Roger Waters has achieved success most can only dream of. He’s a musician. He’s an artist. He’s one of the founding members of Pink Floyd, a band loved by at least three generations. His original fans have passed down Pink Floyd’s music to their children and their grandchildren. With that success and talent comes a voice on the world stage. Waters’ fans, old and new, look up to Waters as an influencer and a role model.
Unfortunately, rather than use his unique platform as an opportunity to promote respect and improve the world, Roger Waters routinely uses his voice to spread hate. Specifically, hatred of Jews.
Over the years, when accused of anti-Semitism, Waters has falsely couched his propaganda as nothing other than scathing criticism of Israel’s policies. Most experts agree that his comments go far beyond mere disagreement with the actions and policies of a government.
In a television interview conducted this past weekend, Roger Waters identified Sheldon Adelson, a Jewish donor, as the puppet-master of the United States government. Waters also added that Adelson “believes that only Jews, only Jewish people, are completely human … and everybody else on Earth is there to serve them.”
These remarks go even further beyond the pale than his usual venom. This time, Waters decided to utilize tropes that have caused damage and death to Jews throughout history. This is the same anti-Semitic propaganda that has been spread since before medieval times: that Jews are plotting to take over the world and that Judaism is a racist religion that sees all non-Jews as non-human. Statements like these helped pave the way to the Holocaust.
And, at a time when most people of conscience are working together to take a hard look at the legacy of injustice and inequality in our country and to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of all people, Waters also falsely stated that Israel is training US police forces on how to kill black people using the technique of kneeling on the necks of their victims.
Hitler and Goebbels would be proud.
Roger Waters is a celebrity. His status gives him influence. When he speaks, generations around the world listen. A massive forum coupled with a history of hate make Roger Waters a formidable adversary.
The Florida Holocaust Museum also speaks to several generations. We teach about the Holocaust, worldwide genocide and how unchecked hatred and bigotry have led to death and suffering for most of human history. For nearly three decades, we have been sharing knowledge and tangible tools with students and visitors to help them recognize and reject intolerance, prejudice and stereotypes of people they perceive as different from themselves. One of the central lessons of the Holocaust is that we cannot become transfixed by our differences. Instead, we must focus on our shared humanity.
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While we are leaders in equipping future generations to fight old and new hatreds, we do not have the worldwide platform that comes with celebrity. We must rely on good people of conscience to stand with us and amplify our message. Here is your first task: Look around at the influencers in your community and your children’s community. Are they building bridges or are they working to divide people and foment hate? Here is your second task: Do not allow messages of intolerance to go without remark. That is another lesson of the Holocaust: When we are bystanders, when we choose to look away from injustice and lies, we empower the perpetrators and share their guilt. Instead, be an upstander. Speak up. Speak now. Together, we can be loud enough to drown out hate.
Mr. Waters is an example of someone who exploits his celebrity platform to make noise. We must work harder, and we must work together to drown out those who spread hate and propaganda like Roger Waters. It is the only way we can create a better future for our children and children’s children.
Elizabeth Gelman is executive director of The Florida Holocaust Museum and Michael Igel is its board chair.