Former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters has raised a lot of eyebrows – and a lot of ire – lately, with his comments about Israel and his urging of other artists to boycott the country. His stance has had some repercussions, too; last month, New York’s 92 Street Y, considered to some extent a center for the Jewish community, canceled an appearance by Waters.
After the cancellation, Waters told the Huffington Post that he was rethinking his approach to the issue. He later took to his Facebook page to clarify that his “position remains the same.” In that post, he said, “Please join me in a Cultural Boycott of Israel until such time as the Israeli Government ceases its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and reverses its Illegal program of settlement building, both of which, it is widely agreed, constitute insurmountable impediments to any peaceful solution for either The Palestinian or The Israeli People. Peace for them both is our goal. Not to talk is not an option.”
In the wake of Waters’ comments, music industry heavyweight Steve Schnur of Electronic Arts (and formerly of Warner Music Group, MTV, EMI, BMG) — an Advisory Board member and co-founder of Creative Community For Peace — wrote an open letter in response, saying that his comments are “Inflammatory” and “based on falsehoods.” (Creative Community For Peace’s mission statement says, in part, “We may not all share the same politics or the same opinion on the best path to peace in the Middle East. But we do agree that singling out Israel, the only democracy in the region, as a target of cultural boycotts while ignoring the now-recognized human rights issues of her neighbors will not further peace.”)
Radio.com reached out to Mr. Schnur, who said of Waters’ Facebook post, “His quote, ‘Not to talk is not an option,’ I find that kind of ironic. We’ve reached out to him and hope he’ll accept our invitation to speak to us,” saying that they have not yet heard back from the singer/songwriter. Schnur notes, “There are also artists who support Israel: Lady Gaga, Will.I.Am, Paul McCartney, these are people who have been to Israel, performed there, and had great experiences.”
One of Schnur’s issues with Waters’ statement is that encouraging a boycott actually discourages discourse. “He’s got fans in Israel, I’m sure he’s got fans in the Arab world, why not use his music to bring people together instead of to separate them?” he said.
“The reason that the Creative Community For Peace exists,” Schnur said, “Is because I was in Israel the week after the (2010) Flotilla incident,” (read the United Nation’s official report on that incident here). “And the Pixies cancelled (their show in Israel) and Elvis Costello cancelled. I flew in to Israel after that, I went to see Elton John at Ramat Gan Stadium, and he came out on stage and said, ‘Musicians shouldn’t cherry-pick their conscience.'”
He says that Waters is among a number of anti-Israel voices, (including the BDS Movement), who have been spreading untrue information about the country. “When you engage an artists’ fans through social media with lies, that’s scare tactics. We’ve said from day one that we want musicians to understand that Israel is a democracy, it is a place with liberal ideologies. Let’s look at women’s rights, let’s look at gay rights. Which are very important: 99.9 percent of the artists I’ve worked with in 25+ years in the music industry, would be proud of the stance that Israel has in so many of the ideologies that it stands behind. Many of which, by the way, are more liberal than in the U.S. or the U.K. I have a friend in a same-sex marriage in Israel. He couldn’t do that in California!”
Schnur continues, “There’s freedom of speech in Israel, it’s a liberal democracy. If Roger Waters wanted to write negative songs about Israel, even if what he was saying in the songs was untrue, he could get onstage and perform them in Israel. Try doing that in the surrounding counties. Write songs criticizing the governments of other Middle Eastern countries, and try that on stage in those countries.”
Most egregious to the CCFP is Waters’ assertion that Israel is an “apartheid state.” Schnur points out that this false accusation brings to mind images of apartheid in South Africa. “There are mosques in Jerusalem,” he noted. “Arabs and Israelis work in government together. Arabs are part of the work force, there is no separation. To use the word ‘apartheid’ is an outright lie.”