The musician Roger Waters fills the big halls all over the world. He wants to perform in the Lanxess Arena in Cologne on May 9th, and there are still plenty of tickets available. But anyone who only goes to a concert by the Pink Floyd co-founder to hear the cult band's old hits like "Money" and "Another Brick in the Wall" is not welcome to the musician: "If you're here because you're Pink Floyd but don't like Roger Waters' politics, piss off at the bar," he told concertgoers in North America last year.
Waters no longer sees himself just as a musician who, in the olden days, provided the tunes for high school students' dance evenings. But as a prophet whose concerts resemble political services. Above all, the existence of Israel gets the blood of the 79-year-old Briton boiling. At his concerts, a video wall shows how Israeli armored vehicles roll through Palestinian settlements. Then young people with slingshots are shown in edited film sequences. Waters repeatedly let a pig float through the hall during his performances, on which a star of David could be seen in addition to the dollar sign.
Waters also fights tirelessly against Israel off the stage and is one of the most vocal supporters of the so-called BDS campaign. The abbreviation stands for "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions", the movement advocates a comprehensive boycott of Israel in the areas of culture, science and business. In NRW, the parliamentary groups of the CDU, FDP, SPD and Greens had already introduced a joint resolution on the subject of BDS to the state parliament in 2018. It said: "The BDS movement is not only anti-Israel in its methods and goals, but also clearly anti-Semitic." The Bundestag has also described the campaign as anti-Semitic.
Against this background, the magistrate in Frankfurt/Main at the end of February ordered the cancellation of a Waters concert planned for May 28 in the Festhalle there. There is also resistance to the appearance of the British in Cologne. In mid-February, the council factions of the CDU, SPD, Greens, FDP and Volt called for the concert in the Lanxess Arena to be canceled. In an open letter, the parliamentary groups wrote: “There must be no space on Cologne’s stages for anti-Semitic content. This is especially true in times when anti-Semitic attacks are increasing again, also in Cologne.”
Long before that, the Jewish community in Cologne drew attention to Waters' failures and demanded that the concert be canceled. Abraham Lehrer, head of the synagogue community in Cologne and at the same time Vice President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said WELT: "It is absurd that someone like Roger Waters, who has openly propagated anti-Semitism at his concerts for years, in the Lanxess Arena in Cologne can occur.” After the attacks in recent years, many Jews are unsettled. "Some are also afraid and no longer feel safe when they want to visit a synagogue or a meeting house," said Lehrer. Now, if someone like Waters could openly agitate against Jews and Israel, that would only increase these feelings in many people.
The synagogue community in Cologne receives support from the anti-Semitism commissioner of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. She shares the concerns and worries of the Jewish community "and supports the broad social resistance to the spread of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel depictions or statements at Roger Waters concerts," she told WELT on request.
"At the same time, I appeal to those responsible to reconsider what content they want to give space to in a renowned venue." Anti-Semitism is not acceptable in a Cologne cultural and sports venue. "All possibilities should be taken not to allow the appearance to take place like this," appealed the FDP politician and former Federal Minister of Justice in the direction of the cathedral city.
The big problem in Cologne, however, is that, unlike in Frankfurt, the city leaders have no direct access to the hall where Roger Waters wants to perform. The Lanxess Arena is owned by Hong Kong-based Junson Capital Company Limited. It is operated by Arena Management GmbH, a holding of CTS Eventim, the largest event organizer and ticket marketer in Europe. At the request of this newspaper, the operating company does not see itself in a position to cancel the concert: "The Lanxess Arena is generally rented by the respective organizer of a tour, who may call in a local organizer for operational processing," it says in writing. And further: The local organizer and the hall operator would have no influence on the "booking" of the artists or direct communication with them.
The local organizer, in turn, is a limited company that, like Arena Management, belongs to CTS Eventim. She did not respond to a request from WELT, but Arena Management passed on a statement from the organizer: "Our contract signing and the associated obligations for the Roger Waters shows in question came at a time before the artist made statements or we were aware of individual ones had statements that we ourselves find problematic and in no way reflect our own views.”
The fact that Waters attracts attention with anti-Semitic slogans and calls for a boycott of Israel is anything but new: the musician has publicly supported BDS since 2006. And the depiction of a Star of David on a flying pig during a Waters concert was first reported in 2013. At CTS Eventim, none of this seems to have been noticed.
But Waters isn't the only Israel-hater on tour, others just get less attention. Last winter the Colombian band Doctor Krápula played in concert halls all over Europe, in North Rhine-Westphalia they could be seen in Bochum, Hagen and Bielefeld. A performance in Münster is planned for May. Doctor Krápula is one of the most prominent supporters of the BDS campaign in South America. Apparently nobody has been bothered by this in this country so far.
The rapper S. Castro, who was born in Bergisch-Gladbach in 1991, was also able to perform undisturbed in Witten an der Ruhr in February. Castro described opposition to the Israeli state as "perfectly legitimate, if only because it is also a capitalist state". In a statement available to this newspaper, he characterizes critics of his art or their supporters as "stooges" of the Israeli state. Their aim is "to enforce our silence on the racist and systematic oppression of the Palestinian population".
S. Castro has already worked at the opera in Dortmund, a city for which commitment against anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism is important. This was also recently shown in the case of the historian Daniele Ganser: A performance by the Swiss planned for March 27th was canceled by the operators of the Westfalenhalle after a long discussion. Ganser is accused of repeatedly relativizing the Holocaust and spreading conspiracy theories, such as September 11, 2001 and the war between Russia and Ukraine.
The termination of Ganser's contract by the municipal company was preceded by pressure from Mayor Thomas Westphal (SPD) and from the democratic parties in the council. "I welcome the cancellation of the event by the management of the Westfallenhalle," Westphal told WELT.