It’s about a bunch of Europeans back in the middle of the 19th century deciding that they were going to take over this piece of land, and kick out anybody that lived there and take it over for themselves and their own little cabal.”
- In a May 2021 video, Waters accused Israel of committing genocide, and labeled Israel as an apartheid state.
- In an April 2019 op-ed regarding Madonna’s performance in the Israel-hosted Eurovision contest, Waters wrote:
- “To perform in Israel is a lucrative gig but to do so serves to normalise the occupation, the apartheid, the ethnic cleansing, the incarceration of children, the slaughter of unarmed protesters … all that bad stuff.”
- In a September 2018 interview with a German publication, Waters argued that there is a conspiracy to block criticism of Israel in the mainstream US news media, stating:
- “At any rate, in the USA, the press is controlled by corporations. Journalists there who deviate from the narrative that ‘Israel is just defending itself’ can encounter difficulty. Regarding Israel, the mainstream media are still biased. I get my news these days from blogs, some of which are written by people who used to work for mainstream periodicals and lost their jobs because they criticised Israel.”
- In a bizarre display in August 2018, Waters projected the phrase “resist Israeli anti-Semitism” during a concert in Poland.
- In a July 2017 online interview with BDS movement founder Omar Barghouti, Waters made a number of anti-Israel and pro-BDS statements, including:
“I’m not sure that there any much harsher regimes around the world than this [Israel], actually, if you look at it.”
In reference to a question about how Israel uses Hasbara (translation: “explaining” as in public diplomacy) to reject being labeled an apartheid state: “The thing about propaganda – again, it’s not hard to go back to Goebbels or the 1930s. You understand the tactic is to tell the big lie as often as possible over and over and over and over again. And people believe it.”
- In October 2015, Waters accused musician Jon Bon Jovi, who had recently performed a concert in Israel, of standing “shoulder to shoulder” with “the settler who burned the baby,” a reference to the extremist Israeli Jews responsible for the Duma firebombing of a Palestinian family that killed a toddler and members of his family.
- In December 2013, he gave an interview to CounterPunch.org where he accused the “extraordinary powerful” American “Jewish lobby” in the music industry of silencing critics of Israel.
- In March 2013, Waters was interviewed on The Electronic Intifada. In the interview, Waters accused Israel of maintaining an apartheid state and claimed that he has asked other musicians to not play concerts in Israel. He also stated that he played a role in convincing Stevie Wonder to not play a concert at a fundraiser for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and alleged that the U.S. media takes instructions from somewhere to “not report these things to the American public.” An article about the interview with Waters was published in Rolling Stone.
- Waters spoke in the United Nations on November 29, 2012 to mark International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Waters accused Israel of “international crimes,” such as “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing” and also alleged that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people is similar to the Nazi treatment of citizens in France, Holland, Poland, or Czechoslovakia during World War II. Waters said, “History tells us that the invasion and occupation of a land and the subjugation of its people almost always creates a resistance. Ask the French or the Dutch or the Poles or the Czechs, the list goes on. This crisis in Gaza is a crisis rooted in occupation.”
- For a period of time in 2010, Waters’ shows featured video of an array of symbols that placed the Jewish Star of David next to dollar signs. Waters defended himself, writing on his website that “there are no hidden meanings in the order or juxtaposition of these symbols.” However, by an October 6, 2010 show in New York City, the video no longer showed the two symbols next to each other.