Tear down the wall, even if it protects you

Promoting rebuilding of Jenin cinema, Roger Waters calls on Israelis to "fight extreme right-wing PM."

roger waters 248.88 (photo credit: )
roger waters 248.88
(photo credit: )
Visiting Jenin "felt foreign in a good way," former Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters told a group of film students and several journalists in a small auditorium in the Sam Spiegel Film School in Jerusalem Monday evening. Waters was referring to his visit earlier in the day to the West Bank Palestinian town where he arrived to see in person a torn down cinema hall which he is helping rebuild. The cinema in Jenin was closed in 1987; according to the Website dedicated to the project (www.cinemajenin.org) it has since been neglected and fallen into disrepair. The evening began with an introduction by Marcus Vetters, a German documentary filmmaker who directed 'Heart of Jenin,' a film about a Palestinian man - Ismail Katib - who decided to donate the organs of his dead children to be transplanted in Israeli hospital patients. Vetters said he has lived in Jenin after making the film and has also directed eight other feature length documentaries about the Palestinians. But after making 'Heart of Jenin', Vetters, seeing the ruined cinema hall, decided to promote the rebuilding of the venue and wants it to turn into a cinema which would promote peace and understanding. Waters met Vetters in a festival dedicated to films about peace in Berlin, and immediately embraced the young director's initiative. It was not clear whether the renowned rock musician was financially supporting the project or if he just lends his reputation to it as leverage. But in Jerusalem, after a whole day in the hot sun of Jenin, Waters also had serious criticism for his young, mostly wide-eyed audience. "I am not of the Bono school, who goes around the world being nice to everyone. When I have bad words to say I say them," he warned at the beginning of a short Q & A session. And indeed, at some points he seemed visibly irritated by questions which did not sit comfortably with his world view.. Asked by The Jerusalem Post whether he and Vetters were not afraid that the cinema, when up and running, might be hijacked by extremist forces which would use it to indoctrinate the Palestinians with hate propaganda, Waters answered that Fakhri, the Jenin man who is expected to eventually run the cinema, "would rather die than let it be taken over by extreme religious or political forces." When a reporter asked him whether he was aware of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's vow never to divide Jerusalem, he said angrily - "I have to take a few deep breaths before I answer" - that he could not believe that this was the current policy of the government, which he defined as "extreme right-wing." Asked by the Post if he was aware of the terms of the final-status offer made by former prime minister Ehud Olmert to PA President Mahmoud Abbas and whether he knew that Abbas had refused it - Waters said "I am not aware of this." Waters seemed to support the two-state solution (hence pushing for the division of Jerusalem) but also asserted: "Voting doesn't mean shit unless everybody has a vote and everyone can move around freely… there should be no checkpoints. All this checkpoint bullshit is a method of your government to control, not only the Palestinians but you as well." While Waters had perfect moral clarity recounting his father's death in World War II, where "it was quite clear somebody was attacking somebody and that needed to be dealt with," he characterized the West Bank security barrier which he passed through as "an obscenity for other people in the world. It looks OK to Jews here and maybe in other places where they live, but people around the world see it as a weird way to live." He did not comment on the context in which it was built and the decline in terror attacks since its construction. Asked by the Post to comment on the fact that Israelis enjoy a healthy political debate, including many political parties and NGOs which adopted the narrative of the "other," while there is little comparable debate and dissent coming from the Palestinians, he replied, "What do you expect when they don't have a pot to piss in?" Waters called religion a "smokescreen" used by governments to gain power, wealth and land, and insisted as a self-proclaimed atheist that religion stands at the root of many global conflicts. He did not comment on the generally religious-oriented Palestinian society, but, telling the story of a Jewish-Palestinian married couple where the man lives in Jerusalem and the woman in Bethlehem, he characterized the religious marriage laws of Israel as "theocratic." The weary looking 65-year-old insisted that, despite all the suffering he said he had seen, he was still "full of hope," and urged young Israelis to "move toward a solution which will be acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians." How? Simple: "Fight your current prime minister and move Israel to the left and away from this intransigent, hubris-affected hegemonistic (sic) state of affairs."