Former Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters said the comparisons between present-day Israel and Nazi Germany in the 1930s were “crushingly obvious.”
Waters, a longtime critic of Israeli treatment of Palestinians, told CounterPunch magazine on Saturday that the powerful “Israeli propaganda machine” had influenced U.S. policy in the region and shaped the mainstream media narrative.
“The Jewish lobby is extraordinary powerful here and particularly in the industry that I work in, the music industry and in rock ‘n’ roll, as they say,” Waters said.
He has called on musicians to boycott Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, which he also compared to ethnic cleansing and South African apartheid.
“So for an artist to go and play in a country that occupies other people’s land and oppresses them the way Israel does, is plain wrong,” Waters said. “They should say no. I would not have played for the Vichy government in occupied France in the Second World War, I would not have played in Berlin, either, during this time. Many people did, back in the day. There were many people that pretended that the oppression of the Jews was not going on from 1933 until 1946, so this is not a new scenario — except that this time it’s the Palestinian people being murdered.”
Waters expressed his longtime support of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, which hopes to pressure Israel into give Palestinian refugees the right to return to lands they believe was unlawfully taken from them and occupied by Israeli forces and to give Arab-Palestinians full equality under the law.
He said the BDS movement was a legitimate form of resistance to Israeli treatment of Palestinians, and the musician blamed extremist Jewish religious figures for steering the political debate to the far right.
“The voice, for instance, of the right wing rabbinate, which is so bizarre and hard to hear that you can hardly believe that it’s real,” Waters said. “They believe some very weird stuff, you know; they believe that everybody that is not a Jew is only on earth to serve them and they believe that the indigenous people of the region that they kicked off the land in 1948 and have continued to kick off the land ever since are subhuman.”
Waters drew criticism in July for displaying a pig-shaped balloon covered with Jewish symbols, including a Star of David, during his concerts.
The Anti-Defamation League defended his use of the symbols, saying Waters had displayed similar items for years and was not expressing anti-Semitic views.
However, the ADL later reversed its stance after Waters called for the boycott, asking him why he’d singled out Israel when there are other countries, such as China, Myanmar and Russia, that have been accused of persecuting minority groups and noted that Waters had recently performed in China and Russia.
“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,” the ADL said in a statement. “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.”
In a public letter issued Monday, Waters urged members of the American Studies Association to endorse a proposed boycott of Israeli academic institutions to protest the country’s treatment of Palestinians, citing scientist Steven Hawking’s refusal to attend a conference there earlier this year.
The 70-year-old Waters co-founded the progressive rock band Pink Floyd in 1965 in Britain and emerged as the group’s chief songwriter after its original frontman, Syd Barrett, left due to drug use and mental health issues.
Waters himself left Pink Floyd in 1985 and sued the remaining members of use of the band’s name and material, settling out of court with his former bandmates and eventually reuniting with them for concerts in 2005.
Watch as Waters discusses his call to boycott Israel in this video posted online by Arc enCiel: