Roger Waters: Why I support boycotting Israel

March 13, 2011
Roger Waters sprays ‘We don’t need no thought control’ on Israel’s apartheid wall.

Roger Waters, best known as a member of British band Pink Floyd, released the statement below on February 25 — explaining his decision to support the international “boycott, divestment and sanctions” campaign targeting Israel. It is reprinted from

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In 1980, a song I wrote, “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2”, was banned by the government of South Africa because it was being used by Black South African children to advocate their right to equal education.

That apartheid government imposed a cultural blockade, so to speak, on certain songs — including mine.

Twenty-five years later, in 2005, Palestinian children participating in a West Bank festival used the song to protest Israel’s apartheid wall. They sang “We don’t need no occupation! We don’t need no racist wall!”

At the time, I hadn’t seen first-hand what they were singing about. A year later, I contracted to perform in Tel Aviv.

Palestinians from the movement advocating an academic and cultural boycott of Israel urged me to reconsider. I had already spoken out against the apartheid wall, but I was unsure whether a cultural boycott was the right way to go.

The Palestinian advocates of a boycott asked that I visit the occupied Palestinian territory, to see the wall for myself before I made up my mind. I agreed.

Under the protection of the United Nations, I visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw that day.

The wall is an appalling edifice to behold. It is policed by young Israeli soldiers who treated me, a casual observer from another world, with disdainful aggression.

If it could be like that for me, a visitor, imagine what it must be like for the Palestinians, for the underclass, for the passbook carriers.

I knew then that my conscience would not allow me to walk away from that wall, from the fate of the Palestinians I met, people whose lives are crushed daily in a multitude of ways by Israel’s occupation.

In solidarity, and somewhat impotently, I wrote on their wall that day: “We don’t need no thought control.”

Realising at that point that my presence on a Tel Aviv stage would inadvertently legitimise the oppression I was witnessing, I cancelled my gig at the football stadium in Tel Aviv.

I moved it to Neve Shalom, an agricultural community devoted to growing chick peas and also, admirably, to cooperation between people of different faiths — where Muslim, Christian and Jew live and work side by side in harmony.

Against all expectations, it became the biggest music event in the short history of Israel. About 60,000 fans battled traffic jams to attend.

It was extraordinarily moving for me and my band, and at the end of the gig I was moved to exhort the young people gathered there to demand of their government that it attempt to make peace with their neighbours and respect the civil rights of Palestinians living in Israel.

Sadly in the intervening years, the Israeli government has made no attempt to implement legislation that would grant civil rights to Israeli Arabs equal to those enjoyed by Israeli Jews.

The wall has grown, inexorably, illegally annexing more and more of the West Bank.

I had learned that day in Bethlehem in 2006 something of what it means to live under occupation, imprisoned behind a wall.

It means that a Palestinian farmer must watch olive groves, centuries old, be uprooted. It means that a Palestinian student cannot get to school because the checkpoint is closed.

It means a woman may give birth in a car, because the soldier won’t let her pass to the hospital that’s a ten minute drive away. It means a Palestinian artist cannot travel abroad to exhibit work, or to show a film in an international film festival.

For the people of Gaza, locked in a virtual prison behind the wall of Israel’s illegal blockade, it means another set of injustices.

It means that children go to sleep hungry, many chronically malnourished. It means that fathers and mothers, unable to work in a decimated economy, have no means to support their families. It means that university students with scholarships to study abroad must watch the opportunity of a lifetime slip away because they are not allowed to travel.

In my view, the abhorrent and draconian control that Israel wields over the besieged Palestinians in Gaza, and the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), coupled with its denial of the rights of refugees to return to their homes in Israel, demands that fair-minded people around the world support the Palestinians in their civil, non-violent resistance.

Where governments refuse to act, people must — with whatever peaceful means are at their disposal. For some, that meant joining the Gaza Freedom March, for others it meant joining the humanitarian flotilla that tried to bring much needed humanitarian aid to Gaza.

For me, it means declaring my intention to stand in solidarity, not only with the people of Palestine, but also with the many thousands of Israelis who disagree with their government's racist and colonial policies, by joining the campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, until it satisfies three basic human rights demanded in international law.

1. Ending its occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands [occupied since 1967] and dismantling the wall;
2. Recognising the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

My conviction is born in the idea that all people deserve basic human rights. My position is not anti-Semitic. This is not an attack on the people of Israel.

This is, however, a plea to my colleagues in the music industry, and also to artists in other disciplines, to join this cultural boycott.

