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Roger Waters, A Man And An Exceptional Artist

By Silvia Cattori

08 February, 2011

In a world where, from Palestine to Iraq via Afghanistan, so many innocent people are brutalized by barbarian armies, humiliated, bereft of hope, freedom, and human dignity, the voice of artists with the integrity to lend their talent and signature to say no to savagery, is a beacon of hope.

David Gilmore (left) and Roger Waters (right) reunited on July 10, 2010 during a concert in Kidlington for the benefit of Palestinian children.

Roger Waters, the legendary bassist, guitarist and singer of the now disbanded mythical group Pink Floyd, is one of those exceptional artists with that kind of courage.

“Entertaining people has never interested me, what I want is to move them”, he is in the habit of saying.

Admired well beyond the world of rock, sensitive to the plight of peoples who are oppressed by the mighty and crushed by unequal struggles, Roger Waters has an important message to convey. He has dedicated his albums to those “fallen in war”. For him to speak of the suffering generated by war “is to help prevent them, and stop them”.

In 1979, the album “The Wall”, for which he wrote the lyrics and the music, became the anthem of a whole generation. It was a time when the antiwar movement was still strong. It is now dormant. Roger Waters, thoughtful and passionate as he is, knows he has to play his part in rekindling the flame.

Roger Waters plays Happiest Days Of Our Lives and Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2 (live) [1]

“When we released this album, it was at the end of the Vietnam War. Today, we are in the middle of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In ‘The Wall’ there was a powerful antiwar message: the message that existed at the time of its release is still there today”, he said recently. He cannot bear to see entire nations thrown into senseless, unjustified wars of increasing cruelty and devastation and remain unmoved. This gives significance to his upcoming tour: “THE WALL TOUR”:

“What it comes down to for me is this: Will the technologies of communication in our culture, serve to enlighten us and help us to understand one another better, or will they deceive us and keep us apart?

I believe this is still a supremely relevant question and the jury is out. There is a lot of commercial clutter on the net, and a lot of propaganda, but I have a sense that just beneath the surface understanding is gaining ground. We just have to keep blogging, keep twittering, keep communicating, keep sharing ideas. (…)

This new production of “The Wall” is an attempt to draw some comparisons, to illuminate our current predicament, and is dedicated to all the innocent lost in the intervening years. (…)

I believe we have at least a chance to aspire to something better than the dog-eat-dog ritual slaughter that is our current response to our institutionalized fear of each other. (…)

I feel it is my responsibility as an artist to express my, albeit guarded, optimism, and encourage others to do the same.”

And to do justice to the victims of wars, Roger Waters has invited the families concerned to exhibit at concerts photos of their lost loved ones:

“I make this request to you in light of my belief that many of these tragic losses of life are avoidable. I feel empathy with the families of all the victims and anger at ‘THE POWERS THAT BE’, who are responsible, in equal measure.

Humans need the protection of the rule of law. The trick would be for us to agree upon what the law should be now, (something we have been working on for a few hundred years), but also to agree that as we develop our understanding of both ourselves and our surroundings, we will have insights and may need to modify the laws that govern us. The law should not be written in stone. Please take note all followers of Moses and other dead prophets.

This leads me neatly to my next point. In my view, religion provides a wall between us and the reality of our lives. Also, there is a wall between: rich and poor, North and South, the Old and New Worlds and the Third World. It is a wall of fear and greed!

There is enough of everything in the world for us all to have enough to eat, to be warm and dry and to have a colour TV and a car. We are taught to fear that if we share what we have with them [the poor], we won’t have anything left for us. We also fear that they may try to take what we have away from us, so we spend way more than they would need to feed, house, clothe, and educate themselves, on weapons to prevent them from taking what we have away from us.

There is another wall between us and the reality of our lives. This wall is called the the media. This wall is a tool that is used to divert us from inconvenient truths” [2]

Roger Waters backs his words with actions.

In June 2006–heeding the call from the Palestinian BDS movement–he refused to perform in Tel Aviv [3], thereby adhering to the boycott against Israel. He explained: “The suffering endured by the Palestinian people during the forty years of Israeli occupation is unimaginable for us who live in the West; I support their fight for freedom. I changed the venue of the concert, which was due to take place at Neve Shalom, in solidarity with the voices of reason, Palestinians or Israelis, that seek a non-violent path toward a just peace”.

Incidentally, Leonard Cohen refused a similar appeal and in 2009 chose to perform in Tel Aviv [4]; that’s what makes all the difference.

In June 2009, Roger Waters went to occupied Palestine where he visited the small refugee camp of Aida [5]. After his trip he said [6] :

“People who haven’t actually seen this, what’s going on here, can’t actually imagine the impression that it has on you, the sick, kind of churning feeling that you get in your very heart when you see this, how depressing it is”.

Appalled by what he discovered, he promised he would return to give a concert in these bruised places the day the apartheid wall is dismantled. This, obviously, was a way to reaffirm his support for the Palestinian boycott campaign against the apartheid State, and to highlight the continuing horror and brutality. [7].

In December 2009, in an emotionally charged letter, he publicly expressed his appreciation and full support for the thousands of people of all nationalities engaged in concrete action to force Israel to open the gates of Gaza and to alert the public to this burning reality:

“My name is Roger Waters. I am an English musician living in the USA. (…) We all watched, aghast, the vicious attack made a year ago on the people of Gaza by Israeli armed forces and the ongoing illegal siege. The suffering wrought on the population of Gaza by both the invasion and the siege is unimaginable to us outside the walls. The aim of The Freedom March is to focus world attention on the plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza in the hope that the scales will fall from the eyes of all, ordinary, decent people round the world, that they may see the enormity of the crimes that have been committed, and demand that their governments bring all possible pressure to bear on Israel to lift the siege.

