Roger Waters Responds to New Film’s Antisemitism Allegations
Roger Waters has responded to allegations of antisemitism levied in a new documentary released by the Campaign Against Antisemitism titled The Dark Side of Roger Waters, calling the film "a flimsy, unapologetic piece of propaganda."
The documentary, which is available on YouTube, claims that Waters sent emails in which he proposed using various antisemitic slurs and iconography during his concerts. The film also contains claims from Waters' former saxophonist Norbert Statchel that Waters once demanded restaurant waiters "take away all the Jew food," and from producer Bob Ezrin, who recalled Waters singing an inappropriate ditty about late music representative Bryan Morrison being "a fucking Jew."
"One cannot help but watch this film and wonder what kind of person uses their power to this effect," CAA chief executive Gideon Falter said in a statement. "Is Roger Waters an antisemite? Now people can make up their own minds."
Roger Waters' Response to 'The Dark Side of Roger Waters'
Waters responded to The Dark Side of Roger Waters with a statement posted to his website on Friday. "All my life I have used the platform my career has given me to support causes I believe in," he wrote. "I passionately believe in universal human rights. I have always worked to make the world a better, more just and more equitable place for all my brothers and sisters, all over the world, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion or nationality, from indigenous peoples threatened by the U.S. oil industry to Iranian women protesting for their rights.
"That is why I am active in the non-violent protest movement against the Israeli government's illegal occupation of Palestine and its egregious treatment of Palestinians," he continued. "Those who wish to conflate that position with antisemitism do a great disservice to us all."
The Pink Floyd co-founder said the CAA "gave me seven days to respond to multiple questions about matters dating back to 2002 and 2010," and claimed the organization's "core purpose is waging partisan political campaigns against critics of the state of Israel. So I knew their questions were not asked in good faith."
"Truth is, I’m frequently mouthy and prone to irreverence," Waters continued. "I can't recall what I said 13 or more years ago. I've worked closely for many years with many Jewish people, musicians and others. If I have upset the two individuals who appear in the film I'm sorry for that. But I can say with certainty that I am not, and have never been, an antisemite – as anyone who really knows me will testify. I know the Jewish people to be a diverse, interesting, and complicated bunch, just like the rest of humanity. Many are allies in the fight for equality and justice, in Israel, Palestine and around the world.
"The film totally distorts and misrepresents my views about the Israeli state and its political ideology, Zionism," Waters explained. "It relies on a definition of antisemitism that sees criticizing Israel as inherently antisemitic and assumes that Zionism is an essential element in Jewish identity. These opinions, clearly shared by the presenter and the two interviewees, are widely contested by many, including many Jewish people."
As for the offensive words used in his emails, Waters said they were "my brainstorming ideas on how to make the evils and horrors of fascism and extremism apparent and shocking to a generation that may not fully appreciate the ever-present threat. They are not the manifestation of any underlying bigotry as the film suggests."
"In summary," Waters concluded, "the film is a flimsy, unapologetic piece of propaganda that indiscriminately mixes things I'm alleged to have said or done at different times and in different contexts, in an effort to portray me as an antisemite, without any foundation in fact."
Roger Waters' Antisemitism Allegations
Allegations of antisemitism have dogged Waters throughout 2023. He drew criticism earlier this year for wearing a Nazi-like costume during his performance in Berlin, prompting an investigation from the German police. Officials in Frankfurt tried to have his concert there canceled, although he was ultimately permitted to perform. Waters chalked the investigation up to "bad faith attacks from those who want to smear and silence me."
The U.S. State Department condemned Waters' controversial attire in June, saying he has "a long track record of using antisemitic tropes" and that his Berlin concert "contained imagery that is deeply offensive to Jewish people and minimized the Holocaust."
Waters has repeatedly denied accusations of antisemitism and claimed that his critics were missing the point of his show. "The elements of my performance that have been questioned are quite clearly a statement in opposition to fascism, injustice and bigotry in all its forms," he said in a statement. "Attempts to portray those elements as something else are disingenuous and politically motivated."
He added that his "depiction of an unhinged fascist demagogue has been a feature of my shows since Pink Floyd's The Wall in 1980" and claimed he has "spent my entire life speaking out against authoritarianism and oppression wherever I see it."
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Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso