Jon Stewart’s continued mockery of Paul Krugman and the trillion-dollar coin has been the focus of much-deserved attention, but there was another part of yesterday’s Daily Show that was even more revealing: Stewart’s interview with Pink Floyd bass guitarist Roger Waters. Stewart asked specifically about Waters’s political activities, but failed to bring up Waters’s most controversial political cause: his radical campaign against Israel.
Waters has done far worse than spew tedious, hackneyed anti-Israel slanders such as comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and calling for a cultural boycott. He has also taken his case against Israel to the United Nations, telling the UN that Israel was “guilty of a number of international crimes,” including “ethnic cleansing.” He also told the UN that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories was like the Nazi occupation of Europe.
In addition, Waters is a “juror” on, and supporter of, a kangaroo court called the “Russell Tribunal on Palestine,” in which anti-Israel activists stage mock hearings to declare Israel guilty in absentia. In that capacity, Waters has personally accused Israel of “violations of international law...in complicity with the government of the United States,” and lent his song “The Wall” to protests against Israel’s anti-terror security barrier.
It is worth watching the video Waters prepared for the Russell Tribunal’s use, simply to see the anger on his face as he recycles tedious, false charges such as the idea that Israel operates outside the framework of international law (in truth, there is no country faced with similar terrorist threats that has done more to place its national security within the framework of both national and international law and human rights norms).
Waters has nothing to say about the Palestinians, “the weakest among us,” except to tell the UN: “The leaders of Hamas have made their position clear over and over again. It is this: Hamas is open to permanent peace with Israel...”. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, as Hamas is quite happy to proclaim to anyone who will listen its total rejection of Israel and its fervent desire for the murder and expulsion of Jews.
It is possible, theoretically, to appreciate an artist while deploring his or her political beliefs--and arguably so in the case of Pink Floyd, one of the greatest rock bands ever. Likewise, Jon Stewart is a comedian, as he never tires of reminding his critics, and therefore his political views might well be taken with a grain of salt. He may not even have known about Waters’s anti-Israel campaign; Waters, curiously, did not mention it.
Yet Stewart pointedly brought up Waters’s political and charitable activities, and had done at least some research into them. Stewart specifically praised Waters for his performances to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy and wounded soldiers. “You, the archetypal rock ‘n’ roller, are just out there doing good in the world,” Stewart concluded.
And so Waters will continue his campaign against Israel--and the United States--with the Stewart stamp of cool.
Arguably, when Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)--the self-styled shomer (“guardian”) of Israel in Washington--announced his support for former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) as Secretary of Defense despite his troubled record, it marked a watershed in American politics: the shattering of the bipartisan pro-Israel politics. But politics, as Andrew Breitbart reminded us, is downstream from culture, and Stewart’s failure to challenge Waters is a reminder of how lopsided the cultural battle has become.