Pink Floyd star’s new Israel boycott letter to “family of Rock and Roll”

Roger Waters performs The Wall Live in Barcelona, 2011.

Roger Waters performs The Wall Live in Barcelona, 2011.


Pink Floyd star Roger Waters has today published a long-awaited open letter calling on his fellow musicians to boycott Israel.

The letter explains that Waters has been part of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for seven years, and has been mulling the letter over for some time.

He condemns Israeli human rights violations and explains the reasons to act:

Given the inability or unwillingness of our governments [to act] … it falls to civil society and conscientious citizens of the world, to dust off our consciences, shoulder our responsibilities, and act. I write to you now, my brothers and sisters in the family of Rock and Roll, to ask you to join with me, and thousands of other artists around the world, to declare a cultural boycott on Israel … proclaiming our rejection of Apartheid in Israel and occupied Palestine, by pledging not to perform or exhibit in Israel or accept any award or funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel …


In an exclusive interview with The Electronic Intifada’s David Cronin back in March, Waters revealed he had been drafting the letter.

“What caused me to write this public letter was an affair where Stevie Wonder was hired to play a gala dinner for the Israeli Defense Forces,” he said, recounting how he and others wrote to Wonder asking him to cancel – which he eventually did.

The interview went viral at the time, gaining the attention of Rolling Stone, among others.

By April the letter had yet to appear and, following an interview with The Huffington Post that Waters says was “misinterpreted,” several media reports claimed Waters was “reconsidering” his position on boycotting Israel.

Waters wrote on Facebook soon afterwards that he had only meant he was considering the text of the letter, and not “my position on the Israel/Palestine issue” overall.

The publication of this letter today makes Waters’ position in favor of on the boycott of Israel clear – in support of the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Full letter

18th August 2013, Warsaw To My Colleagues in Rock and Roll

Nigel Kennedy the virtuoso British violinist and violist, at The Recent Promenade Concerts at The Albert Hall in London, mentioned that Israel is apartheid. Nothing unusual there you might think, then one Baroness Deech, (Nee Fraenkel) disputed the fact that Israel is an apartheid state and prevailed upon the BBC to censor Kennedy’s performance by removing his statement. Baroness Deech produced not one shred of evidence to support her claim and yet the BBC, non political, supposedly, acting solely on Baroness Deech’s say so, suddenly went all 1984 on us. Well!! Time to stick my head above the parapet again, alongside my brother, Nigel Kennedy, where it belongs. And by the way, Nigel, great respect man. So here follows a letter last re-drafted in July.

25th July 2013 To My Colleagues in Rock and Roll.

In the wake of the tragic shooting to death of un-armed teenager Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer Zimmerman, yesterday, Stevie Wonder spoke at a gig declaring that he will not perform in the State of Florida until that State repeals its “Stand your ground” Law. In effect he has declared a boycott on grounds of conscience. I applaud his position, and stand with him, it has brought back to me a statement I made in a letter I wrote last February 14th, to which I have referred but have never published.

The time has come, so here it is.

This letter has been simmering on the back burner of my conscience and consciousness for some time.

It is seven years since I joined BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) a non violent movement to oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. The aim of BDS is to bring international attention to these Israeli policies, and hopefully, to help bring them to an end. All the people of the region deserve better than this.

To cut to the chase, Israel has been found guilty, independently, by international human rights organizations, UN officials, and the International Court of Justice, of serious breaches of international law. These include, and I will name only two;

  1. The Crime of Apartheid: The systematic oppression of one ethnic group by another. On 9 March 2012, for instance, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on Israel to end its racist policies and laws that contravene the prohibition against racial segregation and apartheid.

  2. The Crime of Ethnic Cleansing: The forcible removable of indigenous peoples from their rightful land in order to settle an occupying population. For example, in East Jerusalem non Jewish families are routinely physically evicted from their homes to make way for Jewish occupants.

There are others.

