Donate to RNS

You support BDS? I’m quitting your fan club!

'It's only rock 'n' roll, but I like it.' Not always. Not when they don't like me.

An inflatable pig, adorned with the Star of David, that appeared at a Roger Waters concert in 2013. Video screen grab

(RNS) — It popped up on my Facebook feed — the news that Elvis Costello and Nick Loewe are going to have a summer concert tour.

Sigh.

I have enjoyed Elvis Costello’s music since the 1970s. Some of his songs — “Allison,” “The Angels Want To Wear My Red Shoes” — are among my favorites. One of my favorite albums of all time is Painted From Memory, in which he collaborated with Burt Bacharach.

But, alas — I will be sitting out that tour. Neither will I be downloading any more of Mr. Costello’s music.

Why? Because Elvis Costello supports the BDS movement — the movement that advocates boycotting Israel, divesting from Israel and enforcing sanctions against Israel. (This is not true, however, of his wife, the amazing, talented Diana Krall. She is one of my favorite singers of all time, and she has brought that talent to audiences in Israel.)

I feel the same way about Roger Waters, former front man of Pink Floyd. The former Pink Floyd singer-songwriter-bassist is on the road again with a tour called “This Is Not a Drill.” This spurred a recent article in the Forward, about the connection between Waters’ politics and his music.

Because Waters, too, is a vehement supporter of BDS.

Consider the sold-out concert at the TD Garden in Boston just a few weeks ago. Before any of the musicians took the stage, there was a statement on the big black screen hanging over the stage: “If you’re here because you like Pink Floyd but you can’t stand Roger Waters’ politics, f— off to the bar.”

Yes, I would have — well, you get it — right to the bar. Except, I would not have been at the concert anyway, because I was never a fan of either Pink Floyd or Roger Waters.

Let me be clear. If you want to criticize Israel’s policies, get in line. Every Israeli friend of mine, of all political persuasions, has their pet peeve. What else do you think I discuss with them when I am in Jerusalem?

You want to criticize the occupation, now in its 55th year? You want to criticize the settlement policy? You want to criticize matters of religious freedom in Israel? You want to wail with me about the behavior of Haredi kids at the Western Wall disrupting worship services in which women are full participants?

Pull up a chair; dip your pita in my plate of hummus and go for it.

Because, my friends and I want a better Israel.

Not the BDS movement. It wants no Israel — certainly not a Jewish sovereign state. It persists in targeting pro-Israel Jews, (i.e., the vast majority of American Jewry and their institutions). It demands that Israel do what no other country in the world is asked to do — to self-immolate because of its problems.

In fact, the BDS movement has proven to be a laughable failure in affecting Israel’s economy and policies. It has only succeeded in intimidating American Jewish college students on campuses and forcing them to withdraw into their Jewish shells.

Perhaps that was their real purpose all along. To wage the war against Israel in the quads of our universities.

OK, Roger Waters is clearly anti-Israel. Does that make him antisemitic?

Not automatically. But …

In 2016, Waters narrated “The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States.” A phrase like “occupation of the American mind” conjures up conspiratorial fantasies of Jewish/Israeli control over the media. It makes ready use of antisemitic imagery.

But, even worse — and what I believe to be the slam dunk …

Let’s go back to July 18, 2013 — at a concert in Belgium. A giant inflatable pig made a guest appearance. That pig was marked with a Star of David. Waters said he included the Star of David on the inflatable pig as the symbol of “the evil of errant government.”

No, Roger. Why don’t you admit what everyone else knows? The six-pointed star symbolizes not only Israel, but the Jewish people and Judaism. Surely, you got the memo. You do not get a pass on this.

Elvis Costello, Roger Waters … I wonder how British rock stars would have felt if American rock musicians had boycotted Britain during the darkest days of the troubles in Northern Ireland. If we had boycotted British musicians — concerts, recordings, etc. — because of the U.K.’s policies in Belfast?

Finally, it makes little difference to me whether people choose to boycott these boycotters.

But, here is what I don’t understand.

On several occasions, I have expressed my anger, which borders on contempt, at Roger Waters and Elvis Costello.

One of my Jewish friends responded: “Oh, big deal! You dislike great musicians just because they’re anti-Israel? So what if Roger put a Star of David on a pig? That’s a reason to boycott his music?”

It’s the “just because” that throws me.

My response: If a rock star publicly stated that he or she thought LGBTQ people should not have equal access to marriage and creating families, would you attend that person’s concert?

If an actor or actress was anti-immigration, would you watch that person’s movies?

Had we not already decided that Mel Gibson’s antisemitism had made him persona non grata?

How, then, is this different?

My response left my friend with his mouth open.

I still await his answer.

Donate to Support Independent Journalism!

Donate Now!