Ever the one to recognize the correlation between global political issues and the music community, Roger Waters recently published his letter to Neil Young, in which he implores the musician to cancel his band’s upcoming concert at Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv, Israel. Waters sent Young the letter vis-à-vis Young‘s manager, Elliott Roberts, which was left unanswered. Neil Young & Crazy Horse have a show July 17 in Tel Aviv as part of their current tour. This call to action is not out of the ordinary for Waters who, back in May 2014, wrote a similar letter to Rolling Stone, urging them to cancel a first-ever festival they scheduled in Israel. Roger’s caveats are usually met with accusation of antisemitism, like the infamous pig controversy during his The Wall tours.
The floating pig depicted many different corporate and religious iconography.
He is firm that it is “propagandist machines” that he’s against, not the Jewish faith.
The music community is no stranger to persnickety performance dates in the Middle East; The Pixies had to cancel a show in 2010 due to military conflict affecting the Gaza area. However, they recently made the decision to rebook gigs in Israel, playing two concerts this past June in Tel Aviv along with Soundgarden. Stevie Wonder cancelled an appearance at the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces Gala in 2012. Psybient collective , Shpongle (live), was forced to cancel a desert concert, which fortunately was rescheduled later, although the location remained undisclosed until 2 weeks prior to the event, most likely due to potential security issues/threats.
Waters‘ letter to Young has a similar tone to the one he penned to Rolling Stone, including his usual references to Apartheid in South Africa, as well as propagandist practices. The letter to Neil Young is a bit more intimate, beginning with a short description of his respect for the musician, and mentions of past musical legends who had an “agreement”, of sorts, not to perform in Israel. This letter also includes a supporting quote from the late Nelson Mandela, “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”.
Here is the letter, posted to Waters’ Facebook page:
“Dear Neil Young,
There are rumors flying about that you are considering doing shows in Tel Aviv this year.
The picket lines have been crossed in this last year by one or two lightweights from our community but no one of your stature. Woody Guthrie would turn in his grave. Neil Young! You are one of my biggest heroes, you are one of a very short list, you, John Lennon, Woody Guthrie, Huddy Ledbetter, Harry Belafonte, Sam Cooke, Billie Holiday and, like some others, but not many, your songs have always been redolent of love and humanity and compassion for your fellow man and woman. I find it hard to believe that you would turn your back on the indigenous people of Palestine. That you would lend support to, and encourage and legitimize, with your presence, a colonial apartheid regime, largely settled from Europe, that seeks to confine the native people of the land, either in exile or in second class status in reservations and ghettos.
Please, brother, tell me it ain’t so.
As I recall, back in the day, along with the rest of us (Stevie van Zandt, Bruce, Led Zep etc etc etc etc) you would not “Play In Sun City” I am asking you to stand on the same moral ground now. The late, great, Nelson Mandela lives on in us, we cannot let him down. He was explicit in his position and I quote, ” We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”. It is time for “Rock Against Racism” to show some of it’s muscle by refusing to lend our names to the whitewashing of the illegal colonization of Palestinian land and the systematic oppression of its indigenous people. Unfortunately the opposition lobby has a lot of muscle too. They spend millions on their “Hasbara”(If like me you have no Hebrew)”Explaining” or to you and me “Propaganda”. The propaganda machine is well oiled and ruthless. We, on the other hand, have only our commitment to non-violent resistance to lie down in front of the IDF caterpillar tractors that would raze the native people from the land of Palestine. We stand with those people, and with all the brave people of Israel and Palestine, Jewish and Arab alike who oppose The Israeli Governments brutal policies. We stand with Rachel Corrie, the young American woman who gave her life under the caterpillar’s tracks. Please join me and countless other artists all over the world in solidarity with the oppressed and the disenfranchised. It is time to heed the peoples call. People like The Bedouin, the nomadic people of the Negev in the arid south of Israel, please research their plight, one village, Al-Araqib has been destroyed 63 times by IDF Bulldozers. If you are in doubt about any of this, I will go with you to Palestine, and Israel, if they’ll let me in, you will see what I have seen, and then let us figure out the right thing to do.
By the way I watched your Bridge School concert on YouTube last year, it was very moving, you were, of course magnificent. You had asked me to perform, and as I explained to your management, I would have gladly done so had I not already been committed to The Wall Tour in Europe and Stand Up For Heroes in New York. This year I will be pleased and proud to come and support you if you call.
With respect, and love.
Fyi. Nice Christmas present.”
Not all performers participate in the boycott of peformances in Israel. Here are some artists to have performed in the country in recent years: The Black Eyed Peas (2006); Aerosmith (2009); Elton John and Metallica (separately, both in 2010; Paul Simon (2011); Lady Gaga (2012); Red Hot Chilli Peppers (2012), etc. The Chilli Peppers performed in 2012, as a sort of homage to their late founding member, Hillel Slova (born in Israel), 11 years after cancelling a gig in 1988. Artists who make the decision to perform in Israel have the support of the Creative Community for Peace (CCP), started in 2011 by music and film industry members. Ozzy and Sharon Osborne have shown pride in performing in Israel, yet with neutral intentions.
“Music goes beyond politics because it is the international language of the world.” – Sharon Osborne
[Sources: JamBase; The Huffington Post; JNS.org]