Given the inability or unwillingness of our governments, or the United Nations Security Council to put pressure on Israel to cease these violations, and make reparations to the victims, it falls to civil society and conscientious citizens of the world, to dust off our consciences, shoulder our responsibilities, and act. I write to you now, my brothers and sisters in the family of Rock and Roll, to ask you to join with me, and thousands of other artists around the world, to declare a cultural boycott on Israel, to shed light on these problems and also to support all our brothers and sisters in Palestine and Israel who are struggling to end all forms of Israeli oppression and who wish to live in peace, justice, equality and freedom.

I am writing to you all now because of two recent events.

1) Stevie Wonder. Word came to me, the first week of last December that Stevie Wonder had been booked to headline at a gala dinner for the Friends of The Israeli Defence Force in LA on 6th December 2012. An event to raise money for the Israeli armed forces, as if the $4,300,000,000 that we the US tax payers give them each year were not enough? This came right after The Israeli defence Force had concluded yet another war on Gaza, (Operation Pillar of Defence), according to human rights watch, committing war crimes against the besieged 1.6 million Palestinians there.

Anyway, I wrote to Stevie to try to persuade him to cancel. My letter ran along these lines, “Would you have felt OK performing at the Policeman’s Ball in Johannesburg the night after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 or in Birmingham Alabama, to raise money for the Law Enforcement officers, who clubbed, tear gassed and water cannoned those children trying to integrate in 1963?” Archbishop Desmond Tutu also wrote an impassioned plea to Stevie, and 3,000 others appended their names to a petition. Stevie, to his great credit, cancelled!

2) Earlier that week I delivered a speech at The United Nations. If you are interested you can find this speech on you tube.

The interesting thing about these two stories is that there was NOT ONE mention of either story in the mainstream media in the United States.

The clear inference would be that the media in the USA is not interested in the predicament of the Palestinian people, or for that matter the predicament of the Israeli people. We can only hope they may become interested as they eventually did in the politics of apartheid South Africa.

Back in the days of Apartheid South Africa at first it was a trickle of artists that refused to play there, a trickle that exercised a cultural boycott, then it became a stream, then a river then a torrent and then a flood. (Remember Steve van Zant, Bruce and all the others? “We will not Play in Sun City?”) Why? Because, like the UN and the International Courts of Justice they understood that Apartheid is wrong.

The sports community joined the battle, no one would go and play cricket or rugby in South Africa, and eventually the political community joined in as well. We all as a global, musical, sporting and political community raised our voices as one and the apartheid regime in South Africa fell.

Maybe we are at the tipping point now with Israel and Palestine. These are good people both and they deserve a just solution to their predicament. Each and every one of them deserves freedom, justice and equal rights. Just recently the ANC, the ruling party of South Africa, has endorsed BDS. We are nearly there. Please join me and all our brothers and sisters in global civil society in proclaiming our rejection of Apartheid in Israel and occupied Palestine, by pledging not to perform or exhibit in Israel or accept any award or funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.

Roger Waters




A brilliant letter which must be circulated widely. This is enough to get me listening to Pink Floyd again (which I really haven't done since Ummagumma!). Well done Roger!!!


Waters : A touch of genius , plus Humanity .......... Probably among those the Rock and Roll music has civilized the most .


Mr. Waters, your letter helped awaken the conscience of people who believe in justice. Hear oh Israel: the days of Apartheid are numbered! Justice will prevail.


Inspirational stuff and an example of how we All need to speak out against injustice and oppression. Roger Waters Man for the people!


just thank you from the bottom of my heart have always loved you and now even more thanks for your huge support


Roger Waters and millions of Rock and Rollers are boycotting Israel and every thing they have to sell or invest in. BRAVO!!


I thought U were my role model. Now I KNOW you are. Thank you also on behalf of all my oppressed sisters and brothers all over the world, and particularly from all my relatives in Palestine, the shot to death and the tortured. / the bleeding heart


Thank you for the courage of your convictions and for raising your voice for the Palestinian people Roger. Many fear to speak because of the power of the zionist lobby and the spurious labels they place on those that dare criticize the Apartheid regime.

A lone voice may be blown away by the wind, but a million voices can roar like a hurricane....BDS BDS BDS !


Hey you, standing in the road
always doing what you're told,
Can you help me?
Hey you, out there beyond the wall,
Breaking bottles in the hall,
Can you help me?
Hey you, don't tell me there's no hope at all
Together we stand, divided we fall.


Karabas, And why should that be? His music or yours? His attitude toward Zionist apartheid Israel or your love of it? Be a bit more explicit.


"Decent peope" to you seems to have the same meaning and purpose as "People who wants the apartheid state Israel to continue breaking International laws by perpetuate the occupation, annexation and oppression by reflecting Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa". Well, I´m happy you showed up so we all have evidence that people who supports such umhuman things actually do exist and feels the urge to express it too. I hope you are aware of how all those people who, back in days, supported Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa today are full of shame.


"An event to raise money for the Israeli armed forces, as if the $4,300,000,000 that we the US tax payers give them each year were not enough?"


I've been wondering today why so many people like to jump on this particular band wagon and it occurs to me that it just fits a lot of people’s personal social requirements, it’s a perfect topic really.
It has a pantomime like narrative of the oppressed and the oppressor, David and Goliath, the 1st world army trying to crush the plucky rebels but not succeeding.
Plus it’s very safe territory. Anyone can have an opinion, regardless how baseless or misinformed, as long as it fits between the widely accepted liberalist guidelines, it’s guaranteed to be applauded.
Anyone can sound authoritative at liberal dinner parties or with the oppressed socialist workers that meet for a pint after work, you can spout crap and you're almost guaranteed not be challenged, you’re on a winner, you can show off how very liberal you are and give your friends an opportunity to agree and show off how liberal they are too. Hooray for us!
Obviously, I don’t mean any of you, you wouldn’t behave like that. You wouldn’t just blindly follow a broadly accepted narrative. You would research and study all aspects of the issue and form a very well informed opinion of your own, wouldn’t you.


I don't understand or see a relation that connects your comment with the article/letter! could you explain?

Also, don't you think that people are supposed to have opinions on anything they want? However, I think the letter has the answer for such wonder and it is protecting humanity or what's left of it. And it's not just this case particularly, but all cases in general. It just happened that the Israeli government is one of the most supported terrorist groups on earth, a group supported and protected by the most powerful government/army on the planet. All that I guess makes from this case a 'bandwagon that many people would like to jump onto'.


In explanation, I woke to a flurry of activity on facebook amongst my English friends, all of who have never been to Israel and it set me off wondering why. What wealth of knowledge these people suddenly found and from where?
Normal, rational, free thinking people seem to be blindly following an irrational movement. This problem cannot be solved by adopting harder and harder lines. I can understand the frustration that Mr. Waters feels but divestment and sanctions are counter productive. What worked for one country doesn't necessarily work for another. The first jobs to go will be ours, the first public services to be cut will be ours, it's our children's education which will suffer first, not the Jewish towns and not the ruling classes.
I would advise don't divest in Israel, INVEST in Israel. Buy a stake, buy a voice, be the change that you want to see. Don't stop musicians from coming. Stand up on stage in front of thousands of people and tell them what you have to say. I think you will be surprised how much appreciation you'll receive and how much of an agent for progress you can be.


watch the film 5 broken cameras.... then you will understand a little better. kudos to Roger and Nigel


If a narrative is "broadly accepted", it is because it carries more than a grain of truth. By the way, this is not a pantomime narrative: that, at least , would have a happy ending.


...and that´s exactly what I , and assume most of us, has done. That is why we want to put an end to Apartheid Israel's disregard for international conventions and defying the international court's decision, for example, that the wall is illegal. TEAR DOWN THE WALL!


Second try , first posting did not made it past the censure...wondering why.
Anyway...this time I will not put the facts in front of all the hatemongers no reason to ban this posting.
Roger has found a nice way to get the dust of his fading popularity...cuae not much has changed from the last time he was here...
But it's trendy to do be happy with it Roger...and all who swallow without thinking.



Thanks for your courage to support oppressed people, You get a Heart of Gold and your dream of peace will prevail.


we the people need to show Israel the wisdom of living together, side by side, with the Palestinian people. They just want to live their lives, trade with other people, take care of their family,... if people keep buying Israeli products and doing business with them, they just assume everything is just fine.

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and co-host of our podcast.

He is author of the bestselling book Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn (OR Books, 2023).