Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters was banned from speaking on the University of Pennsylvania campus amid allegations of anti-Semitism for his wearing a Nazi-inspired uniform and displaying Nazi imagery at a Berlin concert
The 80-year-old singer-songwriter was set to appear at a panel discussion for the Palestine Writes Literature Festival Saturday. But after landing in the Keystone State, he posted a video on Instagram saying he’d been told he would instead appear via Zoom.
“I was supposed to be taking part in a panel in a couple hours time this afternoon, but I’ve been told I’m not allowed into the Irving Arena because they made arrangements for me to attend the panel via Zoom,” Waters recounted.
“And the fact that I came here all the way to be present, because I care deeply about the issues that are being discussed, apparently cuts no ice with campus police or whoever it is.”
The Friday article states several Jewish students and community members wrote to school administrators condemning alleged antisemitism of speakers at the events.
In a letter, senior Eyal Yakoby wrote the speakers’ presence on campus creates a “hostile” environment for Jewish students ahead of Yom Kippur — one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar
Pro-Israel activists also descended on the campus, the article states, parking jumbotron trucks and posting videos on TikTok of some of the speakers’ past anti-Semitic remarks.
Though the article didn’t mention Waters by name, the singer appeared disturbed by the assertions — saying in the video he was “struck” by the newspaper’s claims he’s antisemitic, and that the student-run paper was reporting on the controversy as a “diversionary tactic” that turned it into “the big news story.”
Waters argued the newspaper wanted to “play down” a festival about Palestinian literature taking place.
“If they can get you thinking and talking about antisemitism, then you won’t be thinking about the fact that Palestinians have no human rights in the occupied territories,” Waters said.
“This is what we should be talking about in the Daily Pennsylvanian, not whether Roger Waters is an antisemite or not,” he continued in the third-person. “And by the way, he’s not. I know he’s not. Shall I tell you how I know? I am Roger Waters and this is my heart, and it doesn’t have even the slightest flicker of antisemitism in it, anywhere.”
The singer came under fire after donning a long black coat, black gloves and black sunglasses — complete with a red armband — during a May 17 concert in Berlin. The outfit resembled that of an SS officer.
The US State Department subsequently, in a statement, said Waters has “a long track record of using antisemitic tropes” and that his Berlin concert “contained imagery that is deeply offensive to Jewish people and minimized the Holocaust.”
Waters, however, defended his costume choice, and said it was a clear stance “in opposition to fascism, injustice, bigotry in all its forms.”
“My recent performance in Berlin has attracted bad faith attacks from those who want to smear and silence me because they disagree with my political views and moral principles,” he said in a statement.
University president Elizabeth Magill said she and other administrators had met with academic leaders, and student representatives from Penn Hillel to discuss the controversy.
“Attempts to portray those elements as something else are disingenuous and politically motivated. The depiction of an unhinged fascist demagogue has been a feature of my shows since Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ in 1980.”
“When I was a child after the war, the name of Anne Frank was often spoken in our house, she became a permanent reminder of what happens when fascism is left unchecked,” he continued. “My parents fought the Nazis in World War II, with my father paying the ultimate price.”
“Regardless of the consequences of the attacks against me, I will continue to condemn injustice and all those who perpetuate it.”
StopAntisemitism, a nonpartisan organization, has since lauded the campus ban of Waters, while condemning the university for letting him to speak at all.
“Bigots like Waters should never be given a stage to spew their venom, whether in person or virtually,” it tweeted. “This hate fest will be President Liz Magill’s legacy, and forever a stain on Penn.”
Waters was one of several set to appear at the Palestinian literature festival accused of being anti-Semites — including Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa, Australian author Randa Abdel-Fattah, and illustrator and Palestinian author Aya Ghanameh, all of whom have been slammed for previous remarks.
Ganameh, for example, has tweeted “Death to Israel” on various occasions. Abdel-Fattah has also called Israel a “demonic, sick project” and said she “can’t wait for the day we commemorate its end.”
Abulhawa, meanwhile, has called for the dismantling of Israel, which she called “a colonial nation of degenerates” on her now-suspended account on X, formerly Twitter. She said Israel is “one big, militarized tumor” just days after seven Jews were killed in a shooting outside a synagogue.
The Palestine Writes festival denied its speakers were antisemitic.
“No one at our festival is an anti-Semite,” it said in a statement to the Jewish Chronicle. “We know the difference between Judaism and Zionism, Jews and Zionists. These are not synonymous terms.”
School administrators also said in a statement that “we unequivocally — and emphatically — condemn antisemitism as antithetical to our institutional values.
“As a university, we also fiercely support the free exchange of ideas as central to our educational mission,” they said. “This includes the expression of views that are controversial, and even those that are incompatible with our institutional values.”
University president Elizabeth Magill later told the Daily Pennsylvanian she and other administrators had met with academic leaders, and student representatives from Penn Hillel to discuss the controversy.
“I am personally committed more than ever to addressing antisemitism in all forms,” she wrote in a letter.
“The University of Pennsylvania has a long and proud history of being a place for people of all backgrounds and faiths, and acts of antisemitism have no place at Penn.”