Days of Palestine

Sunday, February 5

Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters takes on Israel in Us + Them tour

Days of Palestine -

During his latest Us + Them tour in South America, the British rock star stands against Israel as part of a campaign launched by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement.

Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s founding member and rebellious lead singer, is touring Latin America once again, but this time not just to stage a musical performance. Waters is also speaking out against Israeli atrocities in Palestinian territories as part of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement’s global campaign. 

Waters’ tour has been themed as “Us + Them”, which aims to develop more awareness in the world concerning Israeli actions against Palestinians across the Holy Land. On Tuesday, the musician was in Chile after touring Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. 

During the tour, the 75-year old British rock star has strongly condemned the Israeli actions in Palestine, where Israel recently conducted deadly air strikes in the Gaza Strip, killing at least 14 Palestinians and wounding many others. In April, Waters tweeted in support of Palestinians who marched in Gaza protesting Israeli atrocities.

"We all know that life in the Palestinian territories is unbearable," Waters said during the Chile leg of his tour, describing Israeli actions as a result of a “supremacist and racist policy.” 

In the capital Santiago, he also compared the Israeli actions against Palestinians to South Africa’s former apartheid regime, which collapsed in the 1990s in the face of massive protests led by the late Nelson Mandela and members of his African National Congress. 

The South African protests were strongly supported by the anti-Apartheid movement around the world. Similarly, there is now a growing BDS movement against Israel, which has been receiving worldwide support. 

Known as a strong supporter of the BDS movement, Waters has often been targeted by Israel and other zionist organisations around the world, accusing him of being an anti-Semite. 

“I am not anti-Semitic,” Waters told Chileans during his speech in the Centro Cultural Matucana 100, as he shared some private details about his father, who was killed by Nazi allies when he was fighting as a British officer in Italy, in 1944. 

Father and son

During World War II, his father Eric Fletcher Waters was a Christian pacifist, refusing to serve in the British army. He became an ambulance driver and met his future wife who converted him to communism, a decision which later convinced him to fight Nazis. 

His father's legacy left an unforgettable mark on the co-producer of The Wall, a music album which was regarded as one of the best albums ever made by many music critics. 

“That was my father,” said Waters. “I have no choice but to fight against the Nazis that I have now in front of me,” the artist continued, comparing past Nazi policies with current Israeli actions. 

“And it does not make me anything different from my father," Waters added, as an excited audience gave him a standing ovation.

Waters’ son is married to a Jewish woman, and has two grandsons who, according to Judaism, are identified as Jewish. In Judaism, descent is traced through the female line. 

After delivering his speech on Tuesday night, Waters performed a concert for the Chileans. 

From The Wall to Supremacy

Soon after its release in 1979, Pink Floyd’s signature album The Wall became an instant hit, lifting the band to the highest echelons of the musical world. Eight months after the fall of the infamous Berlin Wall, Pink Floyd performed in Berlin, in July 1990, to commemorate the reunion of east and west Germany. 

Today, the eight-metre-high wall built by Israelis in the centre of the Holy Land, to separate Palestinians from Jewish people, could be another metaphor for the four-decades-old album, The Wall. Though Waters left the band in the mid-1980s, he joined his former co-performers for various concerts. 

Waters’ latest album Supremacy does not only protest the Israeli wall, claimed to be one of the signs of an apartheid regime, but also directly goes against US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In recent months, Trump has also been keeping himself busy, building another wall along the country’s southern border with Mexico to prevent migrants crossing to the US. 

In Supremacy, Waters performed part of a poem written by Mahmoud Darwish, a Palestinian poet. The poem is known as The Penultimate Speech of the 'Red Indian' to the White Man. 

"Le Trio Joubran (a musical group of oud-playing brothers) and I have collaborated to perform an excerpt from an epic poem by the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish," recounted Waters on his Facebook page in March. 

"On the surface it narrates the last speech of the Native American to The White Man, but it also speaks to Darwish's beloved Palestine, and its indigenous people, in fact to all victims of settler colonialism everywhere."

Waters not alone

Waters is indisputably the most visible artistic member of the BDS movement, but he is not alone. The British musician’s efforts has also led to other joining and cancelling performances in Tel Aviv and other Israeli locations. 

The list includes musicians such as Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams, Gorillaz, Natalie Imbruglia and Lorde, as well as celebrities including Meg Ryan, Elvis Costello, Brian Eno, and Ken Loach. 

The famed British Jewish scientist Stephen Hawking, who recently passed away, also joined the movement before his death. 

During Waters’ Chile appearance, several native performers also joined him, with Juanito Ayala and Mariana Loyola among them.