A few questions the Independent could have asked Roger Waters

What’s the role of a journalist while conducting an interview about a charged political topic? In the UK, it seems that the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code likely demands that questionable claims be challenged, or some minimal context provided to readers.  

Yet, in an “exclusive” interview published at the Independent, Paul Gallagher allows famed rock star Roger Waters to level several misleading and inaccurate claims against Israel and its supporters without even suggesting that his views are in dispute.

Waters’ first claim unchallenged by Gallagher: His 2006 concert in Israel (at Neve Shalom, an Arab/Israeli peace village) was segregated, and attended by “Israeli Jews only”.

How Gallagher could have responded:

But, there is no racial or religious segregation in Israel.  Further, the country’s population is 25% non-Jewish. As 50,000 people attended that show, are you really claiming that the entire audience was Jewish? No Christians or Muslims attended? How did you arrive at this conclusion?

Waters’ second claim unchallenged by Gallagher: there are “40 to 50 discriminatory laws” against non-Jews in Israel.

How Gallagher could have responded:

Can you name some of these discriminatory laws? How do you respond to media critics who refuted this very allegation?

Waters’ third claim unchallenged by Gallagher:  people in the music business are terrified to take a stance against Israel out of fear they’ll be personally “destroyed” and their careers ruined. 

How Gallagher could have responded:

Can you name a few people in the music business whose careers have been ruined after supporting BDS? 

Waters fourth claim unchallenged by Gallagher: his critics smear him with the accusation that he’s similar to a Nazi.

How Gallagher could have responded:

But haven’t you yourself unfairly accused Israel of behaving like Nazi Germany? Aren’t you being hypocritical by complaining about the use of a smear that you have leveled at others?

Waters’ fifth claim unchallenged by Gallagher: his critics falsely accuse him of antisemitism.

Gallagher could have responded thusly:

But, your Israel-Nazi analogy – suggesting that Israel is treating the Palestinians today like the Nazis treated the Jews during the Holocaust – is considered antisemitic by the US State Department’s definition of antisemitism.  Also, you’ve accused the “Jewish lobby” of being “extraordinarily powerful”, thus stifling criticism of Israel. Don’t you feel this plays into classic historic antisemitic tropes about the dangers of Jewish power?

Not only did Gallagher fail to ask these questions, but clearly seemed sympathetic to Waters’ feeling of victimization at the hands of Israel’s defenders – and implicitly legitimized Waters’ toxic narrative suggesting that Jews cynically play ‘the antisemitism card’ in order to stifle debate about Israel.

Gallