Roger Waters is a passionate anti-Israeli advocate. The former Pink Floyd frontman constantly criticizes the Israeli government, and is one of the main voices of the BDS movement, calling on artists to boycott Israel. Last Saturday, however, Waters crossed the thin line between criticism and anti-Semitism, insulting many of his fans and marking himself as a hater.
The story of Waters and Israel began in 2006, when he performed in the Israeli village of Neve Shalom in front of some 60,000 people. A day earlier, he visited the West Bank security barrier (aka separation fence) and has since become very involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, urging Israel to cease the occupation and make love, not war.
I don't agree with many of the things he says, and I most certainly don't believe that supporting the BDS campaign is the right path to peace, but in spite of it all, I know his opinion came from seeing and experiencing Israel, not from sitting at home and receiving second-hand information from the press.
Therefore, while I don't agree with the conclusions he drew during his visit to Israel, I always respected his opinion. It bothered me, it punched me in the gut every single time he opened his mouth, but it was respected. That is, until his concert last Saturday in Werchter, Belguim.
Try to remember your original cause
At some point during the concert, a big, black swine-shaped balloon appeared, with several symbols on it, including the symbols of well-known fascist regimes, logos of two corporations, and a Star of David, the famous Jewish symbol. At that point, Waters crossed the line from a passionate artist with criticism to a hateful person, sending to the world painful anti-Semitic messages that were supposed to be buried with Hitler.
Some members of the audience didn't even notice the Jews-pigs-greed triangle, but some, including Jewish and Israeli fans, were deeply insulted by the racist announcement floating over the stage. It is possible that some of them agreed with Waters' legitimate criticism of the Israeli government. It is a complicated reality we live in, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is very controversial, as some Israelis, who love Israel, agree with Waters' opinion. However, anti-Semitism is not controversial. In fact, it is very simple. It is not a criticism, but a message of hate, coming from hateful people.
Waters sees himself as a messenger whose purpose is to make the world a better place. He is trying to call for peace, for social justice and for equality. But instead, either subconsciously or on purpose, he now sends a message of pure hate that takes us back to a darker time decades ago.
I can't imagine what went inside the minds of his Jewish fans at that concert. I only know that when I saw the picture of that swine, a shiver passed through my bones, and that feeling became even worse when I saw people commenting on the concert, without even noticing the hateful message. Did they ignore it? Did they agree? Or worse, did it enter their subconscious and settle there?
Roger Waters, in case you are reading this - stop what you're doing, look back, and try to remember your original cause.
Noga Gur-Arieh, a journalist, currently writes the blog 'Israelife' at www.jewishjournal.com