As someone who grew up on the music of Pink Floyd, I was appalled to see Roger Waters’ recent statements about Israel. I couldn’t understand - how can someone who has contributed so much to progressive culture be so blind? But then it occurred to me - Waters thinks he’s out to solve a problem, but all he’s really done is choose a side.
It seems that Waters has bought a narrative that makes him completely misunderstand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A narrative that overlooks a huge part of the problem, and therefore brought him to a conclusion that is not only superficial, but completely wrong.
Waters said he's “reconsidering his position,” which is good, because his current position would never bring the outcome of peace or any sort of agreement, since there are so many facts he’s obviously unaware of.
To start, Waters thinks he’s got the right answer, “assuming you’re not some right wing fanatic who thinks Israel should extend from Turkey to Mali.” Where does that outrageous false comment even come from? I have never met the alleged right-wing fanatic he is speaking of, perhaps because this right-wing fanatic doesn't exist – no one in Israel, even the most extreme right-wingers, has ever wanted to extend the Israeli territory to any neighboring countries, and the only dispute is on the small pieces of land called Judea, Samaria and Gaza. It may be just an incidental comment, but it shows something very alarming as to Waters’ basic knowledge.
Israel is not into imperialism, as suggested by him. The only reason it took over the occupied territories (which were never Palestinian in the past, but ruled under the Turks and then the British), is because the Arabs living there at the time refused to accept the two-state partition plan of 1948 - they wanted everything for themselves. That is why they attacked, backed by the armies of neighboring Arab countries, and that’s how the conflict began. Ever since then, the long standing policy of the Palestinian leadership is to refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Does Waters really think this is not an obstacle for peace which should be at least mentioned? Apparently not.
It's wonderful that people decide to become activists and fight for something, especially for such noble causes as peace and human rights. But will peace and human rights really be achieved by Waters’ plan?
'Read some history books'
Does Waters know, for instance, that Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a terrorist organization that openly declares its goal is to annihilate the state of Israel? Does he realize that Israel has unilaterally pulled out of Gaza six years ago, and that the naval blockade still exists only in order to prevent Hamas from using all the Palestinian funds in order to ship in arms so it can go on with its declared plan? Does he realize that Hamas seizes every opportunity to fire rockets at Israeli cities which are not even on disputed territories? Does he realize that Hamas rules Gaza by the primitive Sharia law, which means no rights for women, constant terror, no free speech, and torture and executions with no trial for those who dare to resist? As someone who cares so deeply about human rights, maybe he should take a moment to think how this particular problem is to be solved.
The settlements are an obstacle to peace, but they are far from being the only one. It would be nice if Waters tried to understand, for instance, why the relatively moderate Palestinian leadership (Mahmoud Abbas) still refuses to negotiate with Israel, and has also refused to do so when Israel froze all settlement building for 10 months as a gesture meant to bring him to the negotiation table. He may want to understand why refugee descendants in neighboring Arab countries, such as Syria and Lebanon, are still not equal citizens and have been humiliated and discriminated for decades. He might want to ask why the current regime in Egypt, which is pro-Hamas, has not opened the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza, and may realize that Hamas is an organization no one wants to deal with, making it the biggest obstacle to any sort of peace. If only things were truly so simple and the world behaved as Waters seems to believe it does, peace would have been achieved long ago.
Waters asks why the United States has vetoed UN resolutions on the subject, and the answer may very well be that unlike him, the United States government is aware of the real problems haunting the region. For one, the UN’s way of dealing with human rights is cold and inhuman - how else would you define the UN's decision to make Gaddafi a human rights hero? Or the UN’s stand on Syria, where thousands have been massacred, and over a million refugees have fled from, fearing rape in the streets as a legitimate weapon?
Waters called Israel an "apartheid" state and said it is "racist" and insane." Perhaps he doesn't even know that while Hamas defines Israel as its evil enemy and teaches children to become suicide bombers, there are over a million Arabs who are equal Israeli citizens with elected representatives who serve as members of parliament. Maybe the situation seems insane to Rogers simply because there are so many things he doesn’t even know.
If Waters really cares about the outcome as he says he does, a step in the right direction might be to delve into the details in order to understand the true complexity of this unresolved conflict. Putting all the blame on the Israeli settlements as a barrier for peace might be easier, but if there will be no pressure on the Palestinian leadership to make some changes as well, no solution will solve anything at all.
If you really care, Mr. Waters, care enough to study the facts. Read some history books, talk to Israeli officials, make sure you have the whole story straight. Choosing a side is easy, and may work well when you’re writing a song. But in order to solve something you cannot be narrow minded, and must see all sides. Or as H. L. Mencken once said, "For every complex problem there is always an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."