Former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters has been playing concerts based on the band’s movie The Wall for many years. The concerts, with various slogans projected onto the stage, serve as a vehicle for the septuagenarian’s politics. As expected from many corporate rock figures, his politics are far left. What sets the man apart is his hysterical antisemitism and fascist theatrics.
In the 2010s, for instance, he placed dollar signs next to the Star of David in the backdrop of his performances. His last show featured a giant pig with the Star of David amidst corporate logos. The association of Jews with money and the “pig” slander could have come from Der Sturmer.
Consider his offstage politics to grasp what Waters is trying to accomplish artistically fully. His activism is devoted primarily to pressuring other performers to join the BDS movement to boycott Israel. The musician attributed his relative failure to persuade others to, among other things, the “extraordinary powerful” Jewish lobby. That power somehow failed to prevent the hippy celebrity from scoring interviews in major publications and high-profile public appearances during which he spews blood libels and world domination theories.
Waters is secure in the belief that a Jewish “cabal” runs the world. Conservative Jewish donor Sheldon Adelson, for instance, is a “fascist” “puppet master” who is “filling the coffers and pulling all the strings.” In the UK, the rock-n-roller believes the “Israel lobby” cost Jeremy Corbyn the election.
Waters mouthed the age-old belief that Jews are baby killers. He, for instance, accused Bon Jovi of standing “shoulder to shoulder with the settler who burned the [Palestinian] baby.” Here, he referred to a rare instance of Israeli terrorism, an arson attack roundly condemned and investigated in Israel. Survivors of the arson were treated in an Israeli hospital. At least Waters didn’t say anything about blood-baked matzos.
The performer regularly employs meaningless catchphrases like “settler-colonialism” and “apartheid” in relation to Israel. The most significant libel is the claim that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians. In reality, the Arab population of the Holy Land exploded under Israeli rule. The accusations of genocide look like a projection considering that Waters passionately supports the party in the conflict that rejected every single peace deal, promises to “throw Jews into the sea,” and sent suicide bombers to blow themselves up among women and children.
Like a model antisemite, Waters sees Jews as the root of all evil. After the death of George Floyd in police custody in 2020, Waters bizarrely claimed that Israel teaches American cops deadly restraining techniques even though the knee-to-neck maneuver, widely practiced the world over, is not used in the Jewish state.
Although he says that it’s “the Israeli state who believe that the Jewish people are superior, more important than any of those people, those people’s lives are worthless,” he appears to be, again, projecting: in the musician’s rhetoric, Israelis are subhuman. Waters once likened Israel hosting the Eurovision festival to the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers “because it seems it may have been taken over by [aliens].” In 2022, in an unhinged monologue, the musician insisted that the Jewish state should be compared to the Third Reich and called on its citizens to “join the human race.” He then employed a cleansing metaphor good enough for the Gestapo, calling Zionism “an ugly stain” that “needs to be gently removed.”
Despite it all, Waters denies being antisemitic, saying he has Jewish friends. On at least one occasion, he tried to redefine antisemitism, projecting the slogan “Resist Israeli anti-semitism [sic]” onto the stage during his 2018 concerts in Poland. The Jewish Daly Forward explained that the entertainer was flirting with the idea that Jews themselves are not Semitic people but are oppressing Semitic Arabs. Aside from the fact that “antisemitism” simply means “Jew-hate,” for Waters to believe that Jews are not Semitic, he must be subscribing to the conspiracy theory that Jews are Khazars.
That Waters is an antisemite is not a question; the man regularly spouts Jew-hate. His former bandmate David Gilmour agrees with this assessment, incidentally. I am a free speech absolutist; I believe every antisemite has the right to spout his antisemitism. Germany, however, has its own idea of an orderly society, and some forms of incitement are forbidden. Waters couldn’t perform there until a court in Frankfurt ruled in his favor.
He then played a few concerts in May, and because it’s Germany, Jewish protesters in Berlin were removed by police. At a later event, fans attacked Jewish protesters with Israeli flags. German journalist Nicholas Potter reported on the show. It went as expected.
