Waters explains ‘why I must speak out on Israel’

Waters explains ‘why I must speak out on Israel’

In op-ed, Pink Floyd co-founder says the loss of his father to the Nazis left him ‘no choice‘ but to support boycott movement

Yifa Yaakov is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Roger Waters. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)
Roger Waters. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

Singer-songwriter Roger Waters, who co-founded the band Pink Floyd, has “no choice” but to speak out against Israel and support attempts to boycott it, according to an op-ed he published on the website Salon Monday.

In the piece, Rogers explained that the loss of his father, a pacifist and one-time conscientious objector, to the Nazis near the end of World War II led him to become a political activist speaking out “in support of any beleaguered people denied the freedom and justice that I believe all of us deserve.”

Rogers said the father he never knew, 2nd Lt. Eric Fletcher Waters, died near Aprilia, Italy, in the battle for the Anzio Bridgehead on February 18, 1944.

When World War II broke out, Waters said, his father, a “committed pacifist,” had refused to join in the fighting. However, “as Hitler’s crimes spread across Europe,” he was driven to join “the fight against fascism.”

His widow, Mary Duncan Waters, remained politically active all her life, fighting against “despicable creeds” that could threaten her children’s future.

Rogers revealed that in February, he unveiled a memorial in the town where his father died, an act that prompted him to reflect on his life’s work and how it relates to his upbringing.

“Losing my father before I ever knew him and being brought up by a single, working mother who fought tirelessly for equality and justice colored my life in far-reaching ways and has driven all my work,” he wrote. “At this point in my journey, I like to think that I pay tribute to both my parents each time I speak out in support of any beleaguered people denied the freedom and justice that I believe all of us deserve.”

He said that after visiting Israel in 2005 and the West Bank in 2006 he had “no choice” but to “add his voice” to “those searching for an equitable and lawful solution to the problem – for both Palestinians and Jews.”

He said his support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement stemmed from a wish to act on behalf of Palestinian society “where governments had failed” in the push for peace – for example, by demanding the right of return for Palestinian refugees into Israel, a demand that Israel rejects because a mass influx would mean the end of Israel as a predominantly Jewish state.

He said that while BDS has been criticized as a “futile strategy that would ‘never work,’” it had “gained much ground in recent weeks.” He claimed BDS was pro-Israeli just as it was pro-Palestinian.

“I do not claim to speak on behalf of the BDS movement, yet, as a vocal supporter, and because of my visibility in the music industry, I have become a natural target for those who wish to attack BDS, not by addressing the merits of its claims but, instead, by assigning hateful and racist motivations to BDS supporters like me. It has even been said, cruelly and wrongly, that I am a Nazi and an anti-Semite,” he wrote.

“When I remarked in a recent interview on historical parallels, stating that I would not have played Vichy France or Berlin in World War II, it was not my intention to compare the Israelis to Nazis or the Holocaust to the decades-long oppression of the Palestinians. There is no comparison to the Holocaust. Nor did I intend or ever wish to compare the suffering of Jews then with the suffering of Palestinians now. Comparing suffering is a painful, grotesque and diminishing exercise that dishonors the specific memory of all our fallen loved ones.”

In December, having previously defended Waters from accusations of anti-Semitism, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said it reluctantly acknowledged that “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories” have “seeped into the totality” of the former Pink Floyd frontman’s views.

Waters came under fire in July for using a pig-shaped balloon with Jewish symbols, including a Star of David, at his concerts.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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