Roger Waters: ‘What Israelis do to Palestinians today is comparable to how the Nazis treated Jews last time around’


Roger Waters: ‘What Israelis do to Palestinians today is comparable to how the Nazis treated Jews last time around’

FB: You’re talking about yourself being one of the only one, in your position, taking radical political positions. When it comes to Palestine, you are very open about your support for a cultural boycott of Israel. People opposing this tactic say that culture should not be boycotted. What would you answer to that?

RW: I would say that I understand their opinion. 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. Many people did, back in the day. There were many people that pretended that the oppression of the Jews was not going on. From 1933 until 1946. So this is not a new scenario. Except that this time it’s the Palestinian People being murdered. It’s the duty of every thinking human being to ask: “What can I do?”. Anybody who looks at the situation will see that if you choose not to take up arms to fight your oppressor, the non-violent route, and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S) movement, which started in Palestine with 100% support from Palestinian civil society in 2004-2005, a movement that has now been joined by many people around the world, the global civil society, is a legitimate form of resistance to this brutal and oppressive regime.

I have nearly finished Max Blumenthal’s book “Goliath: Life and Loathing in greater Israel”. It’s a chilling read. It’s extremely well written in my view. He is a very good journalist and takes great pains to make sure that what he writes is correct. He also gives a voice to the other side. 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 30’s 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. The Russell Tribunal on Palestine was trying to shed light on this when we met, I only took part in two sessions, you took part in many more. It is an extremely obvious and fundamental problem of human rights which every thinking human being should apply himself to.

The Politics of History

Today I want to review a book I have recently finished reading: The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel. Let me introduce my subject with a quote from another recent book by Nachman Ben-Yehuda, the Israeli sociologist, who writes:

“How do we perceive our culture? How do we understand ourselves as beings in need of meaning? We are socialized into and live in complex cultures from which we extract the very essence of our identity, but at the same time, we also construct these cultures. How is this process accomplished? What is the nature of those cultural processes…?

“One interesting way of exploring cultures is to examine some of the myriad contrasts that characteristically make up cultures. These contrasts set boundaries, which in turn define the variety of the symbolic-moral universes of which complex cultures are made. In turn, these symbolic-moral universes give rise to and support both personal and collective identities. There are many such contrasts, some more profound than others. There are physical contrasts, such as black/white, day/night, sea/land, mountain/valley; and there are socially and morally constructed contrasts, such as good/bad, right/wrong, justice/injustice, trust/betrayal. The contrast we shall focus on in this book ( Sacrificing Truth: Archaeology and the Myth of Masada) is a major and significant one: that between truth and falsehood. This contrast cuts across many symbolic-moral universes because it touches a quality to which we attach central importance – that between the genuine and the spurious. …

“[T]he demarcating line between that which is truth and that which is not did not leap into existence overnight, but developed gradually in Western philosophical thought over many years. …

“As scientists we must affirm that there are versions of reality which are inconsistent with, even contradictory to, “facts.” The realities which these false versions create are synthetic and misleading. …

“Adhering to social realities which are based on incorrect empirical facts and false information is – evidently – possible, but carries a heavy price tag in terms of a genuine understanding of the world in which we live. …

“…Nationalism requires the elaboration of a real or invented past…

“…Nationalist archaeology has no choice but to be political. …In cases of disputed pasts it has to become manipulative as well. Manipulating archaeology to legitimize specific pasts – real or invented – is a potent concoction to use when one wants to forge a national identity and create cohesion by fostering a strong sense of a shared past…”

This is exactly the problem that Thomas L. Thompson addresses in The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel : the creation of an invented past that was accomplished long ago, for purposes of forging a national identity among refugees. However, at the time it was originally done, the target audience understood that it was not a real “history,” but rather an ideological textbook for the future. The real problems began when another group, some time later, decided to use the same stories (handily already available), for their own imperial ambitions and presented this ideological literature as History. In short, as Thompson and others point out, the “History of Israel” was really created by European elitists seeking to colonize the world and knew a good thing when they saw it.

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The Crossroads

The mother of one of the SOTT editors recently wrote to him about my post, The Hope, which compared the background ideology of the current U.S./Israel Administration to that formulated by the Catholic Church in the creation of the Inquisition. I think she was rather incensed that I compared the arrest of the Imams to such a dark period of history. She wrote:

I agree this administration is using fear to subvert the constitution and abridge civil rights. I’m not sure we have hit the Inquisition yet and I have hopes the political process will make a difference. …. maybe I am one of those who hides my head in the sand.

She has “hopes that the political process will make a difference”.

I think that a lot of people have such hopes. A lot of people in Nazi Germany also had such hopes as Sebastian Haffner’s book “Defying Hitler” so poignantly revealed. Anyone who takes the time to watch the BBC Series about the Nazis quickly understands that the only reason the Nazis were able to ultimately do what they did was because people simply did not understand that their government had been taken over by pathological deviants and that the political process itself had been co-opted to the use of these criminals.

And the reason the German people did not understand this was lack of knowledge. This lack of knowledge led to two kinds of blindness: 1) they did not know what signs to look for; 2) even those who could see the signs and knew that they did not bode well did not fully plumb the depths of the problem.

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