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May 17, 2023 12:03 pm

Berlin Senator Urges City Residents to ‘Stand Together’ Against ‘Antisemitic’ Roger Waters Concert

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avatar by Ben Cohen

Berlin’s Senator for Culture Joe Chialo. Photo: Reuters/Bernd Elmenthaler

As former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters arrived in Berlin on Wednesday for the first of two concerts on consecutive nights, the German capital’s senator for culture voiced frustration that the show was going ahead, citing the singer’s long record of hostile statements towards both Jews and Israel.

“A valuable asset such as freedom of expression and freedom of art must never be misused as a license for antisemitism,” Senator Joe Chialo of the center-right CDU Party told the dpa news agency. “In this matter, all Berliners should stand together.”

Waters, a vocal supporter of the “BDS” campaign to subject Israel to a comprehensive boycott, has frequently baited pro-Israel Jewish organizations and individuals. In one July 2022 interview with a Canadian broadcaster, he caricatured the Jewish state as the endeavor of “a bunch of Europeans back in the middle of the 19th century deciding that they were going to take over this piece of land, and kick out anybody that lived there and take it over for themselves and their own little cabal.”

Politicians and Jewish leaders in Germany have expressed concern that Waters may violate German laws against antisemitism and the misrepresentation of the Holocaust, noting as well that a 2019 cross-party effort in the Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament, resulted in the successful passage of a motion condemning the BDS campaign as “antisemitic.”

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Chialo referred to the appearance on Waters’ previous tours of an inflatable pig balloon marked with a Star of David. “These actions — like the BDS campaign he is associated with — are nothing but antisemitic,” said Chialo, the son of Tanzanian diplomats stationed in Germany who was himself a noted musician before embarking on a career in politics. While the pig balloon has again been utilized on Waters’ current tour, the Star of David has been replaced with a list of armaments manufacturers, among them the Israeli company Elbit Systems.

Looking ahead, Chialo said that he planned to introduce a “democracy clause” into arts funding decisions in order to “prevent antisemitic events in the cultural sector and to deprive supporters of the BDS movement of public funds.” In that regard, he cited the controversy that raged in Germany last year over the prestigious Documenta festival of contemporary art, which featured several works decried as antisemitic.

Waters’ “This is Not A Drill 2023” tour includes five German cities. As well as Berlin, the 79-year-old is also scheduled to perform in Munich and Frankfurt, where a ban on the concert imposed by the city council was overruled on appeal, and has already played in Hamburg and Cologne.

Other public figures joined in the condemnation of Waters’ performance in Berlin. Samuel Salzborn, the city’s antisemitism commissioner, criticized Waters’ fans, commenting that  “it is a bitter reality that there is no outcry from his fan base against antisemitism.”

Separately, Germany’s federal commissioner for combating antisemitism, Felix Klein, called on the Berlin Senate to “examine all legal options to take action against the spread of antisemitism by Roger Waters and BDS. This includes intervening if criminal offenses are suspected, including at concerts.”

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