US State Department accuses Pink Floyd's Roger Waters of antisemitism
The US State Department accused Roger Waters, the co-founder of Pink Floyd, of using antisemitic tropes and denounced his show in Berlin as “deeply offensive to Jewish people”.
The performance took place on 17 May and images showed the singer aiming a fake machine gun at the audience and recreating scenes from a film based on “The Wall”, an album by Pink Floyd famous for critiquing fascism.
At the performance, he also wore a black trench coat with a red armband, which he said was a statement against fascism, injustice, and bigotry. He called any criticism of it “disingenuous and politically motivated”.
After the concert, police in Berlin opened an investigation into Waters on suspicion of incitement over his costume.
The US State Department weighed in on the controversy and said Waters’ concert "contained imagery that is deeply offensive to Jewish people and minimized the Holocaust".
"The artist in question has a long track record of using antisemitic tropes to denigrate Jewish people," the department said.
Deborah Lipstadt, the US special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, said the concert was “Holocaust distortion”.
Outspoken supporter of Palestine
Waters is an outspoken supporter of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, a non-violent initiative that seeks to challenge Israel's occupation and abuses of Palestinian human rights through economic, cultural, and academic boycotts similar to the successful campaigns against apartheid South Africa.
In 2017, his “Us + Them” tour was met by opposition from pro-Israel groups. A series of film screenings of Wish You Weren’t Here, a documentary by Ian Halperin, accused Waters of antisemitism.
Despite the pushback he received, he continued to be vocal on Palestine. At a talk organised by activists in Vancouver in November 2017, he said: “The truth of what is happening in the Occupied Territories, it’s called ethnic cleansing. That’s what is happening and the regime there is called apartheid."
He added that he continued to advocate for BDS because “it’s the only thing that I’ve seen that’s had any effect at all”.
Also that same year, Walters opposed a draft bill in the US Senate aimed at silencing BDS supporters, called the Israeli Anti-Boycott Act, which would impose penalties on US citizens “engaged in interstate or foreign commerce” who support the boycott of Israeli products and services, including up to 20 years in prison and a $1m fine.
Waters wrote in the New York Times: "By endorsing this McCarthyite bill, senators would take away Americans’ First Amendment rights in order to protect Israel from nonviolent pressure to end its 50-year-old occupation of Palestinian territory and other abuses of Palestinian rights."