Roger Waters Compares Israeli Government to Nazis: 'The Parallels Are Crushingly Obvious'

Pink Floyd co-founder elaborates his Israel stance, wishing more musicians would write about politics.

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Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters gave a detailed explanation of his stance about Israeli government, drawing comparisons with Nazi Germany and wishing more musicians would write about the world of politics. Chatting with Counterpunch, Waters was asked to address those thinking that mixing music and politics isn't the proper way to go. Giving the explanation, the bassist touched on the matter of his new solo record. "Well it's funny you should say that because I just finished yesterday the text of a new piece which will be a new album of mine," he said. "It's about a grandfather in Northern Ireland going on a quest with his grandchild to find the answer to the question: 'Why are they killing the children?', because the child is really worried about it. Right at the very end of it, I decided to add something more. In the song, the child tells his grandpa: 'Is that it?' and the grandpa replies 'No, we cannot leave on that note, give me another note.' A new song starts and the grandpa makes a speech. He says: 'We live on a tiny dot in a middle of a lot of f--king nothing.' "Now, if you’re not interested in any of this, if you're one of those 'Roger I love Pink Floyd but I hate your f--king politics,' if you believe artists should be mute, emasculated, nodding dogs dangling aimlessly over the dashboard of life, you might be well advised to f--k off to the bar now, because, time keeps slipping away." Adding he doesn't know when the album will see the light of day, Waters also confirmed recording over an hour-long demo of "heavy" material, raising important questions with "some humor in it." "Look, if I'm the only one doing it, I am entirely content," he added. "I mean, I'm not, I wish there were more people writing about politics and our real situation. Even from what could be considered extreme points of view. It's very important that Goya did what he did, same for Picasso and Guernica and all those anti-war novels that came out during and after the Vietnam war." Roger then focused on his cultural boycott of Israel, giving a detailed explanation on the current state of affairs. "I would say that I understand their opinion," he said about people considering cultural boycott as the wrong approach. "Everybody should have one. But I can’t agree with them, I think that they are entirely wrong. The situation in Israel/Palestine, with the occupation, the ethnic cleansing and the systematic racist apartheid Israeli regime is unacceptable. "So for an artist to go and play in a country that occupies other people’s land and oppresses them the way Israel does, is plain wrong. They should say no. I would not have played for the Vichy government in occupied France in the Second World War, I would not have played in Berlin either during this time." Drawing parallels with Nazi Germany, the musician added, "The voice, for instance, of the right wing rabbinate, which is so bizarre and hard to hear that you can hardly believe that it's real. They believe some very weird stuff you know, they believe that everybody that is not a Jew is only on earth to serve them and they believe that the Indigenous people of the region that they kicked off the land in 1948 and have continued to kick off the land ever since are sub-human. "The parallels with what went on in the '30s in Germany are so crushingly obvious that it doesn't surprise me that the movement that both you and I are involved in is growing every day." During the rest of the chat, Waters focused on propaganda he believes is being spread across the US, starting over in Israeli schools. "It's like a huge bucket of c-ap that they are pouring into the mouth of gullible public in my view, when they say 'We are afraid of Iran, it is going to get nuclear weapons,'" he said. "It’s a diversionary tactic. The lie that they have told for the last 20 years is 'Oh, we want to make peace,' you know and they talk about Clinton and Arafat and Barrack being in Camp David and that they came very close to agreeing, and the story that they sold was 'Oh Arafat f--ked it all up.' Well, no, he did not."

37 comments sorted by best / new / date

    iommi600
    "if you believe artists should be mute, emasculated, nodding dogs dangling aimlessly over the dashboard of life, you might be well advised to f--k off to the bar now, because, time keeps slipping away." This. I'm pretty sick of all the "shut up, you're a musician, stay away from politics" comments. Musicians are human beings, too. They're not living jukeboxes made to please people. Also, I feel like I'm going to get a lot of hate for this, but he's spot on about the israeli state. It's a ridiculous modern-day apartheid government. (And before I get labeled as anti-semitic, no I'm not. There are plenty of jewish communities that are against zionism)
    jrodgers
    I think there are two things that piss everyone off about musicians getting political. First, i think a lot of people listen to music to distract themselves from the frustrating state of politics and international affairs. Its the last thing they want to hear about when they turn on the radio. Second, and I sometimes fall into this category, people get irratated when many of these musicians (who are as ignorant about politics and foreign affairs as most other average people), use their fame as a platform to spread a lot of ignorant ideas. We have enough problems with the gullible public being swayed by ignorant, propagandic, and agenda-oriented media as it already is. To add to this, I really don't have an opinion about Waters' views on these matters. Many of these left-wing musicians spout out a LOT of radical accusations against the right-wing, and I tend to believe the truth of the matter is usually somewhat more towards the middle.
