(photo credit: REUTERS)
Behind almost every act canceling a scheduled show in Israel stands one man: Roger Waters.
The rocker has led several prominent and public campaigns against artists who choose to perform in the Jewish state – most recently Radiohead, which is scheduled to play in Tel Aviv next month.
But now one group is fighting back, trying to stage a boycott of Waters himself. Charles Asher Small, the founder and director of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, is behind the new site and campaign.
“Roger Waters is the leader of the BDS movement at the cultural level,” Small told The Jerusalem Post on Monday, referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement by its initials. “He uses some of the most horrific old forms of antisemitic tropes about Jewish power and about Israel being an apartheid state.”
At the same time, Small said, the rocker is still a wildly successful performer, and has tour dates scheduled throughout North America for much of 2017.
“We felt that a lot of his success was in part due to the imagery that he was promoting of Magen Davids with pigs and dollar signs and dressing up as Nazi” – things he did at a 2013 show in Belgium, said Small. “A lot of imagery, combined with his call to boycott Israel, gives off a horrific message – and he’s making profit from it... we felt that it was time to take a stand.”
The website, wedontneednorogerwaters.com, was launched about a week ago. It offers ways to donate and a petition to sign urging a boycott of Waters, a founding member of the band Pink Floyd.
The petition, which had more than 1,600 signatures by Monday afternoon, said Waters has an “extensive history of espousing antisemitic conspiracy theories... going so far as to compare Israeli treatment of the Palestinians to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany.” The petition therefore calls to boycott Waters “until he renounces antisemitism in all of its forms, including the unjust boycott of the Jewish state.”
In tandem, Small said, the ISGAP is working with Canadian filmmaker Ian Halperin on a new documentary, “Wish You Weren’t Here,” which explores contemporary antisemitism and Waters’s rise to the head of the BDS movement. Small said the film is expected to be released this summer, ideally on TV networks around the country.
He said he and the institute are also beginning to reach out to corporate sponsors and corporations associated with Waters’s tour, hoping to convince them to drop the artist.
“As scholars we’ve proved that there is a correlation between the boycott movement, antisemitism and the demonization of Israel,” Small said. “Now we want to take it one step further to reach the public to show them how dangerous this ideology is and how it’s being packaged in popular culture.”
Small will be arriving in Israel this week for the upcoming Herzliya Conference, where he will be discussing “The New Antisemitism and the Security of the Jewish People: Overstated Threat or Real Risk?” Waters has been publicly calling on Thom Yorke and Radiohead for months to cancel their show in Tel Aviv next week. Yorke finally broke his silence about 10 days ago in a Rolling Stone interview, declaring in no uncertain terms that the show would go on.
“It’s deeply disrespectful to assume that we’re either being misinformed or that we’re so retarded we can’t make these decisions ourselves,” Yorke said. “I thought it was patronizing in the extreme... it’s really upsetting that artists I respect think we are not capable of making a moral decision ourselves after all these years.”