As one of the few popular musicians who has unequivocally and repeatedly spoken out about the terror Israel has caused in Palestine, Rogers Waters is in the minority. Waters is also not surprised to see that most of his fellow artists do not share his commitment to justice.
“My industry has been particularly recalcitrant in even raising a voice [against Israel]. There’s me and Elvis Costello, Brian Eno, Manic Street Preachers, one or two others, but there’s nobody in the United States where I live. I’ve talked to a lot of them, and they are scared s***less,” he said, speaking to The Independent.
“If they say something in public they will no longer have a career. They will be destroyed. I’m hoping to encourage some of them to stop being frightened and to stand up and be counted, because we need them. We need them desperately in this conversation in the same way we needed musicians to join protesters over Vietnam.”
Waters has been a proponent of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. He became an activist for the larger movement for the autonomy of Palestine during a visit to Israel in 2006. He was scheduled to play a gig in Tel Aviv, but upon the urging of Palestinian activists and Israeli anti-establishment protestors, he moved the concert to Neve Shalom, an Arab/Israeli peace village. The tickets had already been sold, which explains why the majority of the audience was still Jews. Playing to a segregated audience was a deeply unsettling experience for Waters, and according to him, it shaped how he perceived the Israel-Palestine conflict from then on.
He visited the security barrier that separates Israel from the Occupied Territories, and sprayed an apt lyric from a song the world recognizes Pink Floyd by, "Another Brick In The Wall."
Waters has not been immune to criticism after a stance rather unusual for the music industry. He has been, like many other BDS activists, labeled an anti-Semite and a Nazi, an allegation Waters finds downright ridiculous. His father was 31 when he died fighting the Nazis at Anzio, Italy, in World War II.
“I have veterans coming to all my shows and meet them at half time. At a gig in 2013, one veteran came up to me, took my hand, wouldn’t let go and looked me in the eye… I can hardly tell you this now without welling up. He said: ‘Your father would have been proud of you.’
“My father died fighting the Nazis, my mother [a strong CND and Labour supporter] devoted her life to doing everything she could to create a more humane world.”
“[The Israeli lobby] is determined not to let that conversation develop into one that people can listen to and that is why they accuse us of being Nazis,” he further said in conversation with The Independent.
Although many musicians have kept mum on the Israel-Palestine conflict, some have not hesitated from picking sides. Bon Jovi incited shock with his pro-Israel comments. In a concert in Tel Aviv last year, he dedicated his song "We Don’t Run" to Israel, saying that the song should be the fight anthem for Tel Aviv. He did not clarify if Israel was running away from the people it regularly bombs and keeps detained in what some describe as the world’s largest open-air prison.
Waters, however, finds hope in the growing activism at U.S. university campuses, some led by Israeli students themselves.
“It makes my heart sing to see these young kids organizing themselves and I applaud them for taking a stand in what they believe in the face of such huge opposition,” he said.
“These are brave young people and they cannot be bought. They believe in their attachment and love for other human beings. We do not believe in the building of walls. It’s so important we understand our humanity and cooperate with one another to create a better place for our children and grandchildren.”