U.S. weighs in on Roger Waters antisemitism debate, says artist has long history of denigrating Jews
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is weighing in on the controversy over Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, saying his recent performances in Germany were antisemitic, an assessment shared by many in Israel and the pro-Israel community.
The State Department said Tuesday that Waters has “a long track record of using antisemitic tropes” and a concert he gave late last month in Germany “contained imagery that is deeply offensive to Jewish people and minimized the Holocaust.”
The comments came in a written response to a question posed at Monday’s State Department press briefing about whether the administration agreed with criticism of Rogers from the U.S. special envoy to combat antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt.
“Special Envoy Lipstadt’s quote-tweet speaks for itself,” the department said.
“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.”
In a May 24 tweet after the concert in Berlin, during which Waters appeared on stage in a costume reminiscent of Nazi-era Germany, Lipstadt denounced the musician by echoing comments from EU antisemitism envoy Katharina von Schnurbein, who is German.
“I wholeheartedly concur with @EUAntisemitism ’s condemnation of Roger Waters and his despicable Holocaust distortion,” Lipstadt wrote in reply to a tweet from von Schnurbein.
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.”
Shortly after the concert, police in Berlin said they had opened an investigation of Waters on suspicion of incitement over the costume he wore.
Images on social media showed Waters firing an imitation machine gun while dressed in a long black coat with a red armband. Police confirmed that the costume could constitute a glorification, justification or approval of Nazi rule and therefore a disturbance of the public peace.
Waters rejected those 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 also drawn the ire of the pro-Israel community for his outspoken support of the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israel.
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