On September 5, I attended a sadly compelling event on leftist anti-Semitism presented by Fred Litwin’s Free Thinking Film Society. The evening began with a screening of “Whitewashed: Anti-Semitism in the British Labour Party” by London-based David Hirsh, a professor at Goldsmiths University, and continued with a panel discussion featuring Hirsh and Terry Glavin, a columnist with the National Post.
Both Hirsh, a member of the Labour Party, and Glavin come from left-wing backgrounds and spoke sadly and bitterly about the anti-Semitism, often masked as anti-Zionism, which has been adopted by some leftists – particularly on the far left.
One of those leftists is rock star Roger Waters, the former front man of Pink Floyd, who is coming to Ottawa to perform a concert on October 10 at the Canadian Tire Centre during his cross-Canada tour.
Waters is probably the world’s best known anti-Zionist rock star. A leading proponent of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, Waters, has for years been launching campaigns whenever major artists announce a concert date in Israel to bully them into cancelling.
It seems to me that an artist who accepts a concert date in Israel has already taken a stand rejecting BDS. And while a few, most notably Elvis Costello, have cancelled concerts in Israel following pressure from Waters and his followers, the list of artists who have stood up to him and rejected BDS is much longer. Just a few of the major artists who have gone ahead with their concerts in Israel in recent years are the late Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Madonna, and Diana Krall (who is married to Elvis Costello), among many others.
BDS proponents like to paint themselves as simply human rights activists standing up on behalf of oppressed Palestinians. In fact, it has been shown time and again that BDS is a movement to delegitimize the very existence of the State of Israel. BDS is not a movement interested in establishing a Palestinian state living in peace with Israel (which goes a long way in explaining why the Palestinian Authority rejects BDS) – it is a movement that wants to eliminate Israel. And this is why anti-Semitism is at the root of the BDS movement.
As I’ve said before, I don’t believe that all BDS supporters are anti-Semitic, or anti-Semitic in their intent. But anti-Semitism is at the root of the BDS movement because it unilaterally stigmatizes the world’s only Jewish state with all responsibility for the situation of the Palestinians. It absolves the Palestinians themselves of any and all responsibility. Renowned human rights activist Irwin Cotler, a former justice minister of Canada and legendary professor of law at McGill University, refers to this stigmatization as “the new anti-Semitism” in which Israel is singled out as “the Jew among nations.”
And sometimes the anti-Semitism of BDS proponents is explicit. Roger Waters, for example, has been known to paint Stars of David on the giant inflatable pig that he floats above the arena during his concerts. There is no escaping the meaning of that symbolism.
In advance of Waters’ Canadian tour, CIJA – the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs – has launched an online campaign calling for Canadians to tell Waters to leave Israel alone. There is a brief video about Waters and BDS (including a surprising revelation) that you can see at www.cija.ca/bdsishate and add your name to the list of Canadians rejecting Waters’ stand.
Filmmaker and author Ian Halperin, who grew up in Montreal, has a new film, “Wish You Weren’t Here,” about contemporary anti-Semitism with a focus on Waters. B’nai Brith Canada has arranged for the film to be shown in major cities on the same night Waters performs. In Ottawa it will be shown on October 10 at Cineplex Cinemas Ottawa at 3090 Carling Avenue. Visit www.bnaibrith.ca/rogerwaters for more information or tickets.
I think it’s a mistake, though, to show the film on the same nights as Waters’ concerts because there is then no chance of opening the eyes of some of his fans to what he is about. The film should have been scheduled for a night or two in advance of Waters coming to town so that they would have had a chance to see it.
On behalf of myself and the staff and columnists of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, I wish everyone Shana Tova. May you have a Peaceful, Sweet and Happy New Year.