By Yves Engler
Attacks against Roger Waters are shameful. If more rock stars and celebrities were engaged like him, the world would be a fairer place.
The Toronto Star’s recent attacks against Roger Waters are shameful. The founder of Pink Floyd is a rare megastar who uses his fame and talents to challenge injustices, including pro-empire and corporate Canadian foreign policy.
In recent days Canada’s most liberal English language paper has published two columns attacking Waters headlined, “Shame on those who treat antisemite Roger Waters as rock royalty” and “Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters needs some education”.
The smears by Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre CEO Michael Levitt and columnist Rosie DiManno are part of a remarkable wave of attacks against the musician instigated by the fascistic, Jewish-supremacist, new Israeli government.
Unlike Levitt, DiManno, and even many Canadian leftists, Waters has been an ally of those struggling for a more just Canadian foreign policy.
On the eve of his show in Montreal, last summer, Waters rallied in support of McGill students who convinced 71 percent of undergraduate voters to support a Palestine Solidarity Policy committing the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) to divest from and boycott “corporations and institutions complicit in settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians.”
In response, the apartheid lobby attacked the university administration, which threatened SSMU’s financial arrangement. Under significant outside pressure, a divided SSMU invalidated their members’ democratic vote. Waters spoke alongside a young Palestinian woman representing Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill in an event that drew significant media attention to the university administration’s undemocratic and anti-Palestinian actions.
A week later B’nai Brith announced a lawsuit against Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights and SSMU for asking students to vote on Palestinian rights. Amidst his touring Waters immediately penned a powerful retort to B’nai Brith’s bullying.
Waters is being smeared largely because he’s one of the highest profile critics of a country Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say is committing the crime of apartheid. But Waters has also challenged Canadian foreign policy more broadly.
In 2020 he signed the public letter that initiated a campaign opposing the Justin Trudeau government’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. The letter criticized Canadian climate and mining policy as well as Ottawa’s role in Bolivia, Palestine and Venezuela. Waters even took time out of his busy schedule to make a video on why the international community shouldn’t support Canada. His profile and engagement boosted a campaign, which contributed to an embarrassing defeat.
Waters has supported initiatives critical of Canada’s disastrous role in Haiti. He signed the 2021 public letter “End Canada’s Support for Haiti’s Dictatorship” and a similar initiative supporting mass protests two years earlier. These letters were designed to push back against Canadian policies that have contributed to the Caribbean nation’s recent downward spiral.
Three years ago Waters spoke in a webinar with Venezuela’s Foreign Minister critical of Canadian interference in the South American nation. Popular with the media at one point, Ottawa’s effort to overthrow Venezuela’s government has been disastrous. Eighteen months ago Waters also signed a letter calling on Ottawa to stop recognizing Juan Guaidó, leave the Lima group, end its sanctions and normalize relations with Venezuela.
On Saturday Waters criticized the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’ odious effort to have the Toronto Public Library cancel a talk on “The War in Ukraine and How to Stop It”. He tweeted, “‘Hey Canada leave free speech alone’. The war in Ukraine is important, talk about it.”
Sycophants for the US empire, particularly anti-Palestinian groups, are angry Waters continues to sell out arenas and stadiums with performances steeped in struggles for social justice. Over one million will attend one of 100 performances on his current This Is Not a Drill tour. The May 25 live stream of his concert in Prague was screened at 1,500 cinemas around the world. Millions more will watch the concerts or read reviews of them.
If more rock stars and celebrities were engaged like Roger Waters the world would be a fairer place.
– Yves Engler is the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and a number of other books. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit his website: yvesengler.com.