By Larry Gordon
Town of Hempstead Councilman Bruce Blakeman is taking a stand. The councilman is an important representative on the town board, wielding a great deal of influence and power when it comes to any number of important things that make this part of Nassau County work.
But every now and then an issue arises that transcends paved roads and ample street lighting. And this time it is an issue that speaks to the very fabric of our lifelong support of Israel and indeed to the standing of Jews everywhere in the world. And nothing is more important to Bruce Blakeman than his ardent and uncompromising support of Israel.
In September, two prominent venues in New York—the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn—are scheduled to feature a total of four shows by Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame, who more recently has become known for his energetic and active support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the state of Israel.
Some, including the Anti-Defamation League, have called Waters an anti-Semite and Jew-hater and a person who wants to see the systematic destruction of the Jewish state, which is what the objective of the BDS movement is at its core. The debate over who Waters has become is now about a decade old but is once again picking up steam. The odd thing about the Waters matter today is that, judging by interviews he has given, he sees his positions as absolutely legitimate. While on the one hand he speaks about the world not having any borders, this just might be his way of calling for Palestinians to move into Israel, thereby supplanting the Jewish population. Mr. Waters apparently has no problem with the Jews disappearing.
As we reported last week, Councilman Blakeman has taken the lead on this effort and in just a bit more than a week he has made remarkable headway on the matter of simply stopping Roger Waters from spreading his venomous sentiments about Israel and Jews. Blakeman has written and appealed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (see letters reproduced nearby) to intervene and block any visa that might be issued to Waters, based on his pro-BDS activities.
Blakeman is also appealing to Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, pointing out that facilitating a Waters concert appearance at the Coliseum is in violation of Local Law 3-2016, passed last year, which prohibits county entities from entering into contractual or business arrangements with supporters of BDS.
On the letterhead of the Office of the County Attorney, Carnell Foskey, the attorney representing the county, informs the management of the Coliseum that “the local law was passed by Nassau County to combat the thinly veiled anti-Semitic movement known as BDS. It is our understanding that BDS is a political movement designed to hurt the country of Israel by inflicting economic damage upon the country through boycotts of their goods and services and divesting from Israeli companies.”
In the letter, Foskey goes on to warn the Coliseum that in the event that they do not cancel the Waters concerts, they run the risk of having certain penalties assessed along with the possibility of having licenses that are necessary to operate this type of venue rescinded.
Roger Waters has been dealing with accusations of his anti-Semitism and hostility to Jews for a while. His Facebook page features a letter from him in which he attempts to refute these charges, though that does not seem to be going too well. In the letter, Waters says that he has Jewish friends, that his daughter-in-law is Jewish, and that he understands that his two grandchildren are therefore Jewish.
Waters writes and talks about justice and fairness, insisting that his very public positions in support of damaging and inflicting harm on Israel is warranted. I asked Mr. Blakeman to respond to Waters’s suggestion that he is not anti-Semitic as charged. The councilman said, “If Waters is only interested in world justice, where is he on the matter of North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, where human rights are violated as a matter of routine on a daily basis?” Blakeman adds that apparently Roger Waters maintains a particularly curious and outspoken position when it comes specifically to Israel and Jews. “That’s an anti-Semite,” the councilman said.
Avi Posnick of StandWithUs, the organization dedicated to fighting BDS on campus and around the world, has had Roger Waters on his radar screen for a while. “Projecting a Star of David on a pig that flies around during concerts is enough evidence to refute Roger Waters’s claims that he is not an anti-Semite,” Posnick said in an e‑mail exchange with the 5TJT. Posnick added: “Add that to his waxing conspiratorial about the ‘Jewish lobby’ and [his] slanderous statements about Israelis. Roger took aim at StandWithUs during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. He made absurd allegations about SWU and defended BDS.”
For now the point is this: Nassau County and New York State have anti-BDS laws and regulations on the books. This is a true test case for those new laws, whether here on Long Island or in Brooklyn. There is a good chance that many will be disposed to look the other way, arguing that Waters is a performer and that this is an effort to suppress his freedom of expression.
If this is the case, then what was all the hoopla about the passage of these laws and the effort involved in righting the injustice that makes it acceptable for Israel to be an international punching bag and allowing artists and other liberal left-leaning Hollywood types to bully Jews and the Jewish state?
The question is whether these laws are cosmetic and mere political window-dressing to be pointed to by officials when they court the Jewish vote in their election campaigns. Bruce Blakeman is an advocate for truth and justice, and he is determined to succeed in his effort to keep Roger Waters from performing with impunity here in New York. We need to demonstrate our support for the Blakeman effort and express our gratitude to County Executive Ed Mangano for his courageous and resolute stand on this matter.
Roger Waters should not be allowed to spew his anti-Israel, pro-BDS venom at venues in New York. And that is not just because we find his positions on these issues detestable. It is because preventing him from performing in New York in September is the law.
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.