    slush
    Well that's exactly what he's saying though. Musicians have opinions and they have every right to voice them. One might hate Bono, but the fact is he's done a helluva lot more philanthropic work than average joe, so average joe sitting back in his sofa and telling Bono to shut up and just stick to what he knows is more than a little disingenuous. And besides, there's always plenty of mindless crap on the radio with no political or social consciousness to listen to.
    jrodgers
    There's a saying that opinions are like buttholes, everyone has them and they all stink... Everyone of course has the right to express these opinions. However, if a person (such as a famous musician) has the means to deliver their opinons to a wide range of people, they really shouldn't complain about the wide range of backlash they receive from them. I.E. if Roger Waters wants to juxtapose jewish, nazi, and swine symbolism together for a large audience, he has no right to complain about catching heat from all the people he knew he would offend.
    slush
    But waters doesn't seem to be complaining about backlash to his opinion. He seems to be complaining about backlash to him voicing his opinion. People aren't saying, "Waters, I disagree with you because XXX", they're saying "Waters, just shut up and make music". Admittedly, his methods are a bit wacko, but I think it's hardly constructive to just ignore his possibly valid opinion because he's "merely" a famous musician and is therefore not fit to have an opinion about anything else.
    The_Dayman
    But nobody's forcing you to listen to politically motivated music. If you're looking for an escape from the real world, or just something mindless, you can listen to that kind of music. You don't have to like it, but getting pissed off about musicians talking politics is pointless.
    The_Dayman
    Exactly what I was thinking. It's almost like people think musicians and other entertainers opinions on political matters are instantly voided simply because they're entertainers. Ridiculous. And I too agree with Waters. I know it's a sensitive subject, but I'm actually glad to see somebody like him speak about it.
    Jmoarguitar
    Israel really needs to chill out. Abusing their powers since they are allies with the west and that there are more clear "enemies" in the middle east. Since the US is finally getting away from the middle east I'm curious to see what goes on next.
    OmarBradley
    100% correct about artists only talking about nonsense. 100% incorrect and offensive about Israel: "The situation in Israel/Palestine, with the occupation, the ethnic cleansing and the systematic racist apartheid Israeli regime is unacceptable." That is such an overgenaralization and misunderstanding, I am baffled by the high % of likes this article has. Just like every other religion Roger, Jewish extremists make up a small % of the actual Israeli population. Do some f*cking research before you decide to sound like a pretentious uninformed hippie.
    chai123_5
    He treats this boycott in such a childish way. He intends to make it so provocative and there is a difference between having a legit opinion about something and acting like a kid trying to piss everyone off by doing things like putting the star of david on a giant pig together with the nazi swastika. Having a cultural boycott on Israel hurts no one but the fans in there, and it's a shame to hurt your fans because of choices of the government and the government doesn't give a s**t if artists will come here but the fans do. I think artists should have political opinions but Roger took it a bit too far. People should understand that you can't just stop the 'occupation' and then there will be peace. There is a lot of unnecessary hatred going on and it won't stop there. There is no good solution to this problem and even if there was, it's not up to the citizens .
    slush
    Israel is a 'democracy', so yes, it IS up to the citizens.
    Helloween_rox
    The fact that you think any government is actually controlled by its own people shows how naive you really are.
    slush
    The fact that you think people can hide behind the "it wasn't me, it was the government" excuse shows how right Waters' analogy is.
    chai123_5
    Lets say I am wrong about the government thing. I am only 16. I can't say that I understand a lot about this and yet, I can't enjoy concerts in Israel because of decisions I can't make. Even if I could, there is still a lot of people who voted against the existing situation but can't enjoy these concerts because most of the people here support this "apartheid government". I live in the west bank and I see things from a different point of view, this is why I think people are a little bit exaggerating when they talk about the occupation. I really wish I was born somewhere else so I won't have to face this problem but I can't really support any side because each side has it's problems. I still think Roger is childish but maybe I am too young to understand.
    slush
    It's not a good situation to be in, for sure. But the Palestine situation is not good for anyone, particularly the Palestinians. Waters is trying to lead by example, hoping that if there is enough international pressure and awareness then maybe these issues will be resolved. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. But whatever the case, it's worthwhile for you too to look into it and figure out who you agree with and how you can make a change. It does no good to anyone to sit back and think you cannot make a difference. If you don't try to make a difference you won't make a difference. If you try you may fail, but you may succeed.
    bigblockelectra
    Does Roger Waters do much playing or singing in his live shows anymore? Have any of you guys seen the Wall show recently? He is what, 70? Can he still sing the high notes on songs like Waiting for the Worms, Hey You, Young lust, etc.?
    scottishmob
    Viable question - why the downvote? I saw him last year around August and it was really great. He has lost none of his performing ability, trust me!
    christianonbass
    Agree. Waters is an incredible talent. I have always had mixed feelings for certain musicians. I think it was good for me to enjoy some artist's music even though I might not agree with their politics. I might disagree with people, but that does not mean their music is bad. Look at RATM. They rock. I disagree with their Marxist beliefs, but I can appreciate their passion. They are sincere in their beliefs! They still rock
    TheWhiteKeys101
    Saw him in Quebec city in July of last year and yes, he can still pull it off. Best concert I've seen so far!
