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March 22, 2023 8:53 am

‘Unbearable’: Roger Waters Concert in Munich to Go Ahead Despite Fears of Antisemitism

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avatar by Ben Cohen

Singer Roger Waters is seen on a monitor during his address to the UN Security Council. Photo: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

A May 29 concert in Munich by former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters will go ahead, much to the chagrin of the German city’s mayor, who bemoaned the “unbearable” and “unspeakable” prospect that the event will be an occasion for antisemitic agitation.

Waters — an outspoken supporter of the campaign to subject Israel to an international boycott — was scheduled to appear in five German cities as part of this “This is Not A Drill 2023” tour. Last month, the city of Frankfurt canceled his May 28 concert at the city’s state-owned Festhalle venue, citing his status as “one of the world’s best-known antisemites” as the reason for the cancelation.

While moves are afoot to cancel the singers’ concerts in Hamburg, Cologne, Berlin and Munich, that goal has been frustrated by the legal obligations of the commercially-run arenas hosting Waters. In the case of Munich, the city’s Olympiahalle venue risked a breach of contract by canceling the concert, the city council noted on Wednesday.

Warning that “antisemitic slogans will be thrown around,” Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter of the center-left SPD Party urged that appropriate measures be taken on the day of the concert to counter Waters’ message. In a statement, the Munich city council called on the Olympiahalle to prepare signs, flags and other symbols that would send a “clear signal for international understanding and international solidarity, against antisemitism and for the right to exist of the State of Israel and the sovereignty of Ukraine.”

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Waters last played at the Olympiahalle in 2018. On that occasion, Reiter commented, “I don’t want him here, but we have to endure it for now.” According to German broadcaster BR24, state and federal court rulings forbid the denial of concert halls and other venues “solely because of the expected unwanted expressions of opinion” on the part of artists who are performing.

As well as attacking Israel, Waters has backed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. In February, Waters delivered a rambling speech to the UN Security Council at the behest of the Russian mission to the UN, in which he claimed to be speaking on behalf of the world’s “voiceless majority” and denounced Ukraine’s democratic government as “provocateurs.” 

Last week, Waters announced legal action against the Frankfurt decision. A statement issued by his management company condemned what it called “unconstitutional actions” based upon “the false accusation that Roger Waters is antisemitic, which he is not.”

Separately, a group of musicians, actors and artists have launched a petition in support of Waters. Signed by celebrities including musicians Eric Clapton, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Tom Morello, former Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, actors Susan Sarandon and Julie Christie and artist Julian Schnabel, the petition asserts that “Waters’ criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is part of his long-standing commitment to human rights around the world.”

It added that the “officials who vilify Waters are running a dangerous campaign that deliberately conflates criticism of Israel’s illegal and unjust policies with antisemitism.”

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