The Pink Floyd guitarist penned a letter to fellow musicians and artists urging them to join him in a cultural boycott against Israeli policies.
Renowned Pink Floyd guitarist Roger Waters has penned a letter to fellow musicians and artists urging them to join him in a cultural boycott against Israeli policies, including the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The musician who helped the British band Pink Floyd sell 250 million albums worldwide has become more outspoken against Israeli policies in recent years, supporting economic boycotts in support of Palestinian self-determination and equal rights. Waters hopes to add a few names to the growing list of prominent artists who have canceled performances in Israel or at pro-Israel events over the past few years, including Stevie Wonder, Carlos Santana and Gil Scott Heron.
“I write to you now, my brothers and sisters in the family of Rock and Roll, to ask you to join with me, and thousands of other artists around the world, to declare a cultural boycott on Israel,” Waters wrote in the letter, dated Aug. 18. The letter was reportedly drafted in July, but was publicly released this week.
Waters has become a leading spokesman for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement that was launched in 2005 by Palestinian organizations calling upon corporations, academic institutions and governments to carry out non-violent economic boycotts against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Many BDS supporters look to the global anti-apartheid movement that helped bring down the white supremacist South African government in 1994 as inspiration. In the decades leading up to the collapse of South African apartheid, many American universities and cultural institutions cut economic ties with South Africa, applying pressure upon the government to abandon it’s policies of segregation and discrimination against Black citizens.
“Please join me and all our brothers and sisters in global civil society in proclaiming our rejection of Apartheid in Israel and occupied Palestine, by pledging not to perform or exhibit in Israel or accept any award or funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights,” Waters wrote.
BDS protests have taken on varying forms in recent years with some protest groups, like CodePink focusing upon boycotts of companies like Ahava and Sodastream that produce products in West Bank settlements using stolen Palestinian resources.
The BDS movement may still be in its incipient stages, but pressure from its supporters have already changed the policies of some governments, including the European Union, which decided last month to bar all future grants, funding, prizes and scholarships from Israeli institutions located in the West Bank.
The decision only affects a small part of the robust EU-Israel economic relations, but elicited a hostile response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said, “We will not accept any external diktats about our borders. This matter will only be settled in direct negotiations between the parties.”
The EU decision followed a string of notable corporate divestments, including a decision by investment TIAA-CREF, to drop Caterpillar from its Social Choice Funds portfolio last year. The investment fund sold its $73 million investment in the company because of pressure from BDS supporters who decry Israel’s use of Caterpillar bulldozers to destroy Palestinian homes.
Waters seeks to bolster a trend of boycotts by prominent musicians in recent years, including a recent boycott by Grammy Award-winning musician Stevie Wonder, who canceled a performance at an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fundraiser last year.
Wonder issued a statement after his announcement to cancel the performance, saying, “I am, and always have been, against war, any war, anywhere.”
It’s a wedge that has divided the artistic community. Many prominent artists including Alicia Keys, Elton John, Madonna and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have performed in Israel in recent years despite pressure from BDS supporters.
On the academic side, BDS has not been without its critics, including prominent professors Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky — both strong supporters of Palestinian rights, but skeptics when it comes to the use of boycotts to achieve changes in Israeli policies.