Say “Roger Waters” these days and two words are likely to enter people’s minds: Nazi + uniform. Waters, who has a venerable track record of mixing anti-racist advocacy with his stage performances, donned a Nazi-like uniform in an anti-fascist skit at his recent “This Is Not A Drill” shows.
However, pro-Israel propagandists exploited those two words to invert the truth: “Nazi uniform” was used as code to mean “anti-Semite”, and the “respectable” media followed along blindly. The lie served the single purpose of silencing this particularly conspicuous advocate for human rights in Palestine.
The lie was a bonanza for those trying in vain to scupper last weekend’s brilliant Palestine Writes festival in Philadelphia, at which Waters was a panellist. I too was honoured to be a speaker at the festival, and my name was also invoked in articles seeking to sabotage it, but Waters is a qualitatively different case. As the one speaker whose name is widely known to the general public — world famous founder of the band Pink Floyd, and successful solo artist — the lies about Waters were parroted slavishly by the mainstream media echo chamber.
The British musician was in Philly ready to step onto the stage of the University of Pennsylvania’s Irvine Auditorium to take part in the discussion about “The Cost, Reward and Urgency of Friendship”, with Gary Younge, Viet Thanh Nguyen and Moderator Rachel Holmes. Only Nguyen and Holmes were there in person, though. Younge spoke via Zoom because his US visa was suddenly revoked at flight time, and Waters was barred outright by the university in a disgraceful capitulation to bullying, and so he also spoke by Zoom, from a lounge in Philadelphia airport.
The University of Pennsylvania subsequently — and falsely — denied barring Waters. In truth, after trying to censor him through artificial obstacles and expenses calculated to make it all but impossible to proceed, the university bluntly informed the festival organisers that, “If Roger Waters shows up, we reserve the right to cancel the festival completely.”Waters did not invent the use of Nazi regalia to warn against fascism’s horrors. In 1940, Charlie Chaplin also donned a Nazi-esque outfit — complete with a Hitler-esque moustache — in his film The Great Dictator, deservedly revered as a masterful parody against fascism and, given when it was made, anti-Semitism in particular.
Both dressed in fascist garb to counter fascism and racism in all its manifestations
The difference in style and art between Chaplin and Waters is irrelevant to the point here, though: whether or not Waters was inspired by Chaplin, his theatrical approach was identical in purpose and spirit. Both dressed in fascist garb to counter fascism and racism in all its manifestations.
And Waters, too, specifically targeted anti-Jewish racism; a huge screen announced Ann Frank, with the caption “Location: Bergen-Belsen; Crime: Being Jewish; Punishment: Death”. Yet Waters’ stark reminder of Ann Frank’s murder was turned upside-down by the media, who instead smeared him as “desecrating” Frank’s memory, because among the other emblematic murders he invoked was that of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, shot and killed by an Israeli sniper in May 2022. Waters’ anti-fascism is authentic, not hypocritically selective.
Nor, I guess, was Chaplin’s. One could well imagine that if Chaplin were alive today, he’d find himself stuck at the Philadelphia airport lounge next to Waters, both panellists at Palestine Writes, both barred from the University of Pennsylvania campus in subservience to Zionism’s brand of fascism.
The very pro-Israel and Zionist Board of Deputies of British Jews was outraged at Waters’ “anti-Semitic” skit and seized upon it to enlist support from the UK political establishment. Curiously, when in 2005 Britain’s Prince Harry was exposed as having worn a Nazi uniform to a fancy-dress party, apparently void of any noble message, the reaction of the Board of Deputies was strikingly lame: it “was clearly in bad taste” for Harry to have dressed up as a Nazi, the Board wrote.
Mel Brooks’ The Producers hit cinemas in 1967. Its story of a farcical script celebrating Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, complete with its song “Springtime for Hitler”, was viewed by some critics as tasteless and crude, but the word “anti-Semitic” was nowhere to be found, except by Brooks himself, who commented that the parody was to “get back” at anti-Semites.
Why the extraordinary noise made by Israel’s propagandists over this literary festival? The goal was clearly not simply to sabotage Palestine Writes 2023, but also to create such havoc and scandal that no other institution henceforth will agree to host any event with the word “Palestine” attached to it. The goal is that even if administrators see through the lies, they will not be able to afford the trouble of allowing events to go ahead.
The physicist Wolfgang Yourgrau, a German Jew, described Zionism in 1943 in the journal Orient thus: “The growth of Fascism in Palestine at a time when the liberated nations will put it into its grave is a tragi-comedy.” It is indeed.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.