Artists were right to refuse to play in South Africa’s Sun City resort until apartheid fell and whites and blacks enjoyed equal rights.

And we are right to refuse to play in Israel until the day comes — and it surely will come — when “The Wall” of occupation falls and Palestinians live alongside Israelis in the peace, freedom, justice and dignity that they all deserve.


Shame on have not mentioned once in your comment the reason why Israel needs a security have not mentioned once that over 8000 rockets have landed in Israeli towns. There is a reason for everything...the security wall is there to protect Israelis from terrorist attacks. Waters..... dont let them brainwash you.....or you will end up just another prick in the wall..
The main reason for the wall was to keep out the suicide bombers who were murdering Israeli civilians, and its been remarkably successful at that. Keeping out rockets from Gaza has proven to be a lot more difficult. The wall doesn't deviate all that much from the green line or pre-1967 border (though there are some controversial areas) but interestingly one of the sticking points in negotiations has been that many Palestinians would actually rather be on the Israeli side of the border in any two state settlement. The reason for that is that (contrary to Roger Waters' suggestion) Israeli Arabs DO enjoy full citizenship rights, including access to education, social welfare and employment in a strong economy. The right of return of refugees is the most unworkable of Roger's demands. Based on a UN resolution from 63 years ago, these "refugees" (well their descendants in any case) are now several generations on and their numbers have swollen from some 500,000 to over four million. Given that Israel's population is only 7 million and it is already rather crowded, this demand of the BDS crowd is just there to ensure that no solution is possible - other than Israel's destruction. But that's what the BDS is really calling for Roger, so why not just be upfront about it? Just saying you're not being anti-Semitic, or attacking the people of Israel doesn't make it so. Those lines are right up there with "some of my best friends are Jews..."
I am a huge Pink Floyd fan, and a Waters fan as well, so this kind of tears at me. The fact of the matter is this: Israel is a liberal democracy and operates as such in a region of the world that has not only never embraced such an ideology, but has actively stood against it, many times with violence. The western world, be it the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and other such nations subscribe to democracy in one form or another because, although it is flawed in many ways, it still recognizes basic human rights and advocates a lifestyle of liberty. Israel also demonstrates such a philososophy and has flourished despite being surrounded by neighbors who wish to obliterate it. Does Israel oppress the Palestinians within its borders? To a great extent, yes; it does. Is this particular form of oppression justified? Well, perhaps. After all, the Palestinians are hostile residents who do not recognize Israel's right to exist. In the meantime, no other Arab nation will come to any specific Palestinian aid because they do not care for them either. Not to be stereotypical, but the Palestinians are castoffs with no real allies, who are hostile towards EVERYBODY. If they simply were willing to cooperate with Israel, then Israel would not need to be so iron-fisted with them. Israel's critics say that Israel forceably took land from the Palestinians. The Israelis did not steal land from indigenous Palestinians any more than Europeans (especially the British) stole land from indigenous people of North America and Australia. Is such colonization right? Well, maybe so and maybe not. But, it's how business has been done in this world and it is no different than how any other influential civilization has been constructed. So, to hear the Anti-Israel slant of the news coming out of the UK is shocking. First of all, not only does such an attitude lash out against a free and just society that embodies the same ideals as the UK. But, Israel has also done yoemans work in keeping forces at bay that seek to destroy those ideals, have shared its advances in the realms of science and technology with the rest of the world, and openely trades its goods and resources with other nations. Those who feel that they have a justified and "well-informed" reason to hate Israel is an Anti-Semite and a hypocrite. I am an American and I am a Jew. I feel that I have the right to criticize Israeli and Jewish culture if I want to but not the Catholic church, for example. That said, I do not apprecate any non-Jew who hates Israel on principal. Why not speak out against the Church for the various forms of hypocracy and opression that IT exhibits? There is plenty to criticize there. I am sure.
"prick in the wall" - That's beautiful, because that's what he has allowed himself to become. I suggest he read a very reasoned yet impassioned open letter to him by Israeli musician Kobi Oz. Oz so eloquently points out all the absolutely crucial information Waters either naively omits or disingenuously neglects to mention, such as the inhuman wave of homicide-bombings and the thousands of rockets lobbed into his hometown of Sderot. Waters has turned himself into a parody - the numb-nut leftist artist. Give me a fucking break.
