Anti-Semitic? Not me, says Roger Waters

Pink Floyd star responds after Jewish group criticised his use of Star of David

Thirty years after being forced to fight off claims he was corrupting children with Pink Floyd's The Wall album, Roger Waters has been driven to defend himself from allegations of anti-Semitism.

The bassist has launched a vigorous defence of his views and music after being accused by an American-Jewish rights agency of using images in his stage show that promoted stereotypes.

During a performance of "Goodbye Blue Sky" at the US leg of The Wall Live tour, which revives Pink Floyd's hit 1979 album, a B52 bomber projected on to a backdrop is shown dropping symbols including the Star of David and a dollar sign, as well as a crucifix and logos for Shell and Mercedes.

Abraham Foxman, the director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said using the dollar sign and the Star of David in sequence echoed the stereotype that Jews were avaricious.

Referring to criticism Waters has previously made of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, Mr Foxman said the musician should have "chosen some other way to convey his political views without playing into and dredging up the worst age-old anti-Semitic stereotype about Jews and their supposed obsession with making money".

Waters, who was born in Surrey but has lived in the US for 10 years, said the slur was so serious he felt compelled to set the record straight in an open letter to The Independent.

"I watch the workings of politics here and particularly the Republican Party. They work with the axiom that you can tell as many lies as you want – and often the bigger the better – and eventually they will believed," he said.

"If I don't respond people will see the story and will come to believe I'm anti-Semitic, and I'm not. Nothing could be further from the truth. "

The images he chose to project during the show were selected because they are "representative of religious and national and commercial interests, all of which have a malign influence on our lives and prevent us from treating each other decently".

Waters has spoken against Israeli policies and accused the ADL of painting critics as anti-Semitic.

"It's a screen that they hide behind. I don't think they should be taken seriously on that. You can attack Israeli policy without being anti-Jewish," he said.

"It's like saying if you criticise the US policy you are being anti-Christian. I'm critical of the Israeli policy of occupying Palestinian land and their policy of building settlements, which is entirely illegal under international law, and also of ghettoising the people whose land they are building on.

"It's that foreign policy I'm against. It's nothing to do with the religion."

Waters, who will bring his concert tour to Britain next year, said in his letter the symbols projected during the performance of The Wall were intended to show the suffering caused to ordinary people by war.

The bassist pointed out, however, that there are many people in Israel who agree with his position and that he has had received a lot of support from Jews. He said: "There is a large movement inside Israel, young, Jewish Israeli citizens, and old ones too, who are against their government's policy in the same way as in England when Tony Blair took us to war against Iraq on the coat-tails of George Bush.

"I've had an extraordinary response. We've had over 1,000 comments on my Facebook page.

"They are all extremely supportive. A lot of the comments I've had have been from Jews."

His letter to 'The Independent'

Dear Sir

In a recent news item on Foxnews/online, subsequently abridged in The Evening Standard, Abraham Foxman, head of the ADL, (Anti Defamation League) in the USA , accuses my new production of The Wall and by implication me, of anti-Semitism.

A serious charge that demands a response. Had Mr Foxman come to my show before passing judgement and commenting publicly he might, I hope, have held his peace, as there is no anti Semitism in The Wall Show. The song to which he refers, Good Bye Blue Sky, describes how ordinary people, military and civilians alike, suffer trauma in the aftermath of war.

The visuals that accompany the song show waves of B52 bombers dropping various symbols from bomb bays on a war ravaged landscape. The symbols are: in no particular order, a Crucifix, a Hammer and Sickle, a Star of David, A Crescent and Star, a Mercedes sign , a Dollar sign, and a Shell Oil sign.

Mr Foxman's concern was that potentially the juxtoposition of a Star of David and a Dollar sign might incite hatred of Jews. Contrary to Mr Foxman's assertion, there are no hidden meanings in the order or juxtaposition of these symbols.

The point I am trying to make in the song is that the bombardment we are all subject to by conflicting religious, political, and economic ideologies only encourages us to turn against one another, and I mourn the concommitant loss of life.

In so far as The Wall has a political message it is to seek to illuminate our condition, and find new ways to encourage peace and understanding, particularly in the Middle East .

Incidentally, being from England, I had never heard of the ADL until today, but I have googled them and I see from their mission statement of 1913 that their brief is not only to defend the Jewish people from defamation, but also, and I quote, " to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens".

Perhaps we should all focus on that lofty ideal and stop cowering in our corners throwing stones at one another.

Roger Waters

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