Roger Waters should stay behind the Wall

Rock stars, celebrities, artists, public-opinion leaders and famous personalities in general have enormous influence on us, and especially on the young.

August 28, 2013 21:47
4 minute read.
Legendary rocker Roger Waters

Legendary rocker Roger Waters 370. (photo credit: Reuters)

I was 17 when I first heard a wonder: Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

That was in 1989, the year the Iron Curtain fell, soon after the Berlin Wall was breached, just moments before the Cold War thawed.

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I remember playing the cassette, which I got from a friend, on my Walkman.

Song after song, chorus following chorus, until it came to the song that changed my life. At the time, I didn’t really understand the meaning of “Comfortably Numb,” and I confess I didn’t really listen to the words. It was the sobbing, stirring guitar solo that gave me no rest – the wordless solo that made me decide, years later, to learn how to play. Since then, Pink Floyd has always been there for me. Whether at home, in my earphones as I run, on the plane, or in the car with the windows open, I let that solo lead the way again and again.

True, Roger Waters, from time to time I heard your criticisms of Israel. Over the past few years, that criticism of me and of my fellow Israelis has become regular, harsh – even scathing.

I didn’t like hearing the criticism, but as a Israeli in an “Alive and Kicking” democracy, I accepted it as a contribution to the debate, as an opinion – and perhaps also because you were the leader of my favorite band.

Unfortunately, your recent activities showed your true colors. You’ve just taken a “moral stand” by calling for your “brothers and sisters in the family of Rock and Roll” to boycott Israel. But far from being moral, that call is stained with anti-Semitism.

Last month, Mr. Waters, following reports of your concert in Belgium, I finally woke up. When I saw the picture of a Star of David on a pig-shaped balloon, I realized you had crossed a line not even a fan can tolerate.

That’s because the Star of David isn’t just a symbol. It is an individual expression for millions of Jews around the world. It belongs to a people; a road that fathers and sons traversed; a flag of rebirth; it is the pain of loss. And perhaps above all, it is faith in the strength of spirit of a small people, the reminder that within each of us resides a small David who doesn’t have a chance but who always prevails over a much stronger Goliath of one kind or another.

So when someone puts a Star of David on a pig, that’s where he loses me.

That’s not art, Mr. Waters.

It’s an offense. It’s not a cultural statement, it’s incitement. It’s not revolutionary, it’s anti-Semitic, wild and dangerous.

Strange. You, of all people, Roger Waters? You who wrote that wonderful creation, The Wall? You who wrote in it of the danger of alienation, of foreignness and of needless hate? You who sang against fascism, Nazism and other regimes who, throughout history, abused human rights? The very regimes that persecuted, murdered and burned the Jews after branding them with a mark of shame – with the yellow Star of David? How did it happen, Mr. Waters, that you of all people became a polarizer, a divider, a friend of one of those regimes? Rock stars, celebrities, artists, public-opinion leaders and famous personalities in general have enormous influence on us, and especially on the young. They imitate these personalities, listen to them, dress like them, talk like them. Yes, it is right and necessary that the personalities have a say. It is proper that they should express an opinion that is public, moral and socially aware. Who better than they can call for change, for a better world, for peace? Some of them have even taken this to the noblest end of the spectrum, doing incredible things for humanity – from campaigns to adopt orphans in Africa to an uncompromising war against loggers in Brazilian rain forests.

But you, Waters, have done nothing “for.” It’s the “against” that seems to have overpowered you; a boycott obsession. Your idea of drawing a Star of David on a pig is a perfect example of the abuse of good music, of how to erect walls between cultures, of how to perpetuate dark times.

Now you want the world to boycott Israel, too? I would be happy if you didn’t come to Israel again. We don’t need more anti- Semitic reminders around us. I can promise you, too, that I won’t be coming to your concerts in Europe.

As for the song, I suppose it will just stay there, in its deserving place, frozen, preserved in the period you wrote it, in the 1970s, a moment before you became the exact opposite of what your music really represents.

The author, an attorney, has served as an adviser to Israeli prime ministers Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Olmert.

He is the co-founder of Hallelujah – the Global Jewish Singing Contest.

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