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We artists, musicians, writers, and other public figures and organizations are deeply disturbed by the recent efforts by German officials to discredit and silence musician Roger Waters. On February 24, 2023, Frankfurt’s City Council and the Hessian State government announced the cancellation of a concert Waters scheduled to be performed on May 28 at the Festhalle. The Frankfurt City Council says that they canceled Waters’ concert “set a clear signal against anti-Semitism,” describing the musician as “one of the most widely spread anti-Semites in the world.” As evidence, the Council says that Waters “repeatedly called for a cultural boycott of Israel and drew comparisons to the apartheid regime in South Africa and put pressure on artists to cancel events in Israel.”
There is no other evidence other than these two claims: that Waters has supported the Palestinian-led cultural boycott of Israel campaign and that he has compared contemporary Israel’s government to the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Neither of these claims is unique to Waters or outside the boundaries of mainstream public opinion. Human Rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Israel’s B’Tselem, United Nations agencies, and South African officials have defined Israel as an apartheid state, and therefore, many of these organizations and individuals have made the comparison between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa.
The extremists are the Israeli Government, not its critics. Recently, Israeli citizens have been pouring into the streets to protest their government’s violent treatment of Palestinians and sweeping anti-democratic judicial changes.
Waters’ criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is part of his long-term advocacy on behalf of human rights across the globe. Waters believes “that all our brothers and sisters, all over the world irrespective of the color of their skin or the depth of their pockets deserve equal human rights under the law.” With regard to Israel and Palestine, he says, “My platform is simple: it is implementation of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights for all our brothers and sisters between the Jordan River and the sea. Which is odious and racist and which like all forms of racism. Antisemitism is odious and racist and I condemn it, along with all forms of racism, unreservedly.”
The officials vilifying Waters are engaging in a dangerous campaign that purposely conflates criticism of Israel’s illegal and unjust policies with antisemitism. This conflation perpetuates the antisemitic trope which presents Jews as a monolith who blindly support Israel. Some of Israel’s loudest critics are Jews. But those who weaponize antisemitism are fine contributing to it.
Officials in Germany, concert organizers, and music platforms must not succumb to the pressure of those individuals and groups who would rather see Waters’ music removed than engage with the issues his music highlights. We call on those who have canceled Waters’ concerts to reverse their decisions and consider their own history of antisemitism, racism and genocide and how instances of these can be stopped today in other parts of the world, including in Occupied Palestine.