Artists should never be silenced

One of Waters’s victims was Nick Cave, the lead singer of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, who was pressured by Waters, Brian Eno, and others to cancel their shows in Israel.

December 20, 2018 22:00
4 minute read.
Musician Roger Waters performs at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 20, 2017

Musician Roger Waters performs at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 20, 2017. (photo credit: MARIO ANZUONI/REUTERS)


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It was disturbing to see Roger Waters once again publicly denounce and vilify a band that was booked to play a show in Israel. His recent Facebook post also contained his usual lies about the State of Israel.

His latest target was a cover band called The UK Pink Floyd Experience, who has previously performed in Israel. Waters unleashed a social media assault against the group, calling their scheduled performance in Israel “an act of unconscionable malice and disrespect,” while stating that Israel was a “racist and apartheid” state that practices segregation. He also made the outrageous claim that Israeli citizens were “executing their neighbors’ children, shooting them down in cold blood every day.”

After The UK Pink Floyd Experience initially canceled their tour dates in Israel, Waters claimed victory, and implied that the group did so in solidarity with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The band’s lead singer, David Power, quickly shot down these assertions, stating that the band canceled their shows due to “the abuse and threats they were receiving” as a result of Waters’s initial Facebook post. Power stated that he does not support the BDS movement. The band has since reversed its decision and will perform in Israel in January.

This episode is reminiscent of another incident earlier this year when these same tactics of inciting hate were used against the Argentinian national football team, who canceled a friendly football match in Israel after members of the BDS movement threatened them with violence.

Roger Waters and other boycott activists frequently use inflammatory and inaccurate terms such as “apartheid” and “segregation” to describe Israel, misleading people about the current situation and denigrating the true meaning of those terms. Instead of helping to bring about peace, such inflammatory and patently false statements only work to increase divisions and stoke hatred.

With over 1.7 million Arab citizens of Israel, who account for nearly 20% of the population, Israel has never practiced racial segregation. It is the only real democracy in the Middle East, where Arabs sit in parliament and on the Supreme Court; while over 22% of the student body of the Technion, Israel’s version of MIT, are Arab students. Israel also has progressive laws when it comes to free speech, freedoms of the press, as well as LGBTQ rights.

Another one of Waters’s victims was Nick Cave, the lead singer of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, who was pressured by Waters, Brian Eno, and others to cancel their shows in Israel. Cave resisted the pressure, and recently elaborated on his reasons why. In a post on his website, he wrote that the “cultural boycott of Israel is cowardly and shameful.” He added that “Israel is a real, vibrant, functioning democracy – yes, with Arab members of parliament – and so engaging with Israelis, who vote, may be more helpful than scaring off artists or shutting down means of engagement.”

Similarly, after a tour stop in Munich earlier this year where Waters espoused his views on Israel that included flying a pig with the Star of David on it, Munich Mayor, Dieter Reiter, slammed Waters, for stoking antisemitism. Reiter stated that Waters “is responsible for growing, intolerable antisemitic statements” that is couched in the form of BDS. He went on to add that the “antisemitic propaganda of Roger Waters is neither welcome in Munich nor will it remain unanswered.”

The mayors of Munich, Berlin, and Frankfurt have stated that the language coming out of the BDS community is reminiscent of the language used by the Nazis. All three cities have recently passed anti-BDS legislation denouncing hate-filled speech.

Unabashedly, the BDS movement’s goal is the defamation, delegitimization and eventual elimination of the State of Israel, as stated openly by the group’s founder and leader, Omar Barghouti. He has repeatedly said that he does not support the idea of a two-state solution and opposes a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. He considers Palestine to be comprised of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.

Another deceptive tactic used by the BDS movement is their “anti-normalization” policy that seeks to prevent any interaction between Arabs and Israelis. Under this policy, even if an artist wants to play a show in both Israel and the West Bank, the BDS movement will not allow a Palestinian venue to host any act that also performs in Israel. Recently, the BDS movement demanded that the EU cancel a program that was to bring young Israelis and Palestinians together under the pretext that the event promotes normalization between the two peoples.

These lies and bullying tactics need to end. We all hope that a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is found soon and we believe that the arts and artists can be part of that solution. Music brings people together, and change comes through engagement, not cultural boycotts and silencing artistic expression.

 Ari Ingel is an attorney and a director of Creative Community for Peace, an international entertainment industry organization that represents a cross-section of the creative world, which is dedicated to promoting the arts as a means to peace and protecting artistic freedom.

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