Roger Waters seeks injunction to overturn censorship by Frankfurt

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  April 12, 2023

“The antisemitism that these people who canceled my show are talking about is my continual, incessant criticism of the government of the state of Israel.” — Roger Waters.

Roger Waters plays Oslo tonight, and his “This Is Not a Drill” tour has five dates next month in Germany, where the show is stirring controversy because it features pro-Palestinian statements. The city of Frankfurt shut down his May 28 date there, alleging antisemitism in the artist’s support for Palestinian rights.

So the rocker went to court in the Hesse state. “We demanded an injunction from a court three days ago, and they have until this Friday to respond to it,” Waters said last night on a webcast with journalist Katie Halper.

Waters said he welcomes the battle over “antisemitism,” so as to bring more attention to Palestinian rights.

“I am bloody well biting back,” Waters told Halper. “They claim I’m an antisemite, which I’m obviously not… The antisemitism that these people who canceled my show are talking about is my continual, incessant criticism of the government of the state of Israel. It has nothing to do with the Jewish people or the Jewish religion. That’s what it is, and that’s why I’m so happy to be in the ring with these assholes… I’ve been desperate for someone to do something where I could get into at least being able to have a say about it, so the kind frankfurters of Frankfurt have done that and I’m actually really pleased.”

Waters calls the cancellation “unconstitutional” and said that he is fighting for human rights, including the right to speak. Politicians have no right “to intimidate and bully artists and their fans with performance bans,” he says.

Halper has organized a petition calling on the German government to uncancel the concert and says that more than 30,000 have signed the petition, including Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Susan Sarandon, Alia Shawkat, and Glenn Greenwald. Also Eric Clapton and Nick Mason and Tom Morella of Rage Against the Machine. (Waters is a friend of our site, and a few of us have signed on too.)

The Toronto Sun reports that Waters was shut down for “anti-Israel behaviour,” notably his support for BDS:

Frankfurt City Council … said in a statement: “The background to the cancellation is the persistent anti-Israel behaviour of the former Pink Floyd frontman, who is considered one of the most widely spread antisemites in the world.

“He repeatedly called for a cultural boycott of Israel and drew comparisons to the apartheid regime in South Africa, and put pressure on artists to cancel events in Israel.”

Waters’s support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) targeting Israel is the issue. “Germany has passed some of the most comprehensive anti-BDS legislation in the West. In 2019, the country’s parliament designated the BDS movement as anti-Semitic,” The National writes.

Waters called out the Israel lobby”

“The conflation of anti-Semitism with criticism of Israeli government policy is and has always been crazy, but it is the only weapon that the Israeli lobby has. And that’s why they use it indiscriminately, because they have no platform to stand on.”

Waters also told The National that “apartheid” has entered the discourse, and that shows we’re winning:

“The fact is we are winning the argument. You couldn’t use the word ‘apartheid’ back in 2005 to talk about Israel [vis-a-vis] Palestine, and now you can’t talk about Israel without using the word ‘apartheid’. That’s huge.”

Waters has been selling tickets to the May 28 concert.

Waters discussed his stance with Der Spiegel last month, in a dialogue with an Israeli, Meron Mendel, and repeatedly stated that he refuses to cross the BDS picket line to play in Israel. Because he witnessed apartheid himself:

Waters: “Let’s go back to the beginning. I played in Israel and there was not a single Palestinian there. I played in a field of chickpeas near Neve Shalom …in 2006. That was when I first saw with my own eyes what was going on…. I was there.

Mendel: Why were there no Palestinians there?

Waters: Because they are not allowed free movement even if they want to see a pop concert.

Mendel: Palestinians from the occupied territories I can understand. But weren’t there Palestinians from Israel there?

Waters: Maybe. How many will there have been? I don’t know. I didn’t go around asking everyone…. But I remember saying to that young audience there, “You are the generation of young Israelis who must make peace with your brothers and sisters, the Palestinians.” Before I said that, 60,000 fans were screaming at the top of their lungs: “Pink Floyd! Dark Side of the Moon! Roger!”. After my plea for peace, there was absolute silence….

Since then things have got worse and worse. And why? Because too many people in Israel are racist and don’t want peace with their neighbours. You, Mr Mendel, seem to be an exception to the rule. May I ask you a question?

Mendel: Of course.

Waters: How can it be that a monster like the radical settler Bezalel Smotrich is finance minister today? Well? Somebody must have elected him!

Mendel then called on Waters to go to Israel to speak to those Israelis, but Waters declined:

My refusal to break out of the BDS picket line is disrupting the racist status quo in Israel. That’s what helps. You know the word that we were never allowed to use, but are now allowed to use because it is used all the time, and that is: apartheid. Pointing out that there is apartheid in Israel is as helpful as when it was in South Africa-. It definitely helped to end apartheid there.

Mendel: Can you understand my discomfort if you were playing in Moscow, in Tehran or Damascus – but not in Israel?

Waters: I just explained it to you. The people of Russia or Iran or Syria have not organised a BDS movement and asked me not to break the picket line. They are not listening! Why am I not playing there? Because there is a picket line organised by BDS. I was asked by the Palestinian people, by every man, woman, child, “Please, please, Roger Waters, creator of this beautiful music, don’t play in Israel!”. If you do, you will help normalise apartheid! So please don’t do it!”

Here is some eloquence.

Mendel: Suppose I were to introduce 500 Palestinians to them? And these Palestinians would ask you to play in Israel?


Waters: I have already been asked by the whole of Palestinian civil society to respect the boycott. So your 500 Palestinians have already spoken.

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