UK – MPS condemn Roger Waters as his London concerts see further comparisons between Israelis to Nazis and unhinged rants

Roger Waters
Roger Waters

As Roger Waters made further comparisons between Israelis to Nazis and embarked on unhinged rants during his London concerts this past Tuesday and Wednesday, Members of Parliament have expressed condemnation. 

The MPs’ criticism came as Campaign Against Antisemitism and other communal groups have placed pressure on the venues hosting Mr Waters.

On Tuesday at London’s O2 Arena, the musician railed against Labour Party MP Christian Wakeford, who last month posted a letter to Twitter in which he said that Mr Waters’ upcoming Manchester performance should be called off.

Mr Waters, stopping during his performance to embark on a rant to the thousands of paying concert-goers, said that Mr Wakeford was “working for his “masters in the Foreign Office in Tel Aviv”, before calling him a “cripple”. 

Campaign Against Antisemitism has written to Manchester’s AO Arena over their hosting of Mr Waters next week.

Mr Waters went on to defend the antisemitic former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbynshouting: “I’ve watched other people be cancelled. I watched Jeremy Corbyn be cancelled by the Israeli lobby. That was what happened in 2019 and if it hadn’t happened we might have had the first decent Labour prime minister for f***ing 50 years, because he cared about the working classes.” 

This echoed sentiments expressed by Mr Waters’ during a recent concert at Birmingham’s Utilita Arena, when he claimed that “They’re trying to cancel me like they cancelled Jeremy Corbyn and Julian Assange” and that the furore was “all coming from Tel Aviv, promise you”.

On Wednesday, members of Campaign Against Antisemitism captured evidence of the former Pink Floyd star comparing Anne Frank, one of the most famous child victims of the Holocaust, to Rachel Corrie, a person killed accidentally by the Israeli Defence Forces.

Under the International Definition of Antisemitism, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is antisemitic.

This is not the first instance of Mr Waters breaching the definition in this way. He recently drew criticism for brandishing the name of Frank next to Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist who was killed in crossfire between terrorists and Israeli security forces last year in the Palestinian Authority.

Towards the end of Wednesday’s performance, Mr Waters’ plunged into another unhinged rant, for which he seems to have become known, this time declaring that he loves all of his “brothers and sisters…irrespective of their ethnicity, or religion or nationality…well with one possible exception.” He then responded to former Pink Floyd lyricist Polly Samson’s charge that he is “antisemitic to [his] rotten core” in a tweet from February, telling his laughing fans: “All I have to say about Polly Samson is: imagine waking up to that every morning.” 

Outside of the O2 Arena, Campaign Against Antisemitism interviewed fans of Mr Waters to find out what they thought about his comments, resulting in accusations of antisemitism being “weaponised” and admiration expressed for Mr Corbyn. The interview can be watched here.

Amidst the news surrounding Mr Waters’ incendiary comments, he appears to have gained the support of known antisemites.

David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard, took to the social media platform Gab where he appeared to defend Mr Waters. In a similar fashion, the antisemitic hate preacher and conspiracy theorist David Icke used his own platform to display empathy for Roger Waters.

However, MPs have expressed their condemnation of Mr Waters. Labour Party leader Sir Keir Stamer said that while “many people will think of Roger Waters as famous for being a member of one of the most important bands in history,” he is now “more synonymous with spreading deeply troubling antisemitism”.

Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said in regard to Mr Waters’ recent remarks that “antisemitic rhetoric like this is completely shameful and totally inappropriate.”

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, said that Mr Waters fell short of the “societal expectation placed on people with a significant public profile to behave responsibly and not abuse their platform.”

Barbara Keeley, the Labour Party MP for Worsley and Eccles South, also sharply criticised Mr Waters, stating that his “actions and comments are completely unacceptable and are antisemitic”. 

Recently a spokesperson for the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said that Mr Khan “fully understands the significant concerns from within the Jewish community and condemns the use of antisemitism imagery”.

Additionally, the US State Department  said that Mr Waters’ performance “contained imagery that is deeply offensive to Jewish people and minimised the Holocaust,” adding that “The artist in question has a long track record of using antisemitic tropes to denigrate Jewish people.”

Disgracefully, however, Francesca Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories, praised the musician on social media, tweeting that the criticism of Mr Waters, who she described as “an immense artist and true icon of our time, a champion of human rights and justice” is “absolutely shocking.”

Anti-Israel demonstrators congregating outside of Mr Waters’ Manchester concert were seen chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The chant of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” only makes sense as a call for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state, and its replacement with a State of Palestine, and is thus an attempt to deny Jews, uniquely, the right to self-determination, which is a breach of the International Definition of Antisemitism.

Campaign Against Antisemitism recently launched a petition calling on venues to stop hosting Mr Waters owing to his long history of baiting Jews, which he has now taken to the next level. You can sign the petition here.

In 2022, in an October episode of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Mr Waters denied being an antisemite, before going on to address a past concert in which he unveiled a balloon pig with a Star of David, alongside other various symbols, emblazoned on its side. He said: “Well, it’s a symbol of an oppressive state. I am lumping you in but it’s not just you.”

He continued: “But that is just me criticising the policies of your government and I’m afraid the Star of David does represent the nation that is committing the crime of apartheid every day, and murdering Palestinians every day. Men women and children, every single day. So yeah, I did [put the Star of David on the side of a pig], and I’m unapologetic about it.”

Mr Waters openly criticised the International Definition of Antisemitism, complaining that “It’s not just me…they smear anyone, anyone, who dares to suggest there’s something bad about their policies. So that’s why the [Definition] is so bad, and so dangerous.”

Taking issue with one of the examples in the Definition, the musician went on to say that the Definition “can’t mean” that the State of Israel should not be criticised for behaving “like people in the past…towards Jews in Northern Europe.” 

In 2021, Mr Waters claimed that antisemitism is a “smear sword wielded at the behest of the Israeli Government”, stating: “The antisemitism smear sword that was wielded at the behest of the Israeli government, [was] specifically aimed at Jeremy Corbyn because he was left wing and he might turn into a political leader on the left in the United Kingdom who would actually stand up for human rights in general but specifically the rights of working people to represent themselves and have unions.”

In 2020, the musician said that Zionism needs to be “removed” and also said that American leaders are puppets of the Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Mr Waters has also claimed that Israel teaches America how to “murder the blacks”. He later apologised for this latter remark.

In 2013, he reportedly claimed that there is a “Jewish lobby” in the music industry.

A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “It says something about Roger Waters that he incessantly needs to insist that he is not an antisemite. He has a penchant for breaching the International Definition of Antisemitism, has claimed that antisemitism is used as a ‘smear’, and has a long history of baiting Jews. That record has now even attracted the positive attention of the former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke and antisemitic hate preacher David Icke. That might have given any other celebrity some pause.

“That Mr Waters’ latest show includes a visual equation of Israelis to Nazis, which extends his record of making such comparisons, is all the more reason for venues to steer clear of him. Artistic freedom does not justify hate.”

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