The "wall," as he refers to it, is obviously a security barrier to keep at bay these predatory child-killers that Waters feels so warmly for. These monsters, just last week-end, decapitated a three-month old infant in the town of Itamar. Hereafter, I shall engage in my own boycott of all things Roger Waters and Pink Floyd. {}
Labelling someone anti-Semitic because they disagree with the actions of your government is a pathetic excuse for an argument. I'm a white Australian, and I do believe the British stole land of our Indigenous people. Does that make me a self-loathing racist scum against my own kind? Or that all the early Indigenous people who resisted colonisation - or, in your argument, even the ones who didn't - were terrorists? And the Israelis and Jews from around the world who disagree with the West Bank occupation, or the apartheid wall - they too are anti-Semites? Then you sweepingly label Palestinians as castoffs who are hostile to everyone. Who you calling hypocrite?!? I'm not denying that much brutality happens to innocent Israelis also. However Israel is in the position of power when it comes to initiating change and reconciliation.
The anti-Semitism charge doesn't relate to criticism of the Israeli government, its aimed at those who generalize that into call for the demise of Israel and the expulsion of the Jews. That is what the BDS is about. And yes there are some Jewish anti-Semites, and there are others (including some holocaust survivors) who set moral standards for themselves that are saintly, and fail to see the peril in not defending themselves against those of lesser morals. "However Israel is in the position of power when it comes to initiating change and reconciliation." Is it? Israel is a tiny country of 7.5 million, about 5 million of them Jewish, on a tiny sliver of land. Arab regimes occupy the rest of the Middle East and North Africa and number some 400 million. It has further become the focus of hatred in the global Islamic community which numbers close to 2 billion people. Israel may appear to have at least a military superiority over Palestinians but it is in reality fighting a war against transnational militant groups which are proxies for other regional powers. Look at events over the last few days, it is typical. For several months there had been a more or less peaceful situation. Then out of nowhere we had the brutal murder of a settler family, militants firing missiles and mortars into Israel, and now a bomb blast in Jerusalem. Meanwhile a ship loaded with Iranian arms destined for Gaza was intercepted by the IDF, and a road convoy of armaments originating in Sudan was intercepted by Egypt. Israel has little choice but to defend its people against these things, even though they quite likely are deliberate provocations, designed to draw Israel into a violent reaction that will cause civilian casualties. While of course there are Palestinians that Israel could negotiate with and live alongside harmoniously, peaceful negotiations are held to ransom by extremists - not just individuals but the regimes who are the sponsors of this violence. But where is the condemnation and calls to boycott Iran, Syria and Islamic transnational terror networks? And where is the support for peace and recognition of Israel from other Arab states in the region? Why are they allowed to feed their people a diet of anti-Semitic (yes, really) propaganda, and do so even in the more "moderate" states? Why is there no acceptance of Israel from the left, only partisan calls for its destruction? What is the utopian alternative they propose to replace it with? A state run by a corrupt and violent Islamic mafia - like Gaza, or is there another local regime they could model it on? I for one would be very interested to hear constructive suggestions towards a peaceful, but sadly the left has lost its sense of even-handedness and has instead signed up for a campaign of hate aimed at expelling Jews from the Middle East and destroying their state. Isn't that anti-Semitism?
There is a story in this morning's Jerusalem Post about the strong economic growth in the West Bank of 9% per annum: While its easy to point out its effect on the security of Israelis and the decline in suicide bombing, far less attention has been given to the unforseen positive effects that has had for Palestinians. Denying the destructive elements the ability to carry out their attacks has allowed moderates to engage on many levels, especially economic ones, for the benefit of all. The evidence suggests this has had major benefits to the well-being of Palestinians, as well as the security of Israelis and conceivably could lead to a long lasting, neighborly relationship. Its a shame about Gaza where the nihilists still rule and lob missiles at Israel at any opportunity, not for any strategic reason, other than to escalate the conflict and maintain the hatred. A shame also that the left in Australia continues to side with the the nihilists who provide instant gratification by launching missiles, rather than persevering with slow - and less TV friendly - path to building a harmonious and integrated economy and society.
I am, or was, a huge Pink Floyd and Roger Waters fan. I was even at the Wall show in Berlin in 1990 with a backstage pass and even attended the after party for that show. But now I am not sure anymore. Despite the obvious intelligence embodied in the great many amazing tunes that Waters has authored over the years, his position on Israel shows a level of stupidity and lack of knowledge and understanding that I am hoping can only be attributed to years of drug abuse that have fried his mind like Syd's was. Clearly he does not know anything about Middle East history or politics and is completely ignorant. If the Irish, Welsh or Scots started lobbing rockets into England or blowing up buses in London would he support them? Come on, Roger, you can't really be that ignorant and narrow-minded.
