Biden aide’s smear of Roger Waters’s ‘Wall’ performance is slammed at State briefing

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  June 7, 2023

Roger Waters’s advocacy for Palestine shook the State Department briefing room, as a reporter questioned why a Biden aide has said that Waters’s performance of “The Wall” is an example of Jew hatred.

The State Department’s press briefing on Monday showed the new mood in Washington: reporters repeatedly raised Israel policy as problematic.

Roger Waters’s advocacy for Palestine shook the briefing room, as a reporter questioned why a Biden aide, Deborah Lipstadt, has echoed the smear that Waters’s performance of “The Wall” is an example of Jew hatred, and failed to see that it is actually a denunciation of fascism akin to Charlie Chaplin’s parody of Hitler as “the great dictator.”

The reporter Sam Husseini accused the Biden administration of deploying the antisemitism charge as “a way of denouncing people who stand up for Palestinian rights.”

Lipstadt, the State Department’s envoy to “monitor and combat antisemitism,” issued her comment on Waters’s performances on May 24:

“I wholeheartedly concur with [the EU Commission on antisemitism’s] condemnation of Roger Waters and his despicable Holocaust distortion.”

Lipstadt retweeted the European commission’s comment:

“Roger Waters gig in Berlin. Is there anything more antisemitic than using Anne Frank as a prop on a German stage while prancing around in a Nazi uniform attacking Jews?”

Husseini, a reporter at the Institute for Public Accuracy, criticized Lipstadt’s comments at the State Department briefing Monday.

This is an incredible distortion of what happened. I don’t know if you’re familiar with The Wall, which is possibly the most classic rock opera in rock and roll history. So– unrelenting denunciation of fascism and racism, one of the songs in it features him as mocking a demagogue like Charlie Chaplin did, and talking to the crowd and saying, “Are there any queers, are there any Jews, are there any blacks in the audience tonight? Get them up against the wall.” And then he gets a machine gun and mows them down.

It’s an obvious attack on fascism, and yet your ambassador is denouncing it and pretending that Roger Waters, presumably because he defends Palestinian rights as well as other people’s rights, is an example of anti-Semitism. Are you going to distance yourself from this, or are you going to back down on this?

Vedant Patel of the State Department said he wasn’t familiar with “The Wall” and hadn’t seen Lipstadt’s tweet, so he wouldn’t weigh in.

Husseini said that the comment is very much State Department business.

This is her portfolio… She is beyond parody distorting anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel. He [Waters] used Anne Frank’s name as a list of people, of martyrs, who he reveres. It’s an incredible distortion. I think it’s imperative if the State Department isn’t going to wholeheartedly dispense with any pretense about anti-Semitism being an actual problem and only use it as a way of denouncing people who stand up for Palestinian rights, you’ve got to do something.

Patel said that was “absolutely not our approach” to antisemitism. And Husseini said, “Well, prove it.”

Matt Lee of the Associated Press also said State needed to answer for Lipstadt’s comment.

It is a situation where we’re talking about a British musician giving a concert in Germany, it doesn’t really have anything to do with the U.S., but the fact of the matter is, is that she did weigh in on it. So it’s a legitimate question.

Waters (a friend of our site) explained on May 26 that the depiction of an “unhinged fascist demagogue” has been an anti-fascist feature of The Wall since 1980.

The elements of my performance that have been questioned are quite clearly a statement in opposition to fascism, injustice, and bigotry in all its forms. Attempts to portray those elements as something else are disingenuous and politically motivated. The depiction of an unhinged fascist demagogue has been a feature of my shows since Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” in 1980.

I have spent my entire life speaking out against authoritarianism and oppression wherever I see it. When I was a child after the war, the name of Anne Frank was often spoken in our house, she became a permanent reminder of what happens when fascism is left unchecked. My parents fought the Nazis in World War II, with my father paying the ultimate price.

Matt Lee and Said Arikat also took the State Department to task.

Lee asked if the State Department had any concerns about Netanyahu’s appointment of a new media adviser, who has “apparently advanced election denial theories in the U.S.” Patel said No, “Personnel decisions for the prime minister’s office are for them to undertake.”

Lee was referring to a report about adviser Gilad Zwick, a journalist with a conservative Israeli TV station, who has called Biden “unfit” to rule and said that he was “slowly but surely destroying America.”

He also posted tweets suggesting he supported President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 U.S. election was rigged.

Said Arikat of Al-Quds said that Monday marked the 56th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank. And he noted that a new report had been issued by Defense for Children International documenting mistreatment of Palestinian children. (“Arbitrary by Default” alleges systematic denial of fair trial rights to Palestinian children in Israeli courts.)

Arikat asked when the U.S. will enforce human rights concerns:

So my question to you is twofold. One, of course, we heard the Secretary speak today at AIPAC, and he talked about the two-state solution. He talked about opportunities of prosperity and safety and so on, security for Palestinians and Israeli alike and so on. And my question to you, when will this come to pass? I mean, do we have to wait another 56 years for the generations after 56 years to enjoy some of the stuff that the Secretary spoke about and for children – Palestinian children not to be tortured and maltreated?

Patel responded with the boilerplate: Palestinians and Israelis deserve equal measures of dignity and security, and we are committed to our support for Israel.

Arikat persisted by saying, “Really — you don’t have that much leverage with Israel?”

“That’s not what I said, Said,” Patel responded. “Our commitment to Israel and Israel’s security is ironclad. But we want to see a two-state solution.”

There was further pressure on the Biden administration this week from Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen over Israel’s killing of the Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11, 2022.

Last week Van Hollen said he was “at the end of my rope,” asking to see an official U.S. report on the killing. On Monday, Van Hollen said he’d now seen the report (by the State Department’s Security Coordinator), and he wants the government to declassify it because it contains important details.

Van Hollen also said that the Israelis have not provided full information to the State Department about the killing and have “rebuffed” Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s demand that Israel review its military engagement rules in the West Bank.

NPR reported on Van Hollen’s demands and said that State Department had no comment.

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-2006