JCRC condemns Roger Waters' hateful rhetoric

Outspoken BDS activist Roger Waters comes to Chicago this week and, along with the music of Pink Floyd, he also brings a jarring message of hate.

In addition to repeatedly espousing anti-Israel rhetoric that often crosses the line from legitimate criticism of Israeli policies into anti-Semitism , he regularly calls upon fellow artists to boycott Israel, and condemns those -- most recently Radiohead -- that refuse. 

Radiohead's frontman Thom Yorke, former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe and Arab Israeli musician Nasreen Qadri all have spoken out recently against such tactics. Qadri, who performed alongside Radiohead in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, says BDS is "counter-productive and only hurting those who wish to promote peace and tolerance."

"Waters says he is 'anti-war, anti-apartheid, anti-racist, pro human rights, pro peace and pro self-determination for all peoples,'" said David T. Brown, chair of JUF's Jewish Community Relations Council. "Yet he has performed in nations with horrendous records on human rights, such as Turkey and Russia, and singles out Israel -- by far the only democratic oasis in the Middle East, and certainly the most socially progressive -- for his attacks, to the exclusion of all others."

Waters declares that he is neither anti-Israel nor anti-Semitic. Yet his concerts have featured his signature floating pig bearing a Star of David, juxtaposed with classical (and contradictory) anti-Semitic symbols-the dollar sign representing capitalist exploitation, and the hammer and sickle representing communist repression, and has repeatedly alluded to anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish power and the "Jewish lobby" in interviews. This week, during a live Facebook interview with BDS founder Omar Barghouti, Waters compared Israel to Nazi Germany, claiming he wasn't sure if "there are any much harsher regimes in the world" than Israel. (Barghouti has made the BDS position clear: that the Jews are not a people, and that Palestinians have a right to "resistance by any means, including armed resistance.")

"Waters advocates not for a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but rather for the end of Israel as the sovereign nation state of the Jewish people," said JCRC Executive Director Emily Sweet.

"As with any sovereign nation, fair criticism of Israeli government policies is legitimate. But when the criticism, like that leveled by Waters, includes delegitimization of Israel's right to exist, unapologetic use of Holocaust comparisons, and anti-Semitic symbols and tropes, it crosses the line into hate speech," Brown said. "As leaders of Chicago's Jewish community, we say, 'Enough.'"

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