Outside of the Crypto.com Arena (formerly Staples Center) in downtown Los Angeles, among the thousands of fervent fans of musician Roger Waters, stood about a dozen Jewish activists from a relatively new movement called End Jew Hatred (EJH).
EJH was the subject of the cover story of the Journal last week. But in the days leading up to the article’s publication, EJH activists were taking action outside of the arena doors to one of the most well-attended concert tours in the world this year.
Waters appeared at the 20,000-seat Crypto.com arena for two consecutive nights. But it’s not the content of the Pink Floyd co-founder’s music that brought EJH activists to the scene. Waters has drawn the ire of Jews worldwide due to his unabashed condemnations of the State of Israel.
As the crowd thinned out, the Journal spoke with the EJH protestors to hear how the demonstration went.
“Some people walked by and said, ‘thanks for educating, he’s a total Jew hater,’” Naya Lekht told The Journal. Lekht is the Director of Education for Club Z, a Zionist youth movement. “Sadly, some of them said that they were going to the concert and said, ‘look, I like his music, he’s a genius.’ Some people said, ‘we’re Jewish and we’re embarrassed, but we’re still going.’ Some people were like, ‘wow, I’d had no idea.’ And then there were some people who screamed ‘free Palestine! He’s just bringing light to the Palestinians.’ One person said to me, ‘but he’s a Jew himself!’ And I’m like, no he is not. And they said, ‘well, he looks like a Jew.’ And I’m like, ‘oh interesting what does that look like?’”
The EJH activists also handed out fliers showing how on past tours, Waters derided the Star of David by emblazoning it (along with other religious symbols and political slogans) on a large inflatable pig balloon flying around the arenas. The pig has been a part of Pink Floyd’s and Waters’ solo concerts since 1977, when the album “Animals” was released. The messages and symbols on the pig have changed over the years.
Although the Star of David was not etched on the pig that flew around the Crypto.com Arena, Waters continues to unapologetically use clear and consistent language denouncing of the State of Israel. Waters, 79, has a long history of using his stardom to stir anti-Israel rhetoric—and the sentiments have rubbed off onto some of his fans.
This was experienced by Cheryl Dorchinsky, an EJH activist from the state of Georgia who demonstrated outside of Waters concerts in Atlanta and New York before coming to Los Angeles last week. Dorchinsky said she was approached by an aggressive Waters fan who berated her for over eight minutes.
“He said he wanted to find a legal way to hurt me and then he got in my face to the point where his eyeball was almost pressed right up against my phone,” Dorchinsky told the Journal. She said the agitator only identified himself as “a Jew who likes Roger Waters” and defended Waters’ past use of the Star of David on the Pig balloon.
The EJH demonstrators, clad in navy blue t-shirts reading “#EndJewHatred,” also endured profanities and middle fingers from passersby.
“The reality is that if we don’t speak up, who’s going to?” Dorchinsky said.
Among the protestors was activist Lana Melman, author of the book “Artists Under Fire: The BDS War against Celebrities, Jews and Israel.” Melman, founder and CEO of the activist group Liberate Art, shared some observations about the recent rise in antisemitic attacks.
“What has happened is that this boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against the Jewish state has laid the groundwork for demonizing the Jews of Israel. And when you demonize one Jew, you’re affecting all of us.” – Lana Melman
“What has happened is that this boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against the Jewish state has laid the groundwork for demonizing the Jews of Israel,” Melman told the Journal. “And when you demonize one Jew, you’re affecting all of us. And they speak about the Jews of Israel in monstrous terms, making them out to be pure evil. Which is the same language that happens throughout history before violent attacks against Jews.”
The Journal spoke with Gerard Filitti, the senior counsel at The Lawfare Project, a New York-based legal counsel and services provider to members of the Jewish community who have been targeted based on their ethnicity, religion, citizenship, or nationality.
“Waters is representative of what we see among many celebrities today, and he stands out there as a performer who pulls some very odious stunts and clearly targets Jews in his performances,” Filitti told the Journal. “This is something that a lot of people have problems with. He has essentially, among many things, perpetuated the stereotypical antisemitic tropes referring to ‘Jewish Zionist power,’ including the so-called ‘Jewish lobby in the consultant media.’ He’s compared Israel to Nazi Germany, he called it ‘an apartheid state accused of committing genocide and ethnic cleansing.’”
Filitti argues that these acts by Waters fall within the definition of antisemitism, as set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
“The fans are so committed to defending him or supporting him that on the one hand, they don’t care that he’s saying these hurtful, horrific things. On the other hand, they may even agree with him when you have a fan who’s making Nazi arm salutes in response to saying, ‘hey, did you know that Roger Waters says these things about Jews?’ That’s going to the mindset of people who are very-well influenced and influenceable by performances.”
Chief among the concerns of Filitti, The Lawfare Project and End Jew Hatred, among others, is that Waters is playing in front of thousands of worshipful sold-out audiences all over the world. While most fans might see it as merely a place to sing along with the voice behind “Wish You Were Here” and “Another Brick in the Wall, there is much more at work at Waters’ concerts. Whether antisemitism is peppered into Waters’ concerts or comes in the form of indirect verbal vitriol, his influence over fans and proselytizing in between concerts affects Jews worldwide.
“I think the danger when we see true hatred, racism, bigotry in performances, it inculcates those values, it desensitizes people to them, and it normalizes it,” Filitti said. “And that’s the last thing we need today.”