A note from Roger Waters to Abe Foxman
Dear Mr. Foxman,
Thank you for your letter. I will try to address the points you make, in the order that you make them. With the general proviso though, that I am wary of, and wearied by any form of slanging match.
I think I note a change in A.D.L.’s position on my work, but it is not clear. Are you accusing me or my work of anti-Semitism or not? For the record I am not anti-semitic, neither is my theatrical piece The Wall and nor are any of the props, puppets or projections in that work.
You are right in saying that I have attacked The Israeli Governments’ policies in Gaza, the West Bank, and in Israel itself. You are wrong in your conclusion that my criticism of the policies of the Government of Israel requires the A.D.L. to “reexamine your attitude towards Jews”.
I have no attitude towards Jews. I do not group or categorise human beings in that way. I know many people who are Jewish, I have many very close friends who are Jewish, my two Grandsons are Jewish. I also have many friends who are not Jewish, who are Christian, Moslem, Buddhist, Agnostic, whatever, they are my friends, and I love them, their faith or lack of it is irrelevant to me.
I do however have an antipathy to racism and bigotry, I have no time for racists or bigots whatever their religion or their race or their politics or the color of their skin.
You speak of the omission of “important details” from my letter, if I may, to provide context I will quote you here:
“Important details are omitted from your letter, which is a classic propaganda technique. Why didn’t you point out that one of the stated objectives of the BDS movement, promoting a complete right of return for all Palestinians classified as refugees and the creation of a bi-national state, would result in the end of the Jewish character of the State of Israel and destroy Jewish national self-determination? Your writing also makes no mention of Palestinian terrorism, nor does it provide any context to the complex nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hamas, a terrorist organization which continues to advocate for Israel’s destruction, is entirely absent from your letter.”
You accuse the Israeli government of committing ethnic cleansing by physically evicting non-Jewish families from East Jerusalem to make way for Jewish occupants, yet provide zero evidence for this frivolous claim. You argue that Israel is akin to Apartheid South Africa, despite the complete and equal rights enjoyed by Arab citizens of Israel.
Your point about the right of Palestinian refugees to return is well taken, it is, as you say central to the B.D.S. position. The refugee’s right to return is enshrined in Article 13 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and The Fourth Geneva Convention and in UN resolution 194. This fundamental human right is a founding stone upon which the possibility of a civilized future for mankind rests. You are wrong, however in your assertion that B.D.S. requires a single bi-national State. The B.D.S. movement is open to a two State solution, the whole point of B.D.S. is to encourage any peaceful solution that guarantees equal rights to all the people regardless of race or religion. Is your position that the refugees should not be allowed to return? Should the refugees remain refugees forever? How would you feel if the boot was on the other foot? You are in a better position than most to understand the enormity of The Nakbah having been through a diaspora of your own.
Turning now to Hamas; Hamas does not “continue to advocate Israel’s destruction”. The charter you quote is out of date.
On December 1st 2010 Hamas Leader Ismail Haniyeh stated, “ We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees” In February 2012 Hamas forswore the use of violence.
I wish my claims as to the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem were “frivolous”, sadly they are anything but, I direct you to two pieces of corroborative evidence, 1)Roadmap to Apartheid 2012 a documentary film by Ana Nogueira a white South African and Eron Davidson a Jewish Israeli. And, 2) Extreme Rambling, Walking Israel’s Separation Barrier. For Fun. 2011 by Englishman, Mark Thomas.
Moving on, again for clarity’s sake I quote your text:
“Most disturbing of all is your decision to single out Israel for a boycott, while ignoring real human rights abusing countries around the world.”
Your question about singling out Israel for a cultural boycott is an interesting one. I equally deplored the occupation of East Timor or The Western Sahara, but one cannot take up cudgels for every just cause, if one tried to one would be spread too thin, so to speak. Also B.D.S. had already started in Palestine, so I joined an existing movement of people who were organized and proposing a non violent method of resistance to the occupation and inequality of Palestinian Israeli citizens civil rights.
Having said that, I do also support organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights watch which try to focus on all human rights violations and abuses where ever they may occur. I haven’t been everywhere, so there’s a lot of bad stuff going on that I haven’t seen with my own eyes. I do absolutely agree with you that I should speak out as often as possible against all abuses of human rights. As a matter of fact everywhere we perform “The Wall,” I speak in the local language and dedicate the Wall Concert to All The Victims of State Terrorism All over The World.
Finally, I notice you couldn’t resist the little anti-semitic dig at the end of your letter.
“Mr. Waters, having many Jewish friends and relatives does not give legitimacy to your hostile campaign against the Jewish State, and while painting a Star of David on your pig may have been free of anti-Semitic intent, your strong animosity towards Israel is indeed riddled with it.”
Just to reiterate my position, I am anti-war, anti-apartheid, anti-racist, pro human rights, pro peace and pro self-determination for all peoples. I am not anti-Israel or anti-semitic.
I am also passionately pro dialogue and thank you for taking the time and trouble to share your thoughts with me in this open letter. You speak of a Two State Solution, and although I know you don’t represent the Israeli Government, you do represent a point of view, and I should be most interested to hear what you think such a solution would look like, both geographically and demographically. Where would you think it just and equitable to put the borders between two such states, and who would live where? Given the continuing policies of occupation, colonization and settlement building in the West Bank and the siege of Gaza, it is very difficult for any neutral observer to imagine that the Israeli Government is serious in moving towards an equitable two state solution.
However, It maybe that there is a glimmer of light this week. We are assured by John Kerry, Secretary of State for Barack Obama that peace talks are taking place in Jerusalem. These are secret talks so we don’t know who is having them or on behalf of whom, but, should those talks bare fruit and a just and equitable peace break out, then it will be time to tear down the walls and picket lines, end the boycotts, clamber disheveled over the barricades and join the people in the streets.
I will be there with every musician I can muster.