I didn’t wake up this morning expecting to write about a Dionne Warwick/Roger Waters beef, but here we are. And as it turns out, the two veteran entertainers are going at each other over a serious issue: Israel’s treatment of Palestine. In recent months, many musicians have canceled shows in Israel. But the old-school ’60s pop singer Warwick has a show in Tel Aviv next week, and she’s issued a statement that she’s absolutely not going to cancel. As The Jerusalem Post reports, the statement calls out the former Pink Floyd leader Waters, a vocal Israel critic, by name, claiming that Warwick “would never fall victim to the hard pressures of Roger Waters, from Pink Floyd, or other political people who have their views on politics in Israel. Waters’ political views are of no concern to Ms. Warwick, as she holds her own unique views on world matters. Art has no boundaries. Ms. Warwick will always honor her contracts.” And now Waters has responded.
In a new op-ed for Slate, Waters writes eloquently and at length about Israel’s history of human rights abuses, and it even brings up the time when Warwick played the whites-only casino Sun City in apartheid-era South Africa:
It strikes me as deeply disingenuous of Ms. Warwick to try to cast herself as a potential victim here. The victims are the occupied people of Palestine with no right to vote and the unequal Palestinian citizens of Israel, including Bedouin Israeli citizens of the village of al-Araqib, which has now been bulldozed 83 times by order of the Israeli government.
I believe you mean well, Ms. Warwick, but you are showing yourself to be profoundly ignorant of what has happened in Palestine since 1947, and I am sorry but you are wrong, art does know boundaries. In fact, it is an absolute responsibility of artists to stand up for human rights – social, political and religious – on behalf of all our brothers and sisters who are being oppressed, whoever and wherever they may be on the surface of this small planet.
Forgive me, Ms. Warwick, but I have done a little research, and know that you crossed the picket line to play Sun City at the height of the anti-apartheid movement. In those days, Little Steven, Bruce Springsteen and 50 or so other musicians protested against the vicious, racist oppression of the indigenous peoples of South Africa. Those artists allowed their art to cross boundaries, but for the purpose of political action. They released a record that struck a chord across the world. That record, “I Ain’t Gonna play Sun City,” showed the tremendous support of musicians all over the world for the anti-apartheid effort.
You can read the whole piece here.