Roger Waters: I don’t hate Israel. My grandchildren are Jewish.

Roger Waters: I don’t hate Israel. My grandchildren are Jewish.


norman lebrecht

August 02, 2015

The ex-Pink Floyd member has given an extended interview to the Israeli colunist Gideon Levy, explaining his activism in the BDS movement, an involvement that had led to accusations of anti-semitism against him.

It is a bit of a one-way conversation. Waters takes a fixed position, drawing much of his information from disaffected Israelis, among them the daughter of a former major-general. You need to read the full, often fascinating interview here. The nub of his case is this:


And here we get to the core of the issue, because in Israel many people ask: Why Israel, when there are so many other countries that do the same?

‘Well, if you’re determined to stand on the side of truth, justice, liberty, human rights, individual freedoms, political equality, and freedom to worship whatever you want, all of that – from time to time, situations crop up that demand your attention more than other situations, because they’re blatant and they’ve been going on for a very long time. People also complain about anybody making comparisons between apartheid South Africa and Israel. But particularly in the occupied territories – but also in Israel, in my view – the comparisons are valid.

“In the 1970s and ’80s, there was no question – we all focused on South Africa because it was the obvious place to focus. It was a place where it looked like all of us who took part in the Anti-Apartheid Movement, as it was called then, might have an effect, and might cause changes in policy in that small part of the world. Israel is that bit of the world now. Whether Israelis or anyone else like it or not, it just is.’

What would you say to an Israeli who thinks outside intervention is anti-democratic, who says, “We should get to decide our future for ourselves”?

‘What would I tell such a person? I would say to them, ‘If you actually had a democracy within the State of Israel – if there was such a thing within the Green Line, within the ’67 borders, within the whatever – if you reinstate all those houses you’ve demolished in East Jerusalem, and let the people who were living there before you threw them out come back; and if it was a democracy, and if you weren’t occupying all this other land, and so on and so forth, and if you weren’t trying to reduce the numbers of the other indigenous people who are not Jewish people in the area – if all those things pertained, well, I would absolutely applaud you and your state.’

‘But that is not happening. And I suppose you could make the case for it being a Jewish state – I personally think it’s hugely dangerous to give any religion the power to control an entire country and all the people in it.’



  • Gonout Backson says:

    What about “some of his best friends”?

  • Hilary says:

    A good argument from Waters.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      “In the 1970s and ’80s, there was no question – we all focused on South Africa because it was the obvious place to focus.”

      This one phrase is enough for me to disqualify the rest, and the speaker.

  • CDH says:

    True, though, innit. and, oh, my, it actually made a difference.

    There is no excuse for the settlements.

  • PDQ.BACH says:

    Roger Waters has the good sense — and business acumen — of selecting a soft target for his indignation. Moreover, a target unlikely to issue a fatwa, freeze his assets, forbid the broadcasting of his music, or plasticing his villa. (Not that they couldn’t. But they won’t.)

    China? Nah. Russia? Nah. Not even Turkey’s wanton bombing of the Kurds is worthy of even the most fleeting expinkfloydian condemnation.
    Iran, Saudi Arabia, just about everybody else in the Middle East? Nah.

    (I suppose, then, his statement “I personally think it’s hugely dangerous to give any religion the power to control an entire country and all the people in it” applies only to Judaism, not to Islam, Christianity, or the excesses of Pastafarianism in establishing the cult of the Flying Spaghetti Monster as the state religion of Tagliatellistan.)

    • Gonout Backson says:

      I does indeed apply to Christianism – and to Judaism, period.

      Otherwise : I agree completely. Your diagnosis applies, of course, to the aforementioned 70s and 80s.

    • CDH says:

      What I took from that statement was a subtle comparison between aspects of the notion of a Jewish state and the notion of Islamic states. There has been plenty of criticism since 1979 of theocratic Islamic states (before that the Middle-east conflict was couched in terms of Israelis v. Arabs, not v. Muslims, and quite a few prominent Arab politicos were NOT Muslim). I inferred that HE is saying a theocratic Jewish state is no better.

      I know of no other major religion with a theocratic state, except Vatican City, which is basically a park with residences and businesses in it. I am not familiar with its immigration policies or citizenship requirements.

