Musician Roger Waters has apologised for “evoking an antisemitic trope” in relation to a Jewish billionaire and for suggesting that Israelis trained US police in restraint manoeuvres such as killed unarmed black man George Floyd.
Waters, who co-founded the band Pink Floyd, was quick to issue a lengthy apology for comments he made in an interview with the Middle East Media Research Institute earlier this week. He posted the apology on his website, titled ‘A note from Roger: Just to be clear.’
The star’s mea culpa referred to him calling wealthy casino owner and Republican donor Sheldon Adelson the “puppet master pulling the strings of [US president] Donald Trump, [US Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo, and what’s his name, the ambassador [to Israel, David Friedman].
Adelson owns a popular Israeli newspaper and has a long history of supporting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as various pro-Israel Republican politicians in the US, while Waters has a long history of criticising Israel.
Describing Adelson as a “right-wing fascist racist bigot who doesn’t understand the first thing about the idea that human beings might have rights,” Water said the casino owner “believes that only Jews – only Jewish people – are completely human, that they are attached in some way… everybody else on Earth is there to serve them”.
Waters continued, saying: “Sheldon Adelson believes this. I’m not saying Jewish people believe this. I am saying that he does, and he is pulling the strings.
“So he has this strange – he thinks – Biblical construct in his head, that somehow everything will be all right in the world if there is a Greater Israel, which takes up the whole historic Palestine and the Kingdom of Jordan – puts it all together and calls it Israel and gives it only to the chosen people.”
Apologising, Waters said: “I had no idea that I was evoking an antisemitic trope. I regret any harm or hurt my use of words caused Jewish people, and also any ways it may have reinforced damaging lies about Jews. Nothing could have been further from my intentions.”
Waters also apologised for suggesting that Israeli police, while training their US counterparts, had “introduced… the knee/carotid artery choking technique that was used in the murder of George Floyd” – emphatically denied by Israel.
“A friend I called for guidance on this… told me that Israel does not train US police in tactics like those used to kill George Floyd,” he said. “They don’t have to.”
An English singer-songwriter, the 75-year old Waters has supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for nine years and regularly speaks out against Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, but has been accused of over-stepping the mark in his campaigning.
In 2013, during one of his concerts, he unfurled a giant helium-filled pig with a Star of David emblazoned on the side, with Jewish leaders criticised as antisemitic.