In the best tradition of fascism, Waters projected slogans dividing society into “us” and “them”:
Above all, it is an evening with a clear world view. There is “us”, “the good guys” – and the bad guys who have to be fought. “They’re evil”, flickers across the LED screen above the crucifix-shaped stage in the middle of the arena, while Waters’ reworking of the Pink Floyd hit “Us and Them” plays. The ominous enemy remains for the most part nameless. Here, Waters uses tropes that are structurally antisemitic: “They must think we’re fucking stupid!”, a comic-style speech bubble reads. “Who do you mean by they?” – “Them, up there in the penthouse, the fucking oligarchs” – “Ah, you mean…” – “THE POWERS THAT BE.” An ominous, all-powerful elite that is not explicitly named – this is the antisemitic blueprint from which many conspiracy narratives operate.
Waters creates a conspiratorial gap that functions as a dog whistle, an antisemitically tinged allusion. Why are “they” so brutal, asks the next speech bubble? Answer: because “they” want to destroy our resistance and continue ruling the world. It’s about a powerful enemy, acting in the dark, pulling strings behind the scenes and threatening our very existence. Against “them up there”. Against enemies who are repeatedly portrayed as dehumanised figures in the course of the evening. A dangerous narrative that has led to violence against Jews for centuries.
Offstage, of course, Waters espoused Elders of Zion-like ideas.
Waters donned a Nazi-like uniform and machine gun during the concert and pretended to shoot up the audience. On stage, he flashed the name of Ann Frank and then the Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh who the IDF accidentally shot during an anti-terror raid. Potter explained the musician’s thought process:
Her “crime” according to Waters: “being Palestinian”, her punishment: “death”.
The name of George Floyd was also flashed. It all makes sense in Waters’s view, where the Jews take the place of the Nazis, committing genocide against Palestinians — and are also responsible for American policing. In his play, he used the memory of the Holocaust against the Jews.
The musician’s defenders make two points. First, some publications apparently misreported that the pig at the Berlin concert had a Star of David on it — examples of the ex-Pink Floyd’s antisemitism are aplenty, and it’s easy to get lost in them. Waters uses a new pig for each concert, and the one in Berlin, according to Potter, had the logo of Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems. That Jews are responsible for all wars in the world is a standard antisemitic trope.
The second line of defense is that Waters is merely enacting the part of a fascist from his movie The Wall, and that the movie provides important context for his concerts. As well-meaning as this explanation may sometimes be, it gets the performer backward. The Wall doesn’t put his allegedly lip-syncing shows in context. Roger Waters’s antisemitism is the context for The Wall. He play-acts as a fascist dictator because he is obsessed with the phantom Jewish menace — and the dead Jewish girl named Ann Frank.
Waters is no anti-fascist — the very name of his tour, Us and Them, is fascistic. Even the movie that’s supposed to excuse his antics has a song, “In The Flesh,” with the lyric:
Now, that one looks Jewish
And that one’s a coon
Who let all this riffraff into the room?
There’s one smoking a joint
And another with spots
If I had my way, I’d have all of them shot
It’s a strange phantasy that, at the very least, minimizes the Holocaust. No, illegal drug users are not — and never were — victims of genocide. On the other hand, Waters has no sympathy for the real Holocaust survivors, most of whom fled to Eretz, Israel.
One might argue that Waters takes a libertarian position, warning about the potential emergence of a fascist regime. But Waters, who, over the years, praised Putin, Xi, BLM, and the Palestinian cause, is no libertarian.
It’s telling that in his lengthy letter addressing the Jewish outcry about his performance, Waters did not address any of these points. He instead said that his father paid the ultimate price fighting the Nazis. That seems doubly tragic to me.
I don’t know why Roger Waters is the way he is. He’s just a weirdo entertainer who shouldn’t be taken seriously by intelligent people. On the other hand, he sees his music as secondary to politics. This makes him a celebrity influencer who believes Jews rule the world, Israelis are subhuman, and supports every effort to eradicate the Jewish state. That he role plays a fascist is the cherry on top.DONATE
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.