In Germany, an alliance of civil society institutions and private individuals are battling for the cancellation of a Roger Waters concert tour. Antisemitic narratives play a central role in the major events of the musician, who has made a name for himself in recent years primarily as a protagonist of anti-Israel agitation. The thought of him performing in a hall, which was the historic site of violence perpetrated against Jews during the November pogroms, is so outrageous, that one can only wonder how such a contract could be signed with Waters in the first place.
In the visuals of the former Pink Floyd member’s monumental stage events, stars of David are associated with dollar signs, among other things. Stars of David are drawn on inflatable pigs, which are usually symbolically destroyed at the end of the concerts to the cheers of the audience. The current tour, “This Is Not A Drill,” is explicitly meant to represent Waters’ political agenda, with a statement overhanging the stage, “If you’re here because you like Pink Floyd but can’t stand Roger Waters’ politics, then f*ck off to the bar,” according to concertgoers in the USA.
The mass events currently scheduled to take place in Germany and elsewhere this year, are gatherings that promote Waters’ hatred for Israel and his calls to boycott the Jewish State, and which support his bizarre political theories, last expressed in his speech at the UN or a recent interview in the Berliner Zeitung. His theories, including those about the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, allegedly having been provoked by the USA, cannot be tolerated. Even former band colleagues clearly disassociate themselves from him.
As a known antisemite, conspiracy theorist, and Israel hater, Roger Waters should not be given a stage anywhere. For decades, Waters has been filling gigantic music halls with a program filled with antisemitic narratives and Israel-hatred, calling for discrimination of Jewish-Israeli artists, while successfully pressuring his fellow musicians who want to perform or bring their act to Israel.
Artistic freedom, like the right of free speech, is a fundamental right of every artist and every person, but there are limits to the tolerance one must have in the scope of this freedom. Artistic freedom stops when fundamental human dignity is endangered; when freedom turns into hateful incitement; when agitation turns into discrimination based on religion, national origin, race, color or sex; when political opinions turn into disgusting antisemitism.
In Germany, Waters is scheduled to play in Munich, Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, and at Frankfurt’s infamous Festhalle arena. Under National Socialism, the Festhalle was a central site of humiliation and violence toward Jews. During the November Pogroms, more than 3,000 Jews were deported to the Nazi concentration camps of Dachau and Buchenwald via the Festhalle. Today, the Festhalle is 60% owned by the City of Frankfurt and 40% by the State of Hesse. Based on the history of this hall alone, a contract with Waters should never have been signed.
And while it is to be welcomed that well-known politicians from the major parties have recently spoken out in favor of a cancellation of the Festhalle contract, giving hope that Frankfurt will actually set a precedent in terms of stopping the spread of Waters’ hatred, one can only wonder how a company like Allianz, the corporate sponsor of the concert hall where Waters is scheduled to perform in Munich, or Mercedes Benz in Berlin, can tolerate a hater like Waters playing in a hall bearing their name.
In Germany, especially, combating antisemitism must mean more than just dutifully making speeches on commemorative occasions. This is the time to turn words into deeds - in terms of historical responsibility for venue halls like the Festhalle, as well as clear commitments to prevent antisemitism.
On this basis, resolutions at the municipal and national levels, which have been directed against antisemitism in all its forms, should also be backed up with corresponding legal resolve, so that contracts with antisemitic agitators and conspiracy theorists do not even make it to the signing stage.
Freedom of expression is a great privilege, but without any doubt, this fundamental right does have limits. Allowing an outwardly antisemitic conspiracy theorist like Roger Waters to benefit from a publicly owned concert arena is a step too far. Words are not enough – action is needed.
When it comes to our most precious constitutional right – our human dignity and its protection in public spaces - especially in premises owned by the city and the state – we must safeguard our rights!
Sacha Stawski is the President of Honestly Concerned, a grassroots initiative that fights for unbiased media coverage of the Middle East conflict and against antisemitism in Germany. Stawski is also heading the pro-Israel advocacy group ILI - I Like Israel.
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Angel Mas.