Roger Waters: Stop Denying the Hamas Atrocities of October 7

Gideon Levy / Haaretz

Dear Roger,

I’m permitting myself to write you an open letter, following your words about the war, words that evoked a wave of scathing criticism in Israel, depicting you as an antisemite. You don’t deserve such criticism. In an interview to the Argentinian newspaper Pagina 12 last week, you said that you know what is in your heart. “I have not had a single antisemitic thought in my entire life,” you said.

I too have never felt a trace of antisemitism flowing in your blood. You were and remain the gigantic Roger Waters, the artist and inspiring man of conscience. But this time, you are wrong.

Dr. Eran Naftali, a physics lecturer at Tel Aviv University I am not acquainted with, gave me the exchange of words the two of you had. You wrote some harsh statements about what Israel is doing in Gaza, saying that "Israel doesn’t have the right to issue a parking ticket in Gaza let alone commit genocide," and I couldn’t agree with you more.

And then you immediately repeated what you had said in earlier interviews, that "we don’t know all the detail of what happened. In my view all accounts are fishy. The Israeli account contains stories of beheaded babies, many raped women burned beyond recognition. … Fishy? These early stories were completely discredited but the damage was done. We know more now."

You added that "There is also a lot of evidence that the IDF, arriving late for the battle indiscriminately slaughtered friend and foe alike. …. Also, speaking of fishy, why didn’t the IDF hear them coming? I don’t know what actually happened, I’m curious though. Is curiosity a crime?"

And then you ended with what I too believe with all my heart, namely that "the unbearable pain will remain until Israel and the USA and all the rest of the complicit nations, accept and implement, equal human and civil and religious rights for all our brothers and sisters irrespective of their ethnicity or religion or nationality from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea and hopefully, beyond."

I would like to dwell on the persistent doubts you cast regarding the events of October 7. An atrocity took place there, Roger, an atrocity the likes of which we have never seen in the bleeding history of this conflict. This atrocity has a context, which is the criminal blockade and the religious fundamentalism which arose in its shadow, but no context in the world can justify such barbarism.

I am not relying on Israeli reports, which you doubt, sometimes justifiably. I went to Kibbutz Be’eri on the morning after the massacre, and to the site of the outdoor dance party in Re’im Park, to the town of Sderot and to Kibbutz Nir Oz. I saw it all with my own eyes. I saw the trails of blood, the burned houses, the bodies strewn all over and the smell of death everywhere. It was awful. No person or country deserved something like that.

The modest living rooms in Be’eri probably contained many Pink Floyd records; some of the victims grew up on “The Dark Side of the Moon.” In these sites of murder, you and the music you created were much admired. One cannot play innocent and cast doubt on the extent of evil committed there.

It doesn’t even matter how many women were raped and whether babies were beheaded. It was mass murder, cruel, indiscriminate, a deliberate murder of innocents, of the elderly and women, men and infants, partygoers and kibbutzniks who read Haaretz and believed in peace with Gaza.

I am the last person to treat Israel’s crimes lightly, including the ones it is now committing in Gaza. It deserves the most scathing criticism and to be punished. But to doubt what happened to it is patently immoral. When you finish your astounding global concert tour; when you finish celebrating your 80th birthday, having become the moral compass for millions of people, you cannot but openly recognize what happened in southern Israel, with no ifs and buts.

One atrocity does not justify others. Anyone who is shocked by the scenes of destruction at Shifa Hospital, as I am, cannot but be shocked by the sights of Be’eri and the park the party was held in.

In the summer of 2015, the two of us sat barefooted in your house, late at night. You improvised on your wonderful “Wish You Were Here.” I wish you were here, dear Roger. I’d take you and show you the horrendous sights in the south, and then we’d go together to Gaza and see the horrendous sights there. The horror is both here and there. You must recognize that.