In a statement published Thursday by Salon, Mason and Waters declared their support for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), which they call “a growing, nonviolent global human rights movement initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005 to end Israel’s occupation, racial discrimination and denial of basic Palestinian rights.” In an entreaty to the Stones and other bands, they wrote:
So, to the bands that intend to play Israel in 2014, we urge you to reconsider. Playing Israel now is the moral equivalent of playing Sun City at the height of South African apartheid; regardless of your intentions, crossing the picket line provides propaganda that the Israeli government will use in its attempts to whitewash the policies of its unjust and racist regime.
So far, the Stones have not responded.
The boycott movement and the comparison of Israel with South Africa during apartheid is deeply offensive to supporters of Israel. Writing recently in Haaretz, commentator Chemi Shalev said the comparison:
….Can only be ascribed to ignorance, malicious or otherwise – either about the current situation in Israel or that which prevailed in the past in South Africa – at least where Israeli Arabs are concerned. Palestinians who are Israeli citizens may be subjected to some institutional discrimination and are often the object of the private prejudices of the Jewish majority, but their situation isn’t even in the same universe as blacks under what was the systematic and inhumane subjugation and segregation practiced by white South Africa.
He was reacting to remarks by Secretary of State John F. Kerry. Kerry had to walk back comments comparing the fates of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territory to South Africans living under apartheid. Waters, who came under fire for comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, used the same word in a December interview with CounterPunch magazine:
The situation in Israel/Palestine, with the occupation, the ethnic cleansing and the systematic racist apartheid Israeli regime is unacceptable. So for an artist to go and play in a country that occupies other people’s land and oppresses them the way Israel does, is plain wrong. They should say no. I would not have played for the Vichy government in occupied France in the Second World War, I would not have played in Berlin either during this time. Many people did, back in the day. There were many people that pretended that the oppression of the Jews was not going on. From 1933 until 1946. So this is not a new scenario. Except that this time it’s the Palestinian People being murdered.
Peace talks between Israel and Palestine broke down again last month when Israel suspended them over Hamas’s involvement in Palestinian negotiations.
Waters has also criticized Scarlett Johansson and Neil Young, accusing them of thumbing their noses at human rights. Johansson was forced to defend her position as the face of Sodastream, an Israeli company, after she resigned from her role as an Oxfam International ambassador when the organization told her she couldn’t do both. Sodastream has a factory in the West Bank; Oxfam considers the Israeli settlements there illegal. Ozzy Osbourne and Alicia Keys have also performed in Israel despite BDS campaigns urging them not to.
Guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour did not lend his name to the statement, but has participated in the Postcard for Palestine campaign.