By Harvey Wasserman
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Rock legend Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame received his social conscience as an inheritance. “I got it from my mother and father,” Waters, whose dad was an ardent political activist, told me.
Waters, still retaining his rock star looks as he approaches seventy, is now so involved in the Israel/Palestine issue that he devoted two full days over the weekend to being a jury member of the Russell Tribune on Palestine, which held hearings at the historic Cooper Union in New York City on the plight of the Palestinians. Waters’s fellow jury members included writer Alice Walker, activist Angela Davis, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, and Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire. (Watch for an interview with Maguire in an upcoming issue of The Progressive.)
“I’m here because I think they’re doing good work and because I think they’ll throw more light on the issue, not just for me, but for other people,” Waters, dapperly dressed in jacket and jeans, told me and other journalists in an impromptu press conference he held in the lobby. “And there is the hope that these deliberations might be part of a journey toward a possible solution.”
Waters is not used to being part of deliberative forums.
“I told the organizers that I’m not a meeting people,” he said. “This is my first meeting. When I’m in a room with people, I’m in charge. Always. So, this is completely new to me, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m very interested in this issue because I’ve been to Israel, and I’ve had a strong passion for the subject.”
Waters has gotten pushback for taking a clearly defined stance on such a controversial issue.
“I haven’t been criticized by any of my colleagues, but there’s been a knee-jerk reaction among some of my fans,” he said. “But there’s always a knee-jerk reaction from some people. For instance, ten years ago, I was touring, and one of my sons criticized George Bush. Some of my fans actually got up and walked out: ‘How dare he criticize the President of the United States! He’s not even a citizen.’ This obviously is ludicrous. You don’t have to be German to criticize the Nazis.”
Waters is pleased that a few of his fellow rock stars have joined him in his campaign to boycott Israel due to its treatment of the Palestinians.
“Elvis Costello and a number of other musicians have said that they won’t go to Israel and have made that public,” he said. “The more artists who do this, the better.”
If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of the Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Great Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm Dies."
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