The thin ice

Tony Blair calls Roger Waters anti-Israel views ‘ludicrous’

In documentary, former UK prime minister says ex-Pink Floyd frontman corrupted by decades of ‘ideological poison’

Former British prime minister Tony Blair speaks at the first state memorial in honor of Shimon Peres at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, September 14, 2017. (Josef Avi Yair Engel)
Former British prime minister Tony Blair speaks at the first state memorial in honor of Shimon Peres at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, September 14, 2017. (Josef Avi Yair Engel)

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair has condemned Roger Waters’ anti-Israel views as “ludicrous,” in an interview for a documentary on anti-Semitism.

Blair, who served for several years as the Middle East Quartet’s special envoy to the region, was asked his thoughts on a statement by the ex-Pink Floyd frontman comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, The Daily Mail reported Sunday.

Musician Roger Waters performs during his Us + Them Tour at Staples Center on June 20, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images/AFP)

“I think the criticism is so ludicrous that it indicates a basic hostility to the notion of a homeland for the Jewish people,” Blair said. “You’ve got to overcome the legacy of that ideological poison which has dripped into the system over many decades.”

Blair is a frequent visitor to the Middle East, and has visited Israel almost 200 times.

The documentary, made by Ian Halperin, examines Waters’ criticism of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians, and asks whether the bassist-vocalist is anti-Semitic.

“Yes. I’m a great fan of the music of Pink Floyd, but I don’t agree with Roger Waters and his campaign,” said Blair. “I think it is part of a wider alliance which is dangerous and worries me… which is the leftist-Islamist alliance. It’s a growing problem… There is nothing progressive about a totalitarian ideology.”

The bassist and vocalist, an outspoken critic of Israel, is known for publicly harassing artists scheduled to visit the country or perform there.

In 2013, the Anti-Defamation League, having previously defended Waters against charges of anti-Semitism, acknowledged that “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories” have “seeped into the totality” of the former Pink Floyd frontman’s views.

Blair led the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007, and served as UK’s prime minister for a decade. Recently, Labour has been accused of ignoring anti-Semitism within its ranks.

At its annual conference last week, the party adopted rules designed to facilitate the expulsion of members caught using hateful rhetoric against Jews.

Britain’s opposition Labour party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers a speech at a rally on the eve of Labour Conference in Brighton, September 23, 2017. (AFP/Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS)

The rules, which have been backed by Labour’s resurgent leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the party’s national executive committee, explicitly tighten the party’s stance toward members who are anti-Semitic or use other forms of hate speech, including racism, Islamophobia, sexism and homophobia.

But the rules do not define what constitutes anti-Semitism. Corbyn has backed a definition adopted earlier this year by the British government. Based on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, it includes examples of demonization of Israel. But it is not immediately clear whether Labour will follow that definition when deciding what constitutes anti-Semitism.

Following the conference, Corbyn said that anti-Semitism was “completely at odds with the beliefs of this party.”

The new rules follow the eruption of a new scandal within Labour. At an event held on the fringes of the main party conference in Brighton, Israeli-American author and pro-Palestinian activist Miko Peled (not a member of Labour) said people should be allowed to question whether the Holocaust took place, in the name of free speech.

JTA contributed to this report.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed