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August 20, 2013 3:28 pm

SWC Blasts ‘Horrific Anti-Semitic Character’ Roger Waters as ‘Disconnected From Reality’ After BDS Call During Peace Talks

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Roger Waters's pig balloon features a Star of David and is symbolically shot down during his performances. Photo: Screenshot.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, sharply criticized Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters Tuesday after Waters “doubled down” on his support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel with a new call for supporters to embrace a “cultural boycott of Israel.”

In an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner, Rabbi Cooper, whose recent criticism of Waters has been singled out by the musician, said that a letter Waters published, addressed to his “colleagues in Rock and Roll” calling on them to boycott Israel shows a “complete disconnect from reality,” in light of the ongoing renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the mounting death tolls last week in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, totaling some 1,700 dead.

“If I were a musician looking to protest human rights abuses today, I would be looking at Syria, at Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, everywhere but Israel,” Rabbi Cooper said. “The fact that Roger Waters would call for a boycott against Israel, when Israelis and Palestinians are actually meeting today, shows a complete disconnect from reality, and probably really just a disinterest in even the headlines of today’s newspaper, and certainly, a fundamental bias; I guess you could call it a hatred.”

“You can dress it up anyway you want, but how can Waters come down on the side of BDS, when the two sides are sitting down in negotiations, which was allegedly the original reason for creating this movement, and doing so given that the entire neighborhood of the Middle East, with the exception of Israel, is boiling over in bloodshed?” Rabbi Cooper asked.

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In the open letter, Waters says he has been a supporter of the BDS movement for seven years, but made no reference to the angry outcry from human rights organizations, Jewish groups and even the Vatican newspaper, condemning a pig-shaped balloon prop emblazoned with a Star of David that appeared during his recent concerts.

Rabbi Cooper added that “the notion that he might be performing in Berlin and Warsaw around time of the [Jewish] high holidays should be enough of an outrage that maybe some of the local politicians in Germany and Poland and every country on his tour will begin to speak out directly against this horrific anti-Semitic character.”

“Unlike him, Jews in these countries are not just worried about theoretical shooting of pig balloons, but they actually are required to have armed guards at their synagogues, because of the threat of real violence,” Rabbi Cooper said. “It would also be appropriate for Jewish communities and other religious groups in the cities where he performs to speak out against him now.”

On the first day of its publication, more than 1,900 Roger Water fans have “liked” his open letter calling for the cultural boycott. Rabbi Cooper said that the British musician must have known that his anti-Semitic stance would receive a warm response in the UK.

“The UK official Jewish leadership has never come at the issue [of anti-Semitism] head on, preferring to talk about things quietly, which generally can be very positive, but may not be enough,” Rabbi Cooper said. “Every community has to approach things on their own, but it’s not just hatred of Jews anymore, it’s derision, a lack of respect. I don’t need Roger Waters to like me, but it’s important to respect there’s a Jewish state. BDS made its greatest inroads in the UK, where many people want to believe there is something fundamentally wrong with Israel, with a disrespect of Zionism that is totally uncalled for and would be inappropriate in any other country.”

In the letter, Waters wrote that he was moved to formalize his thoughts on the issue after British violinist Nigel Kennedy played in his Proms performance with The Palestine Strings, comprised of young students attending the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, and referred to  Israel as an apartheid state in remarks following the performance.

“Time to stick my head above the parapet again, alongside my brother, Nigel Kennedy, where it belongs,” Waters wrote, continuing, “I write to you now, my brothers and sisters in the family of Rock and Roll, to ask you to join with me, and thousands of other artists around the world, to declare a cultural boycott on Israel, to shed light on these problems and also to support all our brothers and sisters in Palestine and Israel who are struggling to end all forms of Israeli oppression and who wish to live in peace, justice, equality and freedom.”

He referred to his own successful effort to “persuade” American musician Stevie Wonder from performing at a fundraiser in December 2012 for the Friends of the Israeli Defense Force charity, in Los Angeles, and his own speech about the incident at the United Nations, which he said was under reported in the U.S. media. “The clear inference would be that the media in the USA is not interested in the predicament of the Palestinian people, or for that matter the predicament of the Israeli people. We can only hope they may become interested as they eventually did in the politics of apartheid South Africa,” Waters wrote.

“Maybe we are at the tipping point now with Israel and Palestine. These are good people both and they deserve a just solution to their predicament. Each and every one of them deserves freedom, justice and equal rights. Just recently the ANC, the ruling party of South Africa, has endorsed BDS. We are nearly there. Please join me and all our brothers and sisters in global civil society in proclaiming our rejection of Apartheid in Israel and occupied Palestine, by pledging not to perform or exhibit in Israel or accept any award or funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights,” he wrote.

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