OAN’s Brooke Mallory
3:51 PM – Sunday, September 24, 2023
Roger Waters, a co-founder of the British rock band Pink Floyd, was recently prohibited from speaking at the University of Pennsylvania due to accusations of anti-Semitism stemming from his “Nazi-inspired outfit” and exhibition of controversial symbols during a previous show in Berlin.
The 80-year-old singer-songwriter was scheduled to participate in a panel discussion on Saturday as part of the Palestine Writes Literature Festival. However, he said in an Instagram video that he had been informed that he would instead appear via a Zoom call after arriving in the Keystone State.
“I was supposed to be taking part in a panel in a couple hours time this afternoon, but I’ve been told I’m not allowed into the Irving Arena because they made arrangements for me to attend the panel via Zoom,” Waters said. “And the fact that I came here all the way to be present, because I care deeply about the issues that are being discussed, apparently cuts no ice with campus police or whoever it is.”
According to a Friday article posted by student journalists at the school, a number of Jewish students and community members wrote to the U-Penn school administration to express their disapproval of the speakers’ alleged anti-Semitism.
Senior Eyal Yakoby said in a letter that Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar, is approaching and that the speakers’ presence on campus fosters a “hostile” atmosphere for Jewish students.
The story also stated that pro-Israel activists arrived on campus, parked Jumbotron trucks, and posted footage of some of the speakers’ prior anti-Semitic sentiments on TikTok.
However, the musician said that he was “struck” by the article’s accusations that he is anti-Semitic and that the student-run daily was using the dispute as a “diversionary tactic” even though the piece did not specifically mention Waters by name.
Waters maintained that the newspaper attempted to “play down” a Palestinian literature festival.
“If they can get you thinking and talking about anti-Semitism, then you won’t be thinking about the fact that Palestinians have no human rights in the occupied territories,” Waters said.
“This is what we should be talking about in the Daily Pennsylvanian, not whether Roger Waters is an anti-Semite or not,” he continued, speaking in third person. “And by the way, he’s not. I know he’s not. Shall I tell you how I know? I am Roger Waters and this is my heart, and it doesn’t have even the slightest flicker of anti-Semitism in it, anywhere.”
The musician has faced criticism after appearing on stage in Berlin on May 17th while sporting a red armband, a long black coat, black gloves, and black eyeglasses. The attire had a similar appearance to that of an SS officer.
However, the X platform added a fact-check excerpt, stating that the outfit was meant to imitate a character from the movie Pink Floyd: The Wall.
“Roger Waters is in-character as Pink Floyd, a rock star that overdoses and descends into madness, hallucinating he is a dictator at a fascist rally, and the audience are his supporters. It is a role famously played by Bob Geldof in the movie ‘Pink Floyd: The Wall’ (1982).”
In a following statement, the U.S. State Department said that Waters has “a long track record of using antisemitic tropes” and that his show in Berlin “contained imagery that is deeply offensive to Jewish people and minimized the Holocaust.”
However, Waters defended it, saying it was a clear statement “in opposition to fascism, injustice, and bigotry in all its forms.”
“My recent performance in Berlin has attracted bad faith attacks from those who want to smear and silence me because they disagree with my political views and moral principles,” he said.
“Attempts to portray those elements as something else are disingenuous and politically motivated. The depiction of an unhinged fascist demagogue has been a feature of my shows since Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ in 1980.”
“When I was a child after the war, the name of Anne Frank was often spoken in our house, she became a permanent reminder of what happens when fascism is left unchecked,” he continued. “My parents fought the Nazis in World War II, with my father paying the ultimate price.”
The organization Stop Antisemitism has now praised the university’s decision to ban Waters from speaking while also criticizing it for allowing him to do so in the first place.
“Bigots like Waters should never be given a stage to spew their venom, whether in person or virtually,” the organization tweeted. “This hate fest will be President Liz Magill’s legacy, and forever a stain on Penn.”
In addition to Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa, Australian author Randa Abdel-Fattah, and Palestinian author and illustrator Aya Ghanameh, who have all faced criticism for past comments, Waters was one of many people scheduled to speak at the Palestinian literature festival who were accused of being anti-Semites.
In the past, Ganameh has tweeted “Death to Israel” several times.
Abdel-Fattah previously referred to Israel as a “demonic, sick project” and expressed her eagerness for the day when its “demise will be remembered.”
Abulhawa also demanded the destruction of Israel, referring to it as “a colonial nation of degenerates” on her now-suspended account on X, previously Twitter. Just a few days after seven Jews were massacred in a shooting outside a synagogue, she declared Israel to be “one big, militarized tumor.”
However, speakers at the Palestine Writes festival completely denied being anti-Semites.
“No one at our festival is an anti-Semite… We know the difference between Judaism and Zionism, Jews and Zionists. These are not synonymous terms.”
“As a university, we also fiercely support the free exchange of ideas as central to our educational mission,” they said. “This includes the expression of views that are controversial and even those that are incompatible with our institutional values.”
The Daily Pennsylvanian later reported that university president Elizabeth Magill and other administrators had met with academic leaders and Penn Hillel student representatives to discuss the matter.
“I am personally committed more than ever to addressing antisemitism in all forms,” she wrote in a letter. “The University of Pennsylvania has a long and proud history of being a place for people of all backgrounds and faiths, and acts of antisemitism have no place at Penn.”
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