Roger Walters, former front-man of Pink Floyd compared Israel to Nazi Germany in an hour-long live interview on Facebook. In the interview, hosted by Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement leader Omar Barghouti, he stated that there were no harsher regimes in the world. The musician went on to say that there was no point in having dialogue with Israelis and Israeli artists, and that Israel was headed towards being a “Pariah state.”
Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is antisemitic according to the Definition of Antisemitism, and such comparisons are usually invoked to give a hyperbolic account of the conflict and to deliberately upset Jews.
Waters admitted that when thinking about the situation in Israel he finds it, “hard not to go back to Goebbels,” the Nazi propaganda minister. Whilst we are not an organisation that engages in Israel advocacy, the sheer hyperbole of his comparison is such that it can scarcely be an honest mistake. Not only did the Nazi regime which Goebbels propagandise for, through a state-governed press, facilitate the mass extermination of Jews and other victimised groups, but Israel itself has a free press and a thriving democracy. As mentioned above, such comparisons often come across as being deliberately calculated to hurt and offend Jews. Waters went on to state that “[Israel’s] tactic is to tell the big lie as often as possible over and over and over again”, painting Israel as manipulative and dissembling, utilising a long-standing antisemitic canard.
Yet Walters’ comparison has yet another antisemitic undertone, as he says that this alleged propaganda had led to Americans “living in this constant state of Hasbara created by AIPAC and the Israeli lobby”. Not only is he accusing Israel of operating Nazi-like propaganda, but referring to the “Israeli lobby” leading to a “constant state of Hasbara” is unequivocally the language of contemporary antisemitic conspiracy theories, attributing to the Zionist movement an unrealistic amount of control. According to the definition of antisemitism, “using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterise Israel or Israelis” is antisemitic. Some of the most established examples of classic antisemitism are canards involving Jews controlling the media or “controlling” non-Jews.
The former Pink Floyd member has become one of the most prominent voices over the past decade in the movement to boycott Israel, and his comparisons are by no means new. In 2013 for example, Waters once again compared Israel and its Rabbinate to the Nazis, purporting that in [Israelite] eyes, non-Jews are “sub-human” and that the, “parallels with what went on in 30’s in Germany are…crushingly obvious.” Yet his antIsemitic tendencies have gone beyond words: once again in 2013 Waters dressed as a Nazi in one of his concerts; kitted with a slick leather jacket, red arm-band, and an MP40 Schmeisser– the iconic Nazi machine gun. As if the message wasn’t clear enough, the audience found itself orbited by a balloon in the shape of a pig and stamped with a Star-of-David. A clear testament to Waters’ rhetorical genius: why be covert, when you can be overt?
In a stint of greater irony, when asked about other regimes, Waters noted that he was “very concerned about Ukraine,” but rushed to add that he did not want to “demonize the Russians”. One can only wonder why he expressed no similar concerns about demonizing eight and a half million citizens of Israel. He ponders that he is “not sure there are any much harsher regimes around the world, actually, if you look at it”, somehow ignoring the widespread oppression that occurs even in the rest of the Middle East, let alone in North Korea. It is hard to imagine how such a wild distortion could not be motivated by malice. According to the Definition of Antisemitism, “applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation” is antisemitic.