Musician Roger Waters is known for his elaborate stage shows and for his contributions to the rock group Pink Floyd. Unfortunately, he has also made a name for himself as a vocal supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, and as a relentless critic of Israel. In fact, he is known for applying not-so-subtle pressure on fellow performers to boycott Israel and to keep the Jewish state off their tour itineraries.
So when Waters was scheduled to play in Washington recently, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington saw an opportunity. It developed a plan to draw attention to Waters’ apparent anti-Semitism (one of his stage props on an earlier tour was a giant pig emblazoned with a Star of David; and in an interview he compared Israel to Nazi Germany), but in a way that was utterly unlike Waters.
Where some Waters’ critics might want to picket Waters’ performance, or somehow boycott it, JCRC chose to counter Waters’ hate speech with more speech. In a week’s time, it produced a video that emphasized the uniting nature of music and the flaw in Waters’ thinking.
“It’s too bad that Roger Waters doesn’t understand that peace can only be achieved through dialogue and engagement. BDS will not bring peace,” the video says. “BDS is not the answer. More dialogue, more respect, more music is.”
Even if that message does nothing to soften Waters’ heart or to persuade him to look a little more carefully at his BDS campaign, the video succeeded in other ways: It spread its message to tens of thousands of viewers over multiple platforms on social media, and it prompted discussion on how to respond to the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic messages of BDS supporters.
In recognition of the effectiveness of the effort, JCRC’s video is being used as a model in other Jewish communities that want to make their own Roger Waters rebuttal video — or simply to use the JCRC version, but change the label to the Jewish community using it. That’s an impressive return on investment.
According to Ron Halber, the executive director of JCRC, the goal of the video was to “condemn the anti-Semitic imagery of Waters and to show the Jewish community and beyond about BDS’ nefarious intent of delegitimization of Israel.” If that were all it accomplished, the video would have been a success. But there is another element to the effort that is worth observing: The approach was something new for the agency, and unexpected. JCRC’s willingness to experiment with new ways of communicating with the public reflects an openness to fresh ideas — something Roger Waters seems to lack.
We are proud of our JCRC.