Looming Roger Waters Concert Draws Ire From Jewish Residents, Threaten To Picket - 27 East

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Looming Roger Waters Concert Draws Ire From Jewish Residents, Threaten To Picket

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author on Oct 20, 2015

Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters may soon have a taste of his own medicine, or so say a number of Jewish residents on the East End who have a message for the musician: His anti-Israel sentiments are not welcome.

Mr. Waters—a part-time Bridgehampton resident whose albums “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall” are two of the best-selling records of all time—is scheduled for a sold-out performance on Friday, October 30, at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, part of G.E. Smith’s “Portraits” concert series. Some local Jewish residents, including those who support the not-for-profit venue, say they refuse to stand idly by.

“I am tired of being pushed around and saying nothing,” Sag Harbor resident and art dealer Ruth Vered, formerly of Vered Art Gallery in East Hampton, said last week. “So, let me tell you something: It is not freedom of speech, it is freedom of hate,” she added, referencing Bay Street Theater’s position on First Amendment rights in relation to Mr. Waters’s upcoming concert.

Some of Mr. Waters’s performances have included a large, pig-shaped balloon stamped with the Star of David, which inflates at the end of the concert. Mr. Waters has said he is anti-Israel, not anti-Semitic, and that the Star of David represents the Israeli government, not the Jewish people.

In 2006, he signed his name on the Israeli West Bank barrier, which separates Palestine from Israel, and included a lyric from “The Wall”: “We don’t need no thought control.” That visit sparked an activist streak that has continued in the years since. Earlier this month, Mr. Waters, who has undertaken a slew of public anti-Israel initiatives and is boycotting Israel, made headlines by calling on rocker Jon Bon Jovi to cancel a concert he and other artists planned in Tel Aviv, linking it to support of violence against Palestinians.

Most notable is his active and ongoing participation in the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, or BDS, which aims to embargo Israeli exports as well as corporations that deal with Israel in order to put political and economic pressure on the country—its ultimate goal is to end what it calls Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

Tracy Mitchell, the executive director of Bay Street Theater, said musicians are not interviewed on their political views before they perform.

His Halloween show at Bay Street is not Mr. Waters’s first performance on the East End, where he has lived part time for years. Just this past summer, he participated in the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival as a narrator of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale.”

“We will welcome his musical talents, and that does not mean that we endorse his political views,” Ms. Mitchell said on Monday. “We are committed to the right to free speech. He is not coming here to talk about Israel, he is coming here to play music.”

Taylor Barton, the producer and curator of “Portraits”—who is married to Mr. Smith—added that Mr. Waters is a “brilliant” musician, which is why he was asked to participate in the series. “We are not doing anything political,” she said on Monday. “We are doing music.”

“What I want to do is boycott him,” said Ms. Vered, who has suggested picketing the performance. “I want the people to understand that they have to stand for their rights and their honor, and not stand for people who are Jew haters.”

Goldie Baumgarten, co-director of Chabad of East Hampton, explained that anti-Semitic and anti-Israel opinions often take on the same meaning, especially in this case—considering Mr. Waters has said that Israel does not belong to Jewish people.

“It is not condonable to put Israel like the villains, when all they are doing is trying to protect themselves and trying to make peace with people who just want to murder them,” Ms. Baumgarten said, adding that she plans to picket his performance as well. “It is a terrible accusation, a terrible thing to say. It is lies, and it is revising history as it happens.”

Neil Fagan, director of Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, said he is unsure picketing is the answer, but said perhaps the theater should note in the program that it does not support Mr. Waters’s views. “He is not correct in what he is trying to do,” he said of Mr. Waters urging musicians to cancel their concerts in Israel. “Musical performers are wonderful, and they bridge the gap between political problems.”

He noted that many goods used every day in the United States are made in Israel, including medicine, and, ultimately, Mr. Waters is boycotting those things, too. “He is very narrow-minded,” he said.

Music knows no borders, and perhaps local Jewish residents can send a message by allowing Mr. Waters’s music to be heard by those who wish to hear it, while ensuring Bay Street clearly states that it does not condone his views, Mr. Fagan said. “He is a top performer. We should not to stoop to his level and try to boycott him from being here.”

Ms. Mitchell said that she was not even aware of Mr. Waters’s views until she was recently alerted to them, and that his performance is simply a night to celebrate music. In the future, the theater could host a dialogue encouraging community members to express their views on this topic, she said.

“He is one of the top musicians of our day and has been for 40 years,” she said, “and that’s what he is coming for.”

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