Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters came to Miami on Thursday night to perform several of his old band’s hits at AmericanAirlines Arena — but one of Miami’s most prominent Jewish groups hosted a film screening to counter what it called Waters’ anti-Semitism.
An hour before the concert, the Greater Miami Jewish Federation aired at O Cinema Miami Beach “East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem,” a documentary by Israeli singer-songwriter David Broza about the making of his album by the same name. A few hundred viewers watched the film, which depicts Israelis and Palestinians collaborating through music.
“We thought that we would offer an alternative venue tonight for people,” said Carol Brick-Turin, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Federation’s lobbying arm. “We felt the best way to talk about the potential for peace is to talk about constructive engagement and co-existence, which is what these musicians are doing.”
“He’s in the wrong town,” added JCRC chair Nancy Zaretzky. “This is Miami! We all are from someplace else, and we don’t go down quietly here.”
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The Federation was one of several groups that spoke up ahead of Waters’ concert. It took out an ad on miamiherald.com and a full-page ad in Thursday’s Herald with the headline “Anti-Semitism and Hatred Are Not Welcome in Miami.”
A dozen teens from a Miami Beach Parks summer program who were set to perform with Waters, Pink Floyd’s former bassist, also backed out Thursday after the Federation lobbied the concert’s partners. The students, part of Ayuda Miami’s T.A.L.L. (Teens Are Life Long Learners) program and the Teen Club Miami Beach, had been rehearsing for the concert Wednesday at Nautilus Middle School.
The students were to join Waters in “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2),” which opens with, “We don’t need no education.”
“Miami Beach is a culturally diverse community and does not tolerate any form of hate,” Miami Beach spokeswoman Melissa Berthier said in a statement.
Diana Susi, Ayuda’s executive director, said that while the city decided to pull the kids, Ayuda was in full agreement. She said Ayuda was not aware of Waters’ political positions: “Next time, we will definitely do a lot more background research before we expose ourselves.”
The Federation decided not to protest the concert in person, Brick-Turin said. “We didn’t want to give him any added publicity, or any added attention.”
Waters had previously expressed support for boycotting Israel and made past comments comparing Israeli treatment of Palestinians to Nazi Germany and South African apartheid. The Anti-Defamation League criticized Waters’ use of Jewish symbols in his concerts in 2013, which included a Star of David on a floating pig alongside “a dollar sign and a sickle and hammer.”
Waters, in a Facebook post at the time, countered that his criticisms were political, not religious.
“I am anti-war, anti-apartheid, anti-racist, pro human rights, pro peace and pro self-determination for all peoples,” he added. “I am not anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.”
Other groups joined the Federation in objecting to Waters’ performance, including a pro-Israel Christian group called Proclaiming Justice to the Nations. It told people to “voice their concern that this anti-Semite is spewing his despicable brand of hatred in the Sunshine State.”
StandWithUs/Southeast, hired a billboard truck with the message, “Say NO to Racist Attacks Against Israel by Roger Waters” to drive around the arena before the concert.
Though the British-born Waters, 73, did not address the controversy on his views of Israel ahead of his performance Thursday, he did note the trouble his political positions had caused in an interview with SiriusXM Wednesday.
“All this political stuff that you’ve been asking me, it would be a lot easier to be on tour if I wasn’t doing any of this, if I didn’t have opinions,” Waters told host Michael Smerconish. “If I didn’t feel my father’s presence. If I didn’t care about other people. If I didn’t believe in the transcendental nature of love. If I hated people. If I was a bigot.”
A spokeswoman for the Miami Heat, which operates the arena, did not comment Thursday. Miami-Dade County owns the arena. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, at the Federation’s request, issued the following statement:
“I urge our Miami-Dade residents to uphold the values we hold dear and to reject anti-Semitism in all its forms. Not only because it would offend our Jewish residents, but because it would offend all Miamians.”