In the last month, many conversations about antisemitism have been circulating in the media at a time when the Biden administration has created a national task force strategy to combat Jew hate.
In parallel, notorious antisemite Roger Waters has reached new lows, using his concerts in Germany to double down on his hatred for Jews (read in more detail in my piece titled “Roger Waters shows antisemites still allowed on stage in Germany”).
To pour more salt on the wound, specific venues where Waters performed, such as Frankfurt’s Festhalle, were in the same place that was once a detention camp for Jews. On November 9, 1938, in what is now the Festhalle arena in Frankfurt, 3,000 Jewish men were held on Kristallnacht (“Night of the Broken Glass”) before being sent to concentration camps.
Roger Waters continues to deny antisemitism claims
Waters, the former member of the rock band Pink Floyd, has been a controversial celebrity on issues related to antisemitism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has publicly espoused antisemitic sentiments and, for years, has used his concerts to push antisemitic tropes through the guise of anti-Zionism. He is also a vocal proponent of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, in which leadership has openly stated that there is no future for Palestine next to Israel.
In a recent interview featured by Double Down News, Waters spent a good 20 minutes defending his recent actions, claiming that the antisemitic allegations against him are false. Waters stated that “the narrative that I’m an antisemite and that I am promoting fascism by wearing a leather coat with crossed hammers... but it remains a vicious lie.”
He even pretended to be upset over these allegations, saying, “I can’t believe they are trying to do this to me.”
Well, he better believe it because it’s true. The facts speak for themselves, and there can be no denying that Roger Waters is an antisemite. Let’s take a look at some of his actions:
The use of antisemitic imagery: Waters has used antisemitic imagery and symbolism during his performances, where he often uses a pig-shaped balloon with the Jewish Star of David and a swastika. Such imagery he chooses intentionally. Waters claimed he stopped using this in 2013, but that does not replace the years of damage done by demonizing and dehumanizing Jews in this manner. Waters’s “pig” reinforces harmful stereotypes and invokes historical tropes perpetuating antisemitism.
Comparing the Jewish state to Nazi Germany: Waters has drawn multiple false comparisons between Israel to apartheid-era South Africa and Nazi Germany. This is an intentional move to equate the Jewish state to some of history’s most heinous atrocities, especially knowing that the Holocaust invokes so much pain in the Jewish community. While Israel is not immune to criticism, comparing it to the Nazis trivializes and delegitimizes the Holocaust.
Selective focus on demonizing Israel: Waters has a selective focus on Israel’s actions while ignoring Palestinian terrorism. He disproportionately highlights Israel’s alleged wrongdoings without acknowledging the complexities of the conflict and the challenges that Israel faces with her neighbors.
This is just a shortlist of Roger Waters’s track record of antisemitism, and now the Biden administration has weighed in on the controversy.
The combat antisemitism task force
The US State Department has set up a national task force to combat antisemitism, and they have looked into what they call Waters’s “long track record of using antisemitic tropes” and echoed the sentiment of Jewish groups that Waters’ concerts in Germany “contained imagery that is deeply offensive to Jewish people and minimized the Holocaust.”
This reinforces the State Department’s importance of using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as a blueprint to uncover the different ways that Jew-hate can manifest.
Doing so is especially important when other public figures and celebrities like American actor Mark Ruffalo attempt to minimize its relevance. Ruffalo recently retweeted an article by Alice Speri titled “Biden Embraces Antisemitism Definition that has Upended Free Speech in Europe” in the American nonprofit news organization The Intercept. In the article, she argues against using IHRA as a blueprint for antisemitism “conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism.”
She claims that when using IHRA, those facing accusations of antisemitism were more or less advocating for Palestinian rights and that when legally challenged, “the allegations were almost always dismissed as unsubstantiated.”
The reality is we should all wholeheartedly support Palestinian rights. Doing so will bring Israelis and Palestinians closer to peace. Yet those who fall within IHRA’s criteria of antisemitism are likely people who don’t care about peace.
Anyone who understands antisemitism or the modern ways Jews experience hatred will know that you cannot effectively address Jew hate if you ignore the IHRA (especially the portions where criticism of Israel crosses the line into discrimination and prejudice).
If you advocate against IHRA, then you don’t care about the safety of Jews. If you advocate against IHRA, you are normalizing the disgusting actions of figures like Roger Waters, who is undoubtedly an antisemite.
The writer is a social media activist with more than 10 years of experience working for Israeli, Jewish causes and cause-based NGOs. She is the co-founder and the COO of Social Lite Creative, a digital marketing firm specializing in geopolitics.