The political views of the co-founder of Pink Floyd, on issues from Israel to Ukraine, have led to calls to cancel the legs of his European tour in Germany. Unlike Frankfurt, Munich authorities say this is not possible.
Several of Roger Waters' scheduled tour dates in Germany in May have been called into question in recent weeks, but Munich authorities said on Wednesday that they could not find cause to halt his planned May 21 concert at the city's Olympic Hall.
This decision contrasts with the city of Frankfurt's ongoing efforts to cancel a May 28 event, which Waters says he is resisting legally. Poland also canceled shows by the former Pink Floyd member, who left the band in the 1980s, late last year.
The German gigs' futures are uncertain because of Waters' political views on Israel — the musician is a longstanding member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) group — and on the war in Ukraine — Waters spoke about the conflict at the United Nations this year at Russia's invitation.
Responding to a request to cancel the concert, Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter said "we do not currently see any legally secure possibility ... to reverse the decision already made."
"I do not want to have him [Waters] here, but now we're going to have to endure it," he said.
Reiter went on to call it "unspeakable" that Waters should appear in the former "capital" of the Nazi movement in Germany and so close to the site of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists.
Munich plans shows of solidarity, call for public boycott instead
The Munich City Council said in a statement released on Wednesday that it would look to set up displays on the same day as the concert promoting tolerance, international solidarity and a rejection of antisemitism, including shows of support for the sovereignty of Ukraine and Israel.
Charlotte Knobloch, the president of the Jewish community in Munich, called the decision a "slap in the face for the Jewish community and for all who engage for a respectful and tolerant coexistence." She said city authorities had "missed a chance to follow through with deeds on their many declarations of intent against antisemitism."
Bavaria's government ombudsman charged with combating antisemitism, Ludwig Spaenle, recommended that ordinary people carry out a boycott of their own instead.
"The concrete policies of the Israeli government can be criticized in a democracy," he said. "But the state of Israel's right to exist is non-negotiable."
Waters says taking legal steps to secure Munich and Frankfurt gigs
Waters has long been known for his outspoken political views and is very critical of the West.
These have been thrust back into the spotlight in a more pronounced manner since Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Waters wrote to the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urging her to convince her husband to sue for peace, and then later spoke about the conflict at the UN at Russia's invitation.
His most recent political post on Twitter is a video message addressed to US President Joe Biden, which accuses the US government of trying to "murder" a man he describes as a wrongly imprisoned Venezuelan diplomat. The Colombian businessman, Alex Saab, was extradited to the US in 2021 on charges of money laundering as part of a scheme run by Venezuela's government.
When it comes to alleged antisemitism, Waters says his criticism is addressed to the state of Israel; he describes the occupation of the Palestinian territories as "apartheid." Israel refutes this claim.
Wall-to-wall lyric references
Waters said last week that his lawyers would be fighting Frankfurt's bid to halt his concert in a post titled "Hey Frankfurters leave free speech alone," in which he said German authorities were trying to deny his "basic human rights."
"I want to state for the record and once and for all that I am not and never have been antisemitic and nothing that anyone can say or publish will alter that," Waters wrote. "My well publicized views relate entirely to the policies and actions of the Israeli government and not with the peoples of Israel."
But Israel's ambassador to Germany shot back using another line from Pink Floyd's legendary album "The Wall."
"Roger Waters says 'We don't need no education,' and yet he's in urgent need of some remedial classes," Israel's German ambassador Ron Prosor wrote on Twitter this week. "Anyone who paints a Star of David on a giant inflatable pig and then shoots it down is an antisemite."
This was a reference to an earlier controversy when Waters toured in 2013 and released balloons in the shape of pigs, some of which featured Stars of David, at his concerts. After facing criticism, he removed the Star of David, but kept the inflatable pig.
Waters, 79, is currently scheduled to play in Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Berlin (twice), and possibly Frankfurt, depending on the outcome of the legal protests, in May. This is towards the conclusion of what's billed as his "first ever farewell tour," in a series of shows called "This is not a drill."
He played the first two concerts in Lisbon, Portugal, last week and has three dates in Spain this week.
The five German cities have faced some kind of protests or appeals to consider canceling the shows, including from German State Minister for Culture Claudia Roth.
"Roger Waters has in the meantime evidently become an active supporter of BDS and beyond that, a conspiracy theorist," Roth said in a recent interview with one of Germany's leading Jewish newspapers, the Jüdische Allgemeine. "As federal government commissioner for culture, I cannot and do not want to ban any concert. The fight against antisemitism is a general societal task. Therefore I would hope that organizers will refrain from carrying out concerts with Roger Waters, and that, should they take place nevertheless, he plays before an empty arena."