Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters Helps Tear Down the Last Taboo

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters Helps Tear Down the Last Taboo

Article excerpt

IT'S A FACT THAT AMERICANS and the rest of the world are partial to our celebrities. So when a cultural icon speaks out or tweets a political opinion, it makes an impact that most politicians can only dream of (unless that politician happens to be a former celebrity). Over the years some larger-than-life heroes have spoken out in support of the Palestinian struggle for an independent state, but it used to cost them-until now. Movie stars and filmmakers used to get away with racist, anti-Arab or Islamophobic views, but now more often than not that prejudice costs at the box office.

Criticizing Israel is no longer the last taboo in the entertainment business. Athletes, actors, artists, authors, musicians and others-many of them Jewish-have played a vital role in showing Americans that criticism of Israeli actions isn't anti-Semitic.

Roger Waters, the famous British singer and songwriter who co-founded the legendary rock band Pink Floyd in 1965, is one celebrity leading the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). In an open letter he wrote in July 2013, Waters asked his fellow musicians to join him in refusing to perform in Israel. When he was subsequently attacked by the pro-Israel lobby, he responded, "To peacefully protest against Israel's racist domestic and foreign policies is NOT ANTI-SEMITIC. For U.S. and most of EU governments, any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism and is not accepted. It's the same in Hollywood: criticizing Israel is forbidden!"

In the past few years, Waters has helped change that unwritten rule. Pink Floyd achieved international success, becoming one of the most successful groups in the history of popular music by the 1980s. Waters leftthe group in 1985. In 1990, he staged one of the largest and most extravagant rock concerts in history, "The Wall-Live in Berlin," with an official attendance of 200,000. In 2010, he began "The Wall Live" tour. As of 2017, that tour is the highest grossing of all time by a solo artist.

This past June Waters released his first solo album in nearly 25 years, "Is This the Life We Really Want?" It's full of songs protesting war, world leaders and the plight of refugees. Waters sings of homes "bulldozed to the ground," of "Broken Bones" and "The Last Refugee."

This year's "Us+Them" tour-54 shows across North America-is not without controversy for its provocative Trump-slamming imagery. For years his shows featured an inflatable floating pig emblazoned with a Jewish star, a Crucifix, the Crescent and Star, the Hammer and Sickle, the Shell Oil logo and the McDonald's sign, a Dollar sign and a Mercedes sign...

The Greater Miami Jewish Federation ran an ad in the Miami Herald protesting Waters' July 23 concert there. As a result the Miami Beach Parks Department canceled plans for 12 teen club students to join him on stage.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington produced a social media video campaign criticizing Waters' support for BDS before his concerts Aug. 4 and 5 at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC.

Despite the controversies, Waters' show's message is that love conquers all. During the hit song, "Another Brick in the Wall," local children rip offprison jumpsuits and dance in liberation.

Waters' creative director and show designer Sean Evans told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "If he was going to go and bring a show around the world at his age [73], he wanted it to be full of meaning and full of commentary."? Waters told CNN: "In life you have to make your choice as to whether you do the right thing or the thing that makes you the most money. …

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