Roger Waters, singer, pro-Palestinian activist and former member of the legendary rock band Pink Floyd, asked German authorities not to criminalize the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, after broadcasters refused to collaborate with him or promote his concerts in Germany over his support for the peaceful anti-Israel boycott.
Just before the encore section of the concert he gave in Berlin Friday night, Waters read a long speech criticizing Israel's policies towards Palestinians and their territories.
“Anti-Semitism is obscene,” said Waters before urging the commissioner for the fight against anti-Semitism Felix Klein to stop criminalizing the BDS movement. He then quoted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights's “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
Waters joined the movement in2011 but he had supported it for years before, when Palestinian advocates of the boycott convinced him to visit the separation wall to reconsider his planned 2006 concert in Tel Aviv.
“In 1980, a song I wrote, Another Brick in the Wall Part 2, was banned by the government of South Africa because it was being used by black South African children to advocate their right to equal education,” wrote Waters in an opinion piece published by The Guardian in 2011, in which he embraced the BDS movement.
“Twenty-five years later, in 2005, Palestinian children participating in a West Bank festival used the song to protest against Israel's wall around the West Bank. They sang: 'We don't need no occupation! We don't need no racist wall!',” he continued.
Now, Waters is one of the most high-profile members of the movement and his activism has proven to be controversial.
Waters' performances are often full of political significance, as he and his team prepare speeches and visuals related to the country they are visiting and its political situation, and his support for the BDS movement in Germany, where anti-Semitism accusations still play a strong role in public opinion, cost him the support of at least five public broadcasters and Klein's criticism.
In 2017, five state television and radio affiliates of the ARD, the German consortium of public broadcasters, refused to broadcast Waters' concerts scheduled in Berlin and Cologne this 2018 summer “in reaction to anti-Semitism accusations against him,” according to the Berlin and Brandenburg public radio (RBB).
During Berlin's concerts, the Berliner Zeitung reported that members of the BDS movement were handing flyers and that fans inside the venue were carrying Palestinian flags.
Klein is the first commissioner for anti-Semitism, a position created this year to combat the increasing violent threats towards the Jewish community in Germany.
While it is a necessary agency, given the rising xenophobia that's taking over Europe, but Klein's stance is following the narrative that sees any opposition to Israel's occupation policies as anti-Semitism, which has been rejected by Palestinian and Jewish activists who oppose Israeli policies and argue that to be against the Israeli government is not to be against the Jewish people as a whole.
“I consider BDS to be an anti-Semitic movement whose activities I strongly condemn,” said Klein speaking with the Judische Allgemeine newspaper, arguing that “with its calls for boycott against Israel, it acts using Nazi argumentation that is simply unbearable.”
As part of his “Us + Them” tour, based on Pink Floyd's repertoire, Waters has scheduled concerts in Berlin, Cologne, Mannheim and Munich.