      • Dave T says:

        Israel is not a “theocratic state”. It is a secular democratic state, guided by Jewish principles and legal traditions, with, to be sure, a heavily Jewish influence and character. Its religious leaders, the chief rabbis, wield considerable influence, but they don’t rule. The legislature, elected by the people, along with the courts, rule. Big difference.

        OTOH, I can think of plenty of theocracies: Iran, for one, comes to mind. Yes, it has elections of non clerics, but ultimate power resides with the Supreme Leader and his council of ayatollahs.

    • Robert Skinner says:

      Joshua stop beating up the other kids and taking their lunch money.

      Why are you picing on me? There are bullies much worse than me.

      • Really? says:

        More like:

        Joshua, I know Achmed is constantly picking on you and called his whole degenerate family to come beat you up but you are more mature so please don’t hit him back.

    • Tommy says:

      I don’t understand the Turkey nonsense. Roger Waters shows solidarity with Turkey human rights heroes.

  • al B says:

    Lol, this asshole couldn’t get along with his band, David Gilmore, and his 4 wives…….good luck with your “activism”

  • MV says:

    The problem is that because Israel is a democracy, evil religious forces have risen to power and there’s nothing that can be done to democratically stop them. Attacking Israel because it’s democracy mutated into what we see today?…I am not sure that’s the best way to solve this problem. Israel needs help to realign it’s democratic values back from Judaism to pluralism. Boycotts and worldwide hatred only push the country more into the corner, creating the “Masada complex”.

  • Observer says:

    Israel is a white supremacist state just like South Africa once was. I applaud Roger Waters for his courage.

  • Ray Hanania says:

    BDS — boycotting Israel’s extremist policies — is a legitimate non-violent movement confronting Israeli extremism and fanaticism. It’s not anti-Semitic and the fact that extremist Israelis (who hate Christians and Muslims) claim it is proves it’s not. It’s legitimate and everyone should boycott the racist Israeli settlements and its terrorist settlers who murder Arab civilians with impunity and no accountability …

  • Robert Skinner says:

    Waters is right israel is not a demoracy. Sadly my country (USA ) has lost it’s democracy as well. The reason i say this is because of aipac the israeli’s lobby power over my government. Israel has managed to get the speaker of the house to speak against our president and his work to make a nuclear deal with iran. The deal is good for america the option of war with iran is worse than the aipac imposed war with iraq. Then my aipac infested government allowed the ceo of soada stream to give his opinion about the BDS movement. On top of all of that it is against our law to sell weapons to nations with a history of human rights abuse or for reasons other than self defense. Clearly israeli attacks on gaza were collective punishment.
    So BDS not only for palestine but to debase aipac power in our government. America should be for the people by the people, with liberty and justice for all.
    2016 jill stein is running for president. She is against selling israel weapons. The green party is against selling israel weapons.

    • Dave T says:

      “Israel has managed to get the speaker of the house to speak against our president”

      That line alone demonstrates what complete nonsense this drivel is. As if Boehner needed anyone– foreign, no less– to go against Obama. He’s opposed him on just about everything since Day 1. The rest of this screed is equally ignorant.

    • João Morais says:

      Sorry, but you are veeeeeeery wrong. Watch out if you’re anti – semit, search your heart and see :is there lots of hate? Please try to read and know more about Israel and their good deeds (i’m not saying it’s a perfect country, OK)

  • sanjay says:

    When Waters says it is dangerous to give any religion to control a country he forgets that almost every country in Israel’s neighbourhood follow Sharia law.

  • UK Comment says:

    So apart from building walls, it seems he can also dig holes. Some of my best relatives are Jewish – haha. Keep digging.

  • Toby says:

    Waters, you are so out of anything that is close to reality, this is a state for the Jewish people, those who have been murdered in the Holocaust, better say survived…
    If what you say is true, and Israel needs to give back the houses in east Jerusalem, what about all the houses and land the Jews had in Europe?
    Or maybe the Arabs need to give back the land of the biggest exodus of the jews in the early 50s?
    If Isreal is so bad, why there are 1.5 -2 million Arabs are citizens like the jews? not driven away in “the nacba? did you ask yourself? how come Gaza is not a Switzerland and after Israel left they have terror organizations in control?
    How many states are Muslim? Who agreed to divide the country in 47 and who didn’t want to and started a war? who fought with the Palestinians? 5 Arab states.
    Go do your study before you take a stupid stand that supports terror, If the Arabs would put their weapons down there will be peace in the area, If Israel will put it down there will be no more Israel