    Dukey
    I feel disgraced as an Israeli and as a human being about with comparison. The Israeli army is (mostly, because not everyone is perfect) very humane, compare to Hizbullah that uses kindergartens and children as human shields! It's so rude of him to compare the people who lived through the holocaust (the only holocaust in human history!) to the demonic inhumane monsters who made a nightmare that none of us could dream of into reality... Screw you! I don't give a crap that you we're in Pink Floyd! (I don't like them anyway...)
    mod59dc
    He might just be right but these days he is so irrelevant. Music on a whole is not interested in political stances or saving the world. That stuff was for the sixties. Too bad, now it's all dancing around the sacred cow that is Gaga or bieber.
    matteo cubano
    its still hapenninh. same love is the strongest example of recent pop music promoting a political/social stance. lots of artists do this, mostly not on the radio, but it happens.
    Hamburger89
    Music represents culture and in the sixties music was full of ideas and opinions. At the time these were seen as ridiculous but because young people were more open minded than any generation before them, they weren't put aside right away and people took a good look at them. My generation(i'm 24) has brainwashed itself into something so fundamentalistic it will never be open to new ideas or new opinions, so it will never be open to new music.
    yonmwar
    well, im definetly one of the 'i love pink floyd but hate your politics'.An artist can write about politics, but the fact that someone is a good guitar player or a good singer doesnt say that his opinion is smarter than that of a non-artist.Also, to answer what he actually says - I'm from Israel. I was a soldier until half a year ago. Im religious. I belong to the right-wing in politics.Unfortunatly, Roger Waters has no idea about whats going on in Israel. He might be the most awesome artist in the world, and he might be the smartest person on earth - but when you don't know the facts, you can't exspress an opinion. He's welcome to come here and get a tour. just to see that we surround ourselves with walls, fences, and guards - and yet a terrorist manages to get inside a settlement and buthchers a family, including a baby (3 months old!) with a knife.Its an anecdote, but it tells the story. I live here. I have to drive in bullet proof busses. I had to stay awake night after night, for months, to watch the border and make sure no one comes in.I just hope that he (and the rest of the people that express an opinion without knowing the facts) will see sense before someone close to him gets murdered. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,...
    CHANDLER21
    I believe that music and politics can co-exist together. Just not letting it over power your whole reason for writing songs. After awhile people will get sick of you always rambling on about politics in your songs. Fact.
    yonmwar
    and If we're talking about artists and politics, check out - Roy harper - Black cloud of islam. (awesome artist. played with waters on "have a cigar") I just wonder why this song is almost out of youtube...
    glenns2013
    You know I've defended this man in the past to the more religious faction of my family, but he's making it more and more difficult to do so, Roger Sure, he has every right to say/record anything he wants to - it doesn't mean he has any more of clue than slush does. Comparing Israel's dilemma to Nazi Germany is ridiculously absurd. How something so moronic could come out of the mouth of such an intelligent man is unfathomable to me. Are you aware that Israel has had Palestinian/Arab beauty pageant winners? Does that sound like a country that has ethnic cleansing as an objective? Can you imagine the reverse taking place in Palestine (no, of course you can't)? Do you know they're are over 1.5 million Arabs who are Israeli citizens, making lives for themselves, getting educations at Israeli universities and enjoying the same freedoms as every Jew there? Can you imagine the reverse being the case (no, of course you can't)? Does Israel being the only Democracy in that region not indicate anything to you about them. Anybody that thinks Israel is the villain in this conflict is completely devoid of the reality of it - plain and simple.
    dr718
    As with all partisan stances, he picks and chooses facts and events that suit his argument. He doesn't live there, doesn't understand what it's like to live there-on either side, and only identifies with one side of the conflict. The use of the Nazis as a comparative reference to anyone these days is so common in the press there is virtually no meaning to it. If he were as reasonable and wise as he presents himself to be, debating it with an informed individual would take a lot more courage than spouting his opinion to a sympathetic interviewer. I imagine his feelings might change if someone were to set off a bomb on his grandchild's school bus, too.