Roger Waters Upset with Alan Parsons Over Israeli Concert

Legendary Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters has initiated a public debate with Alan Parsons, who engineered the classic Dark Side of the Moon album. The squabble was initiated by Waters, who wrote parsons several weeks ago asking him to cancel a concert scheduled for February 10th in Tel Aviv, Israel. Waters spoke of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and likened the plight of the Palestinians to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa in the 80s. Parsons politely declined the request, saying he appreciated Waters’ passion but saw the issue as a political one. Parsons wrote that “everyone – no matter where they reside, what religion they follow or what ideology they aspire to – deserves to hear (my music) if they so choose. Music knows no borders, and neither do I.” Parsons also asked Waters to keep the matter private, yet Waters published his first letter, and a subsequent reply, on his Facebook page. Parsons then published his response on his Facebook page. Check out the dialogue between the two music legends below.

First Letter from Waters to Parsons

Dear Alan,

It’s been 40 years since we worked on Dark Side of the Moon together. If you recall, I was the pimply bass player, you were the tall engineer. Congratulations on your many successes since then.

The reason for my letter today is that I see you have plans to do a gig in Tel Aviv in February. I am writing to ask you to reconsider those plans. I know you to be a talented and thoughtful man, so I assume you know of the plight of the Palestinians and that there is a growing nonviolent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement protesting against the abusive policies of the Israeli government.

The BDS movement was started by Palestinian Civil Society in 2005 as a call to people of conscience to join their freedom struggle. Since then, the BDS torch has been passed from mouth to mouth, hand to hand and heart to heart and now is spread across the globe from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, from Lapland to South Africa – and inside Israel itself. In the last year in particular it has become a moral force to be reckoned with and has provided Palestinians and their allies with a means of resisting nonviolently against colonization, discrimination, and ongoing dispossession.

BDS is a means to end the 47-year occupation of Palestinian land in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem and achieve equal basic human and political rights for all the people – Jewish and Palestinian – inside of Israel and the occupied territories.

While I know you don’t want to disappoint your fans by canceling this gig, you would be sending a powerful message to them and the world by doing so. As with Sun City, more and more artists are standing up to say they will not perform in Israel until such time as their occupation ends and equal rights are extended to Palestinians.

I ask that you consider joining me, and hundreds of thousands of others, by lending your voice to a conversation that rejects violence, embraces international law, and helps the global community pursue a just peace for all the people of the Holy Land.

Advancing a better future for Palestinians and Israelis is a matter of fundamental importance to us all. As John Lennon observed, “Life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting my friend”. I would be happy to discuss all this with you further. More food for thought, here is the public statement Nick Mason and I issued last May referencing the similarities of this campaign to the Sun City boycott in South Africa.

Your colleague,
Roger Waters

Facebook Post from Parsons with Reply

To whom it may concern – for general posting to Facebook and other social media sites as appropriate:
Roger Waters honoured my request not to publish my reply to his first letter to me, but he failed to comply with my clearly stated desire that the whole matter of his ‘problem’ with my concert in Israel should remain private between the two of us. He has now pressed his case in two open letters on his Facebook page without any published defence from me. So in the circumstances, I have decided to make my (originally personal) reply to him public – see below. I will be making no further comment on this matter and thank all our Israeli fans in advance for their loyalty, support, and for attending our show in Tel Aviv.

Alan Parsons

Dear Roger,

I appreciate your note and your passion.
However, this is a political matter and I am simply an artist. I create music, that is my raison d’être. Everyone – no matter where they reside, what religion they follow, or what ideology they aspire to – deserves to hear it if they so choose. Music knows no borders, and neither do I. Your colleague,

Second Letter from Waters to Parsons

Dear Alan,

I will honor your request not to publish your response to my letter, but note that your argument is similar to that of the few other musicians who have crossed the picket line to play in Israel.

I regret that you have decided, for now at least, to stand with the minority of artists and academics who support the policies of the current Israeli government.

But, by all means, let us continue our dialogue.

I, for my part, will be open and clear. My own decision to join BDS was formed by my experience in front of the Apartheid Wall that this and previous Israeli governments have built, and continue to build. Hopefully, should you visit the occupied territories, you will have a similar moment of insight.

I see from your bio that you played in Israel in 2010, a year after Operation Cast Lead, when you might have been forgiven for not knowing any better. Now, it is a year after Operation Protective Edge, when the al-Kilani family (see photograph accompanying this post) were killed. If we didn’t know before, we do now. If you go through with your visit maybe you will be as shaken as I was back in 2006/7.

By ignoring the boycott, you are turning your back on a beleaguered people who are desperately in need of your support. Even at this late hour, please reconsider.

Your colleague,
Roger Waters

PS: I attach for your consideration two documents. The first is a Newsweek article about a report commissioned by the Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights. It details Israel’s human rights violations (using human shields, etc.) during Israel’s bombing campaign against Gaza last Summer. Approximately 2,200 Palestinians, including over 500 children, were killed and more than 100,000 people were displaced from their homes.

Secondly, here is a report from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, which investigated 70 incidents in Gaza. In each one, at least three people were killed inside their home.

Black Flag – The legal and moral implications of the policy of attacking residential buildings in the Gaza Strip, summer 2014

*Note: To view the documents Waters is referring to, simply copy and past the links into your browser.