Musician Roger Waters is known for his elaborate stage shows and for his contributions to the rock group Pink Floyd. Unfortunately, he has also made a name for himself as a vocal supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and a relentless critic of Israel. In fact, he is known for applying not-so-subtle pressure on fellow performers to boycott Israel and to keep the Jewish state off their tour itineraries. As Waters continues his American tour this summer and into the fall, newspapers and websites have been buzzing with his name.
A video response to Waters’ apparent anti-Semitism (one of his stage props on an earlier tour was a giant pig emblazoned with a Star of David; and in an interview on Facebook he compared Israel to Nazi Germany) has been circulating on social media. The video (twitter.com/JCRCgw/status/893454952483475456) is moderate in tone and carries a positive message — one that seems to be resonating in Jewish communities that are looking to adapt it or to produce something similar on their own.
The one-minute video was produced by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. Some Waters critics might want to picket his show, as protesters have done in Philadelphia and Phoenix, and as they may do here in Pittsburgh when Waters comes on Sept. 19, erev Rosh Hashanah. But D.C.’s JCRC chose to counter Waters’ hate speech with speech of its own. In a week’s time, it produced a video that emphasized the uniting nature of music and the flaw in Waters’ thinking.
“It’s too bad that Roger Waters doesn’t understand that peace can only be achieved through dialogue and engagement. BDS will not bring peace,” the video says. “BDS is not the answer. More dialogue, more respect, more music is.”
The reason Waters might not understand that message was made clear in his Facebook interview. Asked what he would say to people who ask why his focus is solely on Israel, when there are countries with far worse human rights records, he said: “I’m not sure there are any much harsher regimes around the world, actually, if you look at it.” Waters may make good music, but his international political perceptions appear to be wholly off key.
According to Ron Halber, executive director of D.C.’s JCRC, the goal of the video is to “condemn the anti-Semitic imagery of Waters, and to show the Jewish community and beyond about BDS’s nefarious intent of delegitimization of Israel.”
But even if that message does nothing to soften Waters’ heart or to persuade him to look a little more carefully at his BDS campaign, the video succeeded in other ways: It spread its message with tens of thousands of views over multiple platforms on social media, and prompted media coverage and meaningful discussion on how to respond to the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic messages of BDS supporters like Waters.
We call that a very good return on investment. pjc