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Biden administration labels Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters and his shows as 'antisemitic'

Roger Waters on stage in Hamburg, Germany (May 2023) for his "This Is Not A Drill" tour
Roger Waters on stage in Hamburg, Germany (May 2023) for his "This Is Not A Drill" tour Copyright Daniel Bockwoldt/AP
Copyright Daniel Bockwoldt/AP
By David MouriquandAP
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The US State Department weighs in on the Roger Waters antisemitism debate, saying that the artist has long history of denigrating Jews.

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The Biden administration has weighed in on the controversy over Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, saying his recent performances in Germany were antisemitic.

This assessment is shared by many in Israel and the pro-Israel community. Last month, several Jewish groups, politicians and an alliance of civil society groups gathered for a memorial ceremony and a protest rally against a concert by former Pink Floyd bassist in Frankfurt. They accuse Waters of antisemitism and criticize his support of the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israel.

Frankfurt authorities had initially tried to prevent the concert taking place, but Waters successfully challenged the move in a local court.

Now, the US State Department said that Waters has “a long track record of using antisemitic tropes" and that the concert he gave late last month in Germany “contained imagery that is deeply offensive to Jewish people and minimized the Holocaust.”

Michael Probst / AP Photo
Jewish groups protesting against Roger Waters in Frankfurt - Sunday 28 May 2023Michael Probst / AP Photo

The concert took place in Frankfurt's Festhalle where, on 9 November 1938 – Kristallnacht – more than 3,000 Jews were rounded up by the Nazis and later deported to concentration camps.

Police in Berlin previously opened an investigation of Waters on suspicion of incitement over a Nazi SS-reminiscent costume he wore when he performed in the German capital. Images on social media showed Waters firing an imitation machine gun while dressed in a long black coat with a red armband. His shows also include the names of several deceased people projected on a large screen, including Anne Frank’s.

TikTok
Roger Waters wearing a costume on stage that has been heavily criticisedTikTok

The comments by the State Department came in a written response to a question posed at a State Department press briefing earlier this week about whether the administration agreed with criticism of Rogers from the US special envoy to combat antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt.

“Special Envoy Lipstadt’s quote-tweet speaks for itself,” the department said, in reference to the following post:

“The concert in question, which took place in Berlin, contained imagery that is deeply offensive to Jewish people and minimized the Holocaust," the department said. “The artist in question has a long track record of using antisemitic tropes to denigrate Jewish people.”

Lipstadt denounced the musician by echoing comments from EU antisemitism envoy Katharina von Schnurbein, who is German. Von Schnurbein had taken issue with Waters' performance in Berlin as well as his previous comments related to Israel and the Holocaust.

“I am sick & disgusted by Roger Waters’ obsession to belittle and trivialize the Shoah & the sarcastic way in which he delights in trampling on the victims, systematically murdered by the Nazis,” von Schnurbein wrote. “In Germany. Enough is enough.”

Waters has rejected the accusations in a statement on Facebook and Instagram, saying “the elements of my performance that have been questioned are quite clearly a statement in opposition to fascism, injustice, and bigotry in all its forms.”

He claimed that ”attempts to portray those elements as something else are disingenuous and politically motivated.”

Waters has not only drawn the ire of the pro-Israel community for his outspoken support of the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israel, but has also been an outspoken critic of President Joe Biden, calling him a “f*cking slimeball”, “weak” and stating that “Trump, at least, is a snake oil salesman, he does tricks...he does them really badly, but people don’t care.”

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