I use the word ‘crimes’ advisedly, as both the siege and the invasion have been declared unlawful by United Nations bodies and leading human rights organizations.

If we do not all observe international law, if some governments think themselves above it, it is but a few short, dark, steps to barbarism and anarchy.

The Gaza Freedom March is a beacon to all those of us who believe that under the skin, we are all brothers and sisters, who must stand shoulder to shoulder, if we are to make a future where all have recourse to law and universal human rights. Where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is not just the preserve of the few. All the oil in The Middle East is not worth one child’s life. So to those of you who march, I tip my hat. It is a brave and noble thing you do, and when you reach your goal please tell our Palestinian brothers and sisters, that out here, beyond the Walls of their Prison, stand hundreds of thousands of us in solidarity with them.

Today, hundreds of thousands, tomorrow, millions, soon, hundreds of millions. We Shall Overcome.” [8]

December 29, 2009 - Roger Waters expresses his support for the Freedom march

Those who followed this story will never forget that, at the crucial moment when the Palestinians were imprisoned in the Gaza ghetto, amidst the ruins, and desperately waiting for a gesture of solidarity, Roger Waters was present. Towards the end of December 2009 – a time of the year when, our societies are celebrating – he devoted himself to helping Gaza. Human, beautiful, supportive, he wrote: “We Shall Overcome”, a moving song of hope, which, he said, “was inspired by the plight of the Palestinians in achieving a separate state of Palestine, and the horrors of the war and blockade against them by Israel”.

He accompanied his song with the following comment addressed to those journalists and governments that are not doing what they should, which is why people must act in their place:

“Over the new year 2009-2010, an international group of 1500 men and women from 42 nations went to Egypt to join a Freedom March to Gaza. They did this to protest the current blockade of Gaza. To protest the fact that the people of Gaza live in a virtual prison. To protest the act that a year after the terror attack by Israeli armed forces destroyed most of their homes, hospitals, schools and other public building, they have no possibility to rebuild because their borders are closed.

The would be Freedom Marchers wanted to peacefully draw attention to the predicament of the Palestinian population of Gaza. The Egyptian government, (funded to the tune of $2.1 billion a year, by us, the US tax payers), would not allow the marchers to approach Gaza. How lame is that? And how predictable! I live in the USA and during this time, Dec. 25th 2009 - Jan. 3rd 2010, I saw no reference to Gaza or the Freedom March or the multi-national protesters gathered there. Anyway, I was moved, in the circumstances, to record a new version of `We Shall Overcome’.” [9]


When a man, a musician, a poet, is capable of rising to this level of commitment and loyalty, where there is nothing but truth and sincerety, his words carry an enormous weight. What he says, the way he says it, gives him stature. And the esteem of the public, that nectar from which the artist draws his strength.

The Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghan and many other victims, to whom this message of love is directed, suspended between death, anxiety and hope, know that the pain they have inside is also felt by the poet, in this case, Roger Waters.

Since the 70s, his message has touched the heart of the hundreds of thousands of people who’ve had the privilege of coming across him in one of his concerts, where one feels united together for an hour, one evening, listening to “Mother” and “Wish You Were Here” ... And where in this fervour, we understand something startling and staggering: it only depends on each one of us whether we are able to love our neighbour, and to reject what the barbarians in uniform do to them that which we will not tolerate done to us.

Off their 1975 album, Wish You Were Here ; Pink Floyd’s single, "Wish You Were Here"

. Roger Waters - Mother (live)

See also the website of Roger Waters:

Other talented singers are also committed to Gaza. See on this topic:
« Gaza : Quand la douleur devient chant », by Silvia Cattori, silviacattori.net, 4 February, 2009.

In 2010, Roger Waters, like other celebrities (Le Corbusier and Jean-Luc Godard) was accused of anti-Semitism, by people of Jewish faith, who need to keep alive the idea of a non-existent “anti-Semitic threat”. The goal: to divert the debate from the very real threat posed by Jewish settlers who have been occupying Palestine by force since 1948, imposing the exclusion of autochthonous Palestinians through an apartheid system. The “Jewish and democratic” State of Israel, which treats Arabs as second-class citizens, must be preserved by all means.


[1] “Another Brick in the Wall” is the title of three songs subtitled Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, which are part of the album The Wall, released by the Pink Floyd in 1979. The group then included David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Richard Wright. Roger Waters wrote all the lyrics and composed almost all the music on the album “The Wall”. In 1985, Waters left the Pink Floyd band and continued solo. He joined the group Pink Floyd for one night for Live 8 in 2005 in London at Hyde Park. Roger Waters and David Gilmour reunited on July 10, 2010 for a concert to raise funds for Palestinian children.

[2] See : http://www.rogerwaters.org/tour/2011info.html

[3] See: “Palestinian Civil Society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights”, 9 July 2005.

[4] See: “Open Letter to Leonard Cohen“, by PACBI, 16 May 2009.
See also the video of the demonstration on July 2, 2009, at the O2 World in Berlin, calling Leonard Cohen not to play in Israel.

[5] On this subject see: « Théâtre d’enfants au camp de réfugiés d’Aïda – Un rayon de beauté contre la laideur », by Silvia Cattori, silviacattori.net, May 4, 2003.

[6] Statement made during an interview with The Associated Press.

[7] Out of his generosity, Roger Waters contributed financially to the restoration of “Cinema Jenin”, in ruins since 1987. A centre that includes a cinema of 354 seats, a space of a thousand seats reserved for outdoor screenings, a youth hostel.

[8] See: http://codepinkalert.org/article.php?id=5260

[9] See: http://www.rogerwaters.org/2010.html#JUN10b


Translated from French by Mary Mathai (08.02.2011)

Original article in French (26.07.2010):



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