US calls Roger Waters performance in Berlin ‘deeply offensive to Jewish people’

FILE PHOTO: Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters performs during his This Is Not a Drill tour at Arena in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 27, 2022. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department on Tuesday weighed in on a controversy over a performance by Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters, denouncing the show in Berlin as “deeply offensive to Jewish people” and accusing Waters of having a record of using antisemitic tropes.

Waters, 79, has said the performance last month, during which he wore a black trench coat with a swastika-like emblem, was a statement against fascism, injustice and bigotry and called criticism of it “disingenuous and politically motivated.”

Berlin police said they were investigating Waters on suspicion of “incitement of the people.” Critics online included U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt, who called the concert “Holocaust distortion” and amplified a tweet denouncing Waters by the European Commission’s coordinator on combating antisemitism.

In comments sent by email and not attributed to a named official, the State Department stood by Lipstadt’s comment, and said Waters’ Berlin concert “contained imagery that is deeply offensive to Jewish people and minimized the Holocaust.”

“The artist in question has a long track record of using antisemitic tropes to denigrate Jewish people,” the department added.

The department did not respond to follow up questions, including whether officials had viewed the concert and in what form, and did not give examples of Waters’ alleged use of antisemitic tropes.

Images from the May 17 concert showed the famed singer and bass player aiming an imitation machine gun into the audience as he recreated scenes from a film based on Pink Floyd’s hit 1979 album “The Wall”, a critique of fascism.

Waters said on Twitter the depiction of “an unhinged fascist demagogue” had been a feature of his shows since “The Wall.”

Waters, who supports the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement that targets Israel over its occupation of territories where Palestinians seek statehood, is a vociferous critic of U.S. foreign policy, and spoke at the UN Security Council earlier this year at Russia’s invitation.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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