Culture

Pro-Israel Groups Set to Protest Roger Waters Concert in Brooklyn

Waters a longtime supporter of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement

Roger Waters
Roger Waters / Getty Images

A 15-foot inflatable Pinocchio doll will be set up Tuesday night outside of Brooklyn's Barclays Center to protest English rock musician Roger Waters' longtime support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.

The move is part of a campaign by two pro-Israel organizations, StandWithUs and Artists 4 Israel, to follow the Pink Floyd singer to venues around the United States as he continues his "US+Them" international tour. The groups, and their Pinnochio, set up outside Newark's Prudential Center when Waters played there on Sept. 7.

In addition to the Pinnochio, the organizations also deploy a van to roam the streets surrounding the concert venue that holds a billboard declaring, "Roger Waters, Don't Need Your Hate and Censorship Against Israel."

Volunteers from Artists4Israel, which brings graffiti artists to college campuses to paint pro-Israel murals, spray paint t-shirts with a similar line on the back, and messages such as "Be Free" and "Stay Humble" on the front.

At his New Jersey performance, the organizations brought and distributed some 300 shirts to Waters' audience members as they headed into the venue.

Waters has been an outspoken advocate of a cultural boycott of Israel since 2006, pushing his fellow musicians not to perform in the country and calling on international organizations not to allow Israeli performers to participate in their events. Most recently, he unsuccessfully attempted to get Radiohead to cancel their summer appearance in Tel Aviv. Waters also recently compared the Israeli government to Nazi Germany, and he was condemned as an "open hater of Jews" by the Simon Wiesenthal Center after he projected a Star of David on an inflatable pig at a 2013 concert.

Avi Posnick, managing director for StandWithUs Northeast, told the Washington Free Beacon that his organization has been battling Waters' BDS efforts since the publication of a 2015 Rolling Stones interview during which the singer mentioned the organization while mocking Zionists.

"We decided that he can't have a free pass. He can't have the stage all to himself," said Posnick. "We had to get the message out there about who he really was."

Posnick said SWU's efforts at the concerts have made a statement.

"A lot of people didn't really know Waters had these beliefs, that he's an antisemite and censors other artists, that he keeps other artists from performing in Israel," he said. "A lot of people get upset and disappointed when they find out this international icon is a bigot. They start viewing him in differently."

Craig Dershowitz, executive director of Artists 4 Israel, explained that his group has worked with SWU in the past, but got involved in this initiative because he stands passionately against any hampering of artistic freedom.

"I believe in an extreme form of freedom of expression. You can swing your fist around, as long as you don't hit someone," said Dershowitz. "My issue is not with Roger Waters' views, but his censoring of art. It is unconscionable that someone who says he stands for artistic freedom would censor the artistic freedom of other artists."

A graffiti artist who volunteered at the Newark event said he came out because "a third party mixing and mingling in what an artists does is not okay."

The volunteer, who would only give his name as Vinny, added, "I wouldn't want someone fiddling with my work and my message. I'm an artist. I'm not right-wing or left-wing. I have two wings. I fly."

Vinny said he saw the irony in protesting Waters for "meddling" in art.

"What we're doing does sound similar to what he does, but someone needs to stand up to him, and might as well be an artist, right?"

The Jewish Community Relations Council has launched its own effort, called "Rogers Waters is #OutOfTune with New York."

In an open letter to the singer available for the public to sign, the JCRC called on Waters to give up his "relentless advocacy" for BDS, which the organization termed "severely detrimental to peacemaking." The statement also condemned Waters' "irrational and despicable use of anti-Semitic stereotypes and Nazi imagery" and his "radically warped worldview."

Update 8:40 a.m.: This post has been updated with information on the Jewish Community Relations Council.