Down by the River Festival returns!
I’m a big fan of this newsletter, but I must say, I’m disappointed and hurt by this summary of the Roger Waters controversy.
In particular, referring to “Waters’ vocal opining about Israel and Palestine” is a dangerous and misleading framing. It is true that Roger Waters has provoked controversy with comments about I/P, and I understand your discomfort wading into the topic. But many of Waters’s most controversial comments are directed, not towards Israel, but towards Jews in the Diaspora.
This explainer give a solid summary: https://faroutmagazine.co.uk/roger-waters-alleged-antisemitism-controversy/.
He has complained of an “extraordinarily powerful” American “Jewish lobby”. He has floated, in concert, a giant pig emblazoned with a prominent star of David: a Jewish sign, not merely an Israeli one (some churches in Germany are still decorated with the Judensau, a medieval anti-Jewish image depicting Jews as pigs). He has called the American Jewish donor Sheldon Adelson a “puppet master” over American politics who believes that “only Jewish people are completely human.” (Needless to say, Adelson’s politics were deplorable. But they were white supremacist, not Jewish supremacist. No-one can look at the modern Republican party with a clear eye and claim that they are pursuing an agenda of Jewish supremacy.) Then there is a slew of slurs against British Jewish community organizations, which Waters regularly condemns as an arm of the Israeli state.
At this point, the accusation of antisemitism is far from fringe. Ex-Floyd guitarist David Gilmour and his wife, Polly Sampson, have publicly called Waters "antisemitic to your rotten core.” Once again, this has nothing to do with Palestine or Israel; in fact, David Gilmour reunited with Waters as recently as 2016, to express mutual support for the pro-Palestinian Women’s Boat to Gaza.
Another notable incident, not included in the explainer: when Waters came into a dispute with the the British Baroness Deech in 2013, he referred to her as “Baroness Deech (nee Fraenkel).” This moniker served no purpose except to draw attention to Deech’s Jewish maiden name.
Here it is instructive to consider a key element of Nazi antisemitism: “Der Jude kann nur judisch denken” (The Jew can only think Jewishly). To the antisemite, Jews are a clannish people who only act in their collective self-interest, however assimilated they may seem. This belief is evident in Waters’ statements about Jews, precisely because he is incapable of distinguishing between Jews globally and the Israeli state. To claim that Waters's controversies regard Israel/Palestine, rather than Jews as a collective, is to participate in his antisemitic conflation. This is an unfortunately common mistake that perfectly well-meaning people make; it should serve as a reminder of how easy it is to fall into antisemitic patterns of thinking.
As for the fascist dress-up, I am skeptical of claims that it is ‘anti-fascist’ art. Waters works in a long tradition of Rock & Roll artists ‘playing’ with fascist aesthetics (also see: Manson, Bowie). At best, it is a ritual flirtation with the worst aspects of the human psyche. Given the above context, I see no reason to give Waters the benefit of the doubt. I am not familiar with German laws on the matter, but it seems rather obvious, why Jews in Germany feel uncomfortable with an open antisemite goosestepping around stage in shiny black-and-red uniform.
I’m concerned about the Ukrainian businessman trying to collect personal information and money. There are eastern Ukrainians who are targeted. And anyone who speaks criticisms.