In fall 2010, the ex-Pink Floyd star first went on the defensive over symbolism in his “The Wall” tour after the Anti Defamation League objected to an animated video sequence that showed a bomber dropping stars of David on a ravaged landscape, quickly followed by dollar signs.
Now, Waters has posted a public response to “wild and bigoted” accusations against another set piece in the concert: “To peacefully protest against Israel’s racist domestic and foreign policies is NOT ANTI-SEMITIC,” he wrote on Facebook.
The trouble started this time when an Israeli attending a July 18 performance of “The Wall” in Belgium took offense to the giant inflatable pig balloon released during the anti-fascist dream sequence “Run Like Hell.” Symbols displayed on the pig include a Nazi giving the Hitler salute and the star of David. The one-time fan took his complaints to an Israeli newspaper.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper called a video clip from the show (below) “beyond shocking.” He wrote in an opinion piece that Rogers “floated his anti-Semitism and desecration of the national symbol of the Jewish people for the entire world to see.” Cooper added that “the 69-year-old founder of the band Pink Floyd has never hidden his loathing for the Jewish state.”
Waters’ open letter to Cooper said it was “extremely insulting to me personally in that you accuse me of being ‘anti-Semitic,’ ‘a Jew hater’ and a ‘Nazi sympathizer.”
Waters’ father died fighting Nazis in Anzio, Italy. Two of his grandsons are Jewish via his son’s marriage. But Waters has been a vocal and hostile opponent of Israeli policies toward Palestinians. He has supported boycotts of the nation (via the the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions group) and accused it of “ethnic cleansing.”
Tepid support for the psychedelic music star’s position came, strangely enough, from the Anti Defamation League, which had attacked the bomber-symbol sequence in 2010. A spokesman said the watchdog organization was well aware of the pig stunt and found “no anti-Semitic intent.”
Waters frequently criticized Israel’s barrier around the West Bank during a 2009 tour of Israel. Several years ago, he and fellow Pink Floyd leader David Gilmour reunited for an informal show benefiting the Hoping Foundation, which supports Palestinian children and youth in refugee camps.
Waters’ Facebook letter to the Wiesenthal Center’s Cooper defended his show’s overarching themes:
“The Wall Show,” so lamely attacked by you, is many things. It is thoughtful, life-affirming, ecumenical, humane, loving, anti-war, anti-colonial, pro-universal access to the law, pro-liberty, pro-collaboration, pro-dialogue, pro-peace, anti-authoritarian, antifascist, anti- apartheid, anti-dogma, international in spirit, musical and satirical.
Waters again raised the church-and-state issue: “In a functioning theocracy it is almost inevitable that the symbol of the religion becomes confused with the symbol of the state,” he wrote. “Like it or not, the star of David represents Israel and its policies and is legitimately subject to any and all forms of nonviolent protest.”
As for the balloon, Waters wrote that “the pig in question represents evil, and more specifically the evil of errant government.” It is traditionally destroyed by the audience, he noted. Through almost 200 “The Wall” performances, no one else had complained, the singer-bassist wrote.
In mid-July, El Al Israel Airlines canceled a promotional package tied to an upcoming Waters concert after learning of his activities critical of Israeli policies.
Waters’ European tour continues through August and September.