Don’t need no education? Shallow Waters really does

December 19, 2013 17:00

When I was growing up, Roger Waters and his band Pink Floyd were considered self-indulgent rock dinosaurs by any self-respecting hipster.

Punk rock was supposed to sweep aside this sort of pretentious nonsense and replace it with snappier, more politically engaged song-writing.

It never quite happened like that. Nearly four decades later, Roger Waters is still there, self-indulgent as ever, but now with pretensions of political engagement himself, as his latest comments on Israel show.

According to a statement from the 70-year-old musician, the Israeli state’s treatment of the Palestinians is akin to the Holocaust. Parallels between the present situation in Israel and 1930s Germany are “crushingly obvious”, he says.

But only if you are the sort of overgrown adolescent who writes lyrics such as: “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.”

Such is his passion for the Palestinian people that Mr Waters now likes to fly a giant pig-shaped balloon decorated with a star of David over his concert performances in a bloated stadium-rock version of a Der Stürmer. cartoon.

For those anti-Zionists who feel comforted by thinking in clichés, Israel will always be a bit like Nazi Germany, or a bit like apartheid-era South Africa, and anyone who speaks up for the Palestinian people will be immediately gagged.

The genuine and very specific suffering of the Palestinians at the hands of Israel and its Arab neighbours is conveniently ignored by such “crushingly obvious” comparisons.

The failings of the Israeli state are many but it has never engaged in genocide, nor does its rabbinate believe the Palestinians are sub-human, as Mr Waters also suggested. It is this kind of simple-minded rhetoric that drives the cultural boycott of Israel.

My old friend Jo-Ann Mort, the vice-chair of Americans for Peace Now, was quoted in the Observer at the weekend, calling for international musicians to come to Israel and “speak their mind to audiences about the nation’s successes and failures”.

This strikes me as eminently sensible. She also drew attention to the work of Israeli star David Broza and his forthcoming album East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem.

It is even possible that Roger Waters will listen it to it, as it includes a cover-version of his own song Mother, along with protest songs such as Timmy Thomas’s Why Can’t We Live Together? and Nick Lowe’s What’s so Funny ’bout Peace, Love and Understanding?

The man who “didn’t need no education” could learn something from the generous, collaborative and politically astute approach of his Israeli counterpart.

December 19, 2013 17:00

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