"sadly the left has lost its sense of even-handedness and has instead signed up for a campaign of hate aimed at expelling Jews from the Middle East and destroying their state. Isn't that anti-Semitism?" The only people advocating, or practising, expulsion of anyone is the Zionists. BDS is no more aimed at expelling Jews from the Middle East than the boycotts of Apartheid South Africa were aimed at expelling Whites. But lets not get distracted by lies and look at what anti-Semitism actually is. Anti-Semitism is a racist ideology that created the false notion of a "Jewish race". Is there a Methodist race? Or a Buddhist race? Zionism has taken this racist notion & run with it. The only difference between Zionism and classic anti-Semitism is that to Zionists, Jews are the Herrnvolk not the untermenschen. I support BDS, and believe that Apartheid Israel should be replaced with a non-racist democracy where everyone between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean has equal rights, and an equal vote. I believe that the "right of return" should belong to those, and the descendants of those, who there is proof were forcibly expelled in 1948, not those whose claim to be descended from people expelled in AD70 is based on idiotic falsehoods invented by religious fundamentalists and anti-Semites. I believe these things for a number of reasons, one of which is that, unlike Zionists, I refuse to make ideological concessions to the racists who murdered by grandmother at Auschwitz. Tony
Zionists seem incapable of writing anything withou lies so lets get one thing straight: in parts of the West Bank poverty is worse than Gaza (which is also surrounded a Zionist-built wall, so I'm not sure of the relevance of your comparison even if it was reality-based). Arguing that people could have benefitted from being forced into walled ghettoes really is reminiscant of the Nazis. You demonstrate very clearly the history of your racist ideology — nothing other than inverted anti-Semitism with a bit of European colonialism thrown in. Tony
Keep up the boycott. It's making these racist bastards angry and scared. Only when they lose their great protector (USA)'s support they will realise that all their hypocritical propaganda about being a "liberal democracy" in an area where people hate democracy (like the Egyptians, Yemenis, Libyans...??) is just so much delusional crap.
Roger Waters is a political dope! It would take all day to disprove what he writes about. These are 99% lies, and more lies. Israel is held up to a dispicable double standard in the world today. Clearly this is motivated by hatred of Israel and Jews, who have contributed so so much to civilization. We should thank Israel for their contribution to the arts, medicine, defense, literature, hi tech, etc. Roger Waters i sa rock star and nothing more. His lies and propaganda are reflective of all of Britain, who greatly contributes to the mess in the middle east. Israel is a beautiful, free country. I am not Jewish, but I have lived and worked there. I am boycotting Roger Waters, the terrorist appeasor. Email me at - NO MORE LIES
Rely on: 1. Name calling 2. Exaggeration 3. Out-and-out lies 4. Distortions 5. Attacks on personal character Facts are not part of the zionist argument... except when paired with lies of omission. For example, talking about the rockets that fall without talking about the israeli incursions that preceded them. Talking about the "security" wall, without addressing the fact that it is being built deep in palestinian territory, thus stealing yet more of their land. The zionist arguments are deceptions to cover the true goals: stealing land that they believe was given to them by a magical man in the sky 2,000 years ago. Google "hasbara"
well, if he KNEW something further about middle east history, he'd certainly be a lot more reiterative in his opinion of boycotting Israel.
Those of us who live in Yehuda and Shamron are not "occupiers". The armistice of 1967 referred to these lands as "disputed". How can you say that these are "Arab lands"? If a resident of the U.S. said that America is "white mens' land" he would be castigated as a racist, and rightly so. From my window, I view contiguous Arab "settlement" that was not there 20 years ago. Most of these Arabs who I meet have families that originated in Syria, or Lebanon, or Egypt. We Jews, on the other hand, have lived on these lands for 3300 years, despite the genocide perpetrated upon us by the ancient Greeks, the Romans, and the Arabs. Think Hevron, 1927, when the Jewish community in this, the birthplace of Judaism, was destoyed by marauding Arabs while the colonail British soldiers watched. Now, Abbas, our "peace" partner, says that in a Palestinian state no Jews will be allowed to stay. Isn't this racism? Isn' this apartheid? Imagine, to make the Jewish national home free of Jews! And think, Arabs inside the so-called "green line" have full democratic rights. Jews who speak of forcing them out are castigated as racists, but the true racists, those who want to make Yehuda and Shamron Judenrein, get a free pass! This is our land, and retreat, God forbid, will only make the enemies of Jews and Israel more bloodthirsty. Am Israel Chai!

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