Roger Waters discusses boycott with Israel’s ‘newspaper of the nation’

The interview with rock n’ roll’s lead boycotter of Israel was published in Yedioth Ahronoth, but it could have been put out by the Ministry of Public Diplomacy.  

I love when Israelis describe the media here as “leftist,” and when polite foreigners describe it as “robust” and “independent.” It goes along with our “vibrant democracy,” and our citizens who “all want peace,” especially, of course, our young people.

On Wednesday, Yedioth Ahronoth – the “newspaper of the nation,” by far the best-selling paper in the country – published a long interview with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, the unofficial leader of the rock n’ roll chapter of the boycott against Israel. Presumably the writer, Alon Hadar, is young, presumably at least some of the editors of the holiday supplement it appeared in are young, yet the interview and its packaging had no youthful, open-minded spirit. It could have been put out by the Ministry of Public Diplomacy.

“He declares a boycott against us,” reads the intro, “floats a toy pig at his concerts with a Star of David on it and demands of his musician friends not to come to Israel. Now Roger Waters, founder of Pink Floyd, explains for the first time what he has against the government of Israel and why he automatically takes the Palestinians’ side, yet is in no rush to get involved over the massacre in Syria. Yedioth Ahronoth’s writer accompanied one of the greatest musicians in history, and examined why he insists on building a wall around us.”

Some of the writer’s questions:

“You talk about the apartheid regime in South Africa. But the situation here is completely different.”

“You forget that Netanyahu has declared his support for the idea of two states and has called on the Palestinians to enter negotiations without preconditions.”

“Israel never annexed the territories. It declares at every opportunity that the situation is temporary. There isn’t a citizen in Israel who isn’t interested in peace.”

The writer accuses Waters of “hurting the feelings of the Jewish people” with the Star of David on the inflated pig, though he stops short of accusing him outright of anti-Semitism, and lets Waters answer his critics. “There are various symbols on it,” Waters says, “not just the cross and the Star of David, also the hammer and sickle, all the symbols are symbols of oppression.” (Aside from the cross and the Star of David, his show has also used the Muslim crescent as a symbol of oppression.)

Accompanying the interview are two short opinion pieces, one by Micha Shetrit of the Israeli pop group “Friends of Natasha.” Shetrit writes that the pig motif “shows where [Waters] draws his fascist aesthetic from, which is where he grew up and which is what he imbibed. … There’s nothing new here, it’s the same old Europe that’s now flashing again under the surface.”

The other opinion piece supposedly balances out Shetrit’s. Shuki Weiss and Oren Arnan, who produced Waters’ 2006 concert in Israel, take a tone of friendly reproach, saying Waters’ boycott “only deepens the walls that exist and creates new ones.” Instead, they argue, Waters and his fellow boycotters should “come to Israel and generate a dialogue among music lovers, [help] them understand that this can be a better place if we shine a light on the good people on both sides of the fence …”

This is a very popular idea – that foreign artists, scientists and others who oppose the occupation shouldn’t stay away, but rather come to Israel and “engage,” try to change people’s minds. Waters’ recollection of his 2006 concert in front of 45,000 Israelis addresses that point – and also says something about the young generation here, and about how rock music doesn’t set everyone free.

“The concert in Israel was wonderful, I enjoyed it very much and the crowd was amazing,” he says. “But at the end of the concert I said: ‘You are the generation that has to lead the way to peace with your neighbors.’ And suddenly the crowd went silent.”