County Legislator Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence) was joined outside the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on July 20 by several political and Jewish leaders to protest the upcoming appearance there of legendary rock star Roger Waters.
Waters, frontman for Pink Floyd, a popular band in the late 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, is an outspoken critic of Israel and a leader of the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions movement seeking to isolate the Jewish state. He has frequently been accused of overt anti-Semitism. A pig balloon at a Waters concert was embossed with a star of David, a symbol of Judaism.
Kopel told Thursday’s press conference that Waters was, “The face of BDS and a rabid anti-Semite. BDS is nothing more than a reincarnation of anti-Semitism,” he said.
Kopel called on the Nassau Events Center, which books acts at the Coliseum as well as at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, to cancel the Waters shows, scheduled for Sept. 15 and 16, one week before the Jewish New Year.
He said the county attorney had sent a letter to NEC asserting that the concert was in violation of an anti-BDS law that the county passed last year. NEC responded with a “legalese” letter and has not cancelled the concert, he said.
But regardless of the legal issues, Kopel said, “We’re dealing here with moral outrage.”
A reporter pointed out that Bruce Ratner, a principal of NEC, is chairman of the Jewish Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, in Manhattan, and that the Ratner family is known for its Jewish philanthropy.
Asked, “if this concert is okay with Bruce Ratner, why isn’t it not okay with you,” Kopel said, “We all have to make our own moral judgments as to whether this is proper or not. I don’t think I need to be guided by somebody else’s determination.”
“We live in harmony with each other,” Kopel said of Nassau County’s residents. “We don’t want hate speech coming here, we don’t want prejudice, we don’t want intolerance.”
“We will not tolerate hate, we will not tolerate anti-Semitism,” said Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum, spiritual leader of Temple Israel in Lawrence.
A Waters concert tour between 2010 and 2013 reportedly grossed $458.7 million, making it the biggest tour ever by a solo artist. “Money doesn’t count for everything,” Kopel said.
Avi Posnick, northeast managing director of StandWithUs, an Israel advocacy group, called Waters “an anti-Semite and someone who promotes discrimination against Israel and the Jewish people. There is no room for bigotry on Long Island all forms of racism and those who promote bigotry should be rejected,” Posnick added.
“While Roger Waters sings about how ‘we don’t need no education,’ he is the one who needs an education about Israel, he is the one who needs an education about what it means to be tolerant to those who differ from him,” Posnick said.
“Roger Waters is the one putting another brick in the wall and dividing society. We all must stand together to oppose hate and bigotry in all forms.”
“Music is a powerful medium, a God-given talent,” said Rabbi Anchelle Perl of Chabad of Mineola, in prepared remarks. “Why not use it to bring people together in peace and harmony, to encourage acts of goodness and kindness and not anti-Semitism and hatred of any kind,” Rabbi Perl said. “BDS is nothing less than the western front in the war of delegitimization directed against Israel.”