Will BDS Bully Roger Waters Hide Behind His Hollywood Lackeys and Refuse to Debate?
We Americans are often criticized for our candor. But speaking truth to power was the very foundation of the American revolution.
It’s a lesson that the American Jewish community should bear in mind, as more BDS celebrities come out to bully the state of Israel into submission.
The BDS movement’s objective is the destruction of Israel. And the world Jewish community has a responsibility to stand up for the world’s only Jewish state. Two thousand years of antisemitism have taught us that “if we are not for ourselves, then who will be for us,” as Hillel expressed it so eloquently.
Those who boycott must themselves be boycotted. There can be no tolerance for intolerance, no safe sanctuary for anti-Jewish bigotry. The year is 2018, and we Jews won’t stand for this anymore.
My organization recently published a major ad pointing out Lorde’s bigotry and hypocrisy for canceling a concert in Israel, while still performing in Putin’s Russia. Not surprisingly, Roger Waters — one of the music world’s most vitriolic critics of Israel — came to Lorde’s defense.
Like many BDS advocates, Waters is an antisemite. This is not just my opinion; it is the conclusion of the Anti-Defamation League. “His comments about Jews and Israel have gotten progressively worse over time,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in 2013. “It started with anti-Israel invective, and has now morphed into conspiratorial antisemitism.”
Having Waters accuse us of bullying — as he did in a letter to The Guardian signed by 100 Hollywood types — is the height of hypocrisy. Waters has relentlessly and shamefully bullied performers scheduled to perform in Israel, and few have had the courage to denounce his bigotry directly.
Radiohead’s Thom Yorke is one of the few who has taken on Waters. Despite pressure from Waters and his ilk, Radiohead not only played in Israel for the fourth time, but Yorke called out Waters for being “patronizing” and “offensive.”
Waters and his fellow boycott advocates believe that they alone have the right to speak their minds, and they do so with the nefarious goal of destroying the state of Israel. It is further evidence of their own bigotry that they wish to deny us the right to defend the Jewish people. For Waters, Jews must take it on the chin, as they have for two millennia.
It was no surprise that Waters condemned us and recruited other well-known Israel haters, such as Ken Loach, Alice Walker and Angela Davis, to sign a letter supporting Lorde’s boycott of Israel. I was dismayed, however, to see John Cusack, Viggo Mortensen and Mark Ruffalo associate with the BDS movement. Do they really want to be linked with an antisemitic campaign?
When artists ally themselves with the unrestrained antisemitism of Roger Waters, they have to accept that they will be tainted by his crass Jew-hatred.
Waters has compared Israel and its rabbis to the Nazis. He also compared artists who perform in Israel to those who performed in Berlin during the Second World War. His vile hatred for the Jewish people has also transcended mere words.
In 2013, Waters masqueraded as a Nazi in one of his concerts. Flanked by long draping banners, Waters’ outfit was complete with a slick leather jacket, a red arm-band and an MP40 Schmeisser — the iconic Nazi machine gun used extensively by the Axis powers throughout World War II. To resolve any doubts as to the performer’s clear antisemitism, at the very same concert, the audience found itself orbited by a massive balloon in the shape of a pig and stamped with a Star of David.
These schemes were featured at Waters’ concerts in Belgium and the Netherlands, countries where more than 130,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis.
Waters and his ilk cannot distinguish between the democratic government of Israel — which respects and promotes human rights — versus the Palestinian autocrats and Islamists, who deny their people basic freedom and dignity. They also don’t understand or care about the murderous regime of Bashar Assad, who has slaughtered and displaced tens of thousands of Palestinians without protests from these artists. They also don’t understand the hypocrisy of defending Hamas, an organization that denies artists freedom of expression, promotes genocide against the Jewish people, engages in honor killings of Palestinian women, and uses Palestinian children as human shields in their bloody wars against Israel.
And, like Lorde, they all continue to support Russia — the same Russia that has backed Assad in his brutal campaign, which has resulted in the killing of 500,000 Arabs. Israel, by contrast, runs hospitals and clinics for Syria’s victims, just across the border.
BDS does nothing to advance the cause of peace, tolerance and understanding; instead, it actually hurts the Palestinian people. Most proponents of the boycott live thousands of miles away ,and do not represent the will of the Palestinians in the disputed territories — who must live with the consequences, and therefore oppose the boycott. Tens of thousands of Palestinians benefit from going to Israeli universities, from working for Israeli companies, and from employment in Israeli communities.
The reality that singers like Lorde are unaware of is that the Palestinian Authority refuses to negotiate peace, denies its own people civil and human rights, and cannot provide jobs or meet the basic needs of its people. I wonder if BDS supporters are aware of how women and gays, for example, are discriminated against there? Do they know that women can be murdered in “honor killings,” or that gay people may be killed for violating Islamic prohibitions on homosexuality?
Do the BDS advocates explain to their followers that Mahmoud Abbas is a corrupt dictator, who is now entering the 13th year of a four-year presidential term — and that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians tell pollsters that he should resign?
I hope that Lorde will take advantage of the invitation from Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand to meet, and to learn more about the country she has chosen to demonize. I hope that she will speak to performers like Madonna, Lady Gaga and Elton John, who had the courage to stand up to the pressure and found that Israel is a beautiful country — and a model of tolerance. I hope that she will speak to legends like Ringo Starr, who announced, just days after Lorde’s cancellation, that he will be performing in Israel.
Most of all, I hope that Lorde admits she made a mistake — and reschedules her concert. She will be forgiven, and find a welcoming audience in Tel Aviv.
As for Roger Waters, I put out this challenge. Rather than write boring letters about me to The Guardian, why not agree to debate me on Israel and the Middle East?
I eagerly await your response.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post and Newsweek call “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books, including his most recent, “The Israel Warrior.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.