Palestinians urge Roger Waters to boycott Israel

(Gold9472: I thought Pink Floyd was back together... )

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
Published: 09 March 2006

Roger Waters, a founder member of the rock group Pink Floyd, is under pressure to cancel a planned concert in Tel Aviv in June as a protest against Israeli policy towards the Palestinians.

A group of Palestinian political activists, cultural organisations and their supporters have backed a letter to Mr Waters, who has expressed strong opposition to the 450-mile separation barrier being built by Israel. They urge him to remove the city from his summer tour this year.

The letter, which is supported, among others, by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, urges Waters not to perform in Israel "until the time comes when it ends its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory".

Waters showed no sign last night that he would bow to the pressure . He said: "I am happy to play to anybody who believes in peace. I don't discriminate between any of my fans, wherever they live. Being an Israeli does not disbar from being a human being."

The campaign to prevent Waters appearing in Israel follows several high-profile cultural skirmishes involving British public figures that began with last year's short-lived academic boycott and the recent announcement by a group of British architects that they were considering calling for a boycott of Israel.

The latter initiative has run into trouble after the leading British architect Richard Rogers, in whose offices the group's inaugural meeting took place, denied he had supported a boycott. There have been calls by American politicians for him to be dropped from a $1.7m (£1m) project to renovate a New York convention centre named after the late Jacob Javits, a Republican senator and strong supporter of Israel.

A number of British musicians have performed in Israel in recent years including, most recently, Phil Collins who held a concert in Tel Aviv last November without much controversy.

Omar Barghouti, of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, said yesterday: "We are appealing to Roger Waters because we feel that a principled and conscientious artist like him, who is on record opposing Israel's illegal wall, would be more accommodating to our perspective, to our moral argument." Mr Barghouti, a choreographer, said that supporters of the call would not be satisfied if Waters agreed to perform in a Palestinian location. He said: "We do not wish to become a fig leaf for anyone who does not mind becoming complicit in Israel's crimes ... Performing in Israel as if it were normal, as if it were not building a monstrous colonial wall ... is simply unacceptable."

Waters has long associated his name with various causes. His father, though a pacifist, was killed in the Anzio landings during the Second World War. After the International Court of Justice ruled against Israel's separation barrier in 2004 Waters endorsed a War on Want campaign against the wall, declaring that the poverty inflicted by [it] had been "devastating for Palestinians".