Israel

Wish You Weren’t Here: Citibank Joins American Express in Cutting Ties to Roger Waters

Citibank announced Tuesday that it was not sponsoring the upcoming concert tour of Pink Floyd co-founder and Israel-boycott advocate Roger Waters, adding that the bank had “no plans to work with this artist in the future,” the Algemeiner reported.

The banking giant issued the denial in a letter responding to a shareholder concerned about its relationship with Waters, who was accused by the Anti-Defamation League in 2013 of having “absorbed classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.” The New York Post reported last week that American Express had refused to sponsor Waters’ North American 2017 tour, but that Citibank would be sponsoring it instead.

“I want to let you know that Citi is not a sponsor of Roger Waters’ upcoming tour,” a Citibank official said in the email. “Two weeks ago, Citi offered a limited time pre-sale of tickets for cardmembers for select shows, as we do for thousands of concerts by different artists every year. While advertised as the ‘official card’ for payment purposes, the pre-sale was in no way an endorsement of the artist’s personal views. The pre-sale has ended and we have no plans to work with this artist in the future.”

A number of artists who were planning to play in Israel last year said that they felt threatened by proponents of the Palestinian-led boycott campaign against Israel. Despite these threats, major artists such as Alicia Keys, The Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga, and Bon Jovi have performed in Israel in recent years. Typically, when entertainers announce plans to perform in the Jewish state, boycott supporters make public appeals and send private messages to try to pressure them to cancel the concert; if a particularly prominent artist is involved, they may receive an open letter from Waters.

Waters’ anti-Israel advocacy has engendered criticism from other celebrities. Jon Bon Jovi told the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot last year that he had heard about Waters’ appeal not to perform in Tel Aviv, “but it doesn’t interest me. I told my managers to give one simple answer: That I’m coming to Israel and I’m excited to come.” Two months later, Adam Sandler said in an interview on Howard Stern’s radio show that he was “disgusted” by activists who single out Israel for boycotts; the two were particularly critical of Waters.

In The Rise of ‘Soft’ Holocaust Denial, published this month in The Tower Magazine, Zach Ben-Amots identified Waters as a prominent proponent of “soft” Holocaust denial due to his comparisons between the Nazi regime and the Jewish state.

This kind of denialism is becoming more and more popular in Europe. In an interview with the self-proclaimed “Fearless Voice of the American Left,” CounterPunch Magazine, former Pink Floyd front man Roger Waters compared Israel to Nazi-occupied Europe. “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,” Waters said. “The parallels with what went on in the ‘30s in Germany are so crushingly obvious.” …

Like the obstruction of Holocaust memorialization, the Israel-Nazi analogy has been met with substantial criticism, mostly from Jewish voices. The Anti-Defamation League published a response to the deniers, saying:

“Those that make the comparison between the Jewish state and the Nazis and Hitler—who perpetrated the greatest and largest act of anti-Semitism in world history—have not chosen this comparison innocently or dispassionately. It is a charge that is purposefully directed at Jews in an effort to associate the victims of Nazi crimes with the Nazi perpetrators, and serves to diminish the significance and uniqueness of the Holocaust.”

In an article for the Algemeiner, Seth Frantzman wrote that proponents of this false analogy fall into three groups: Those who use it for shock value, those who are ignorant and intellectually lazy, and those driven by anti-Semitism. “Jewish communities should confront those who make this comparison and remind them of the real history,” wrote Frantzman. “We say, ‘Never again,’ but if we meant it, then we would combine it with an attempt to view the Holocaust as unique and not abuse its memory.”

[Photo: Joe Bielawa / Flickr ]