The Electronic Intifada / April 12, 2023
Rock icon Roger Waters, along with his fans and supporters of Palestinian rights, is pushing back against the decision by a German city to cancel his 28 May performance.
In late February, the Frankfurt city council and the Hessian state government axed the planned concert, falsely accusing Waters of anti-Jewish bigotry over his criticism of Israeli apartheid and support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights.
It is the latest in a series of attacks on Palestinian rights supporters by Germany, where unconditional support for Israel – even as it commits atrocities against Palestinians – is viewed by government leaders as atonement for the Nazi Holocaust.
Waters has filed an injunction against the Frankfurt city council, which will respond on Friday.
Journalist Katie Halper launched a petition after Frankfurt’s decision to nix the gig, demanding that the cancellation be reversed.
Dozens of high-profile figures, including musicians, scholars, artists and journalists, signed the initial call, including Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Noam Chomsky, Susan Sarandon, Tom Morello, Daniel Ellsberg, John Pilger and Cornel West. This reporter also signed the petition.
The petition has gathered more than 32,000 signatures so far.
“The anti-Semitism 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 Jewish people or the Jewish religion, or anything,” Waters explained to Halper on her show Tuesday.
“And 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 somebody to do something where I could get into at least being able to have a say about it,” he said.
In canceling the concert, city lawmakers had cited Waters’ “persistent anti-Israel behavior” and complained that he pressured artists to cancel events in Israel.
The city council added that the musician “repeatedly called for a cultural boycott of Israel” and drew comparisons of Israel to apartheid South Africa.
“Neither of these claims is unique to Waters or outside the boundaries of mainstream public opinion,” the petition states.
“Human Rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Israel’s B’Tselem, United Nations agencies, and South African officials have defined Israel as an apartheid state, and therefore, many of these organizations and individuals have made the comparison between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa,” it adds.
German officials, along with concert organizers and music platforms “must not succumb to the pressure of those individuals and groups who would rather see Waters’ music removed than engage with the issues his music highlights,” the petition states.
Artists and human rights supporters are warning the German city that conflation of criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish bigotry is dangerous and undermines the real fight against anti-Semitism.
“The cancellation of Waters’ concert is a threat to free speech and artistic freedom. It is designed to silence legitimate criticism of Israel’s government emanating from the world human rights community and within Israel itself,” Halper and author Vijay Prashad wrote last month in Counterpunch.
“In its attack on Waters, the Frankfurt City Council mimicked the current thinking followed by the extremist Israeli government in its weaponization of anti-Semitism to try to undermine critics of its official narrative,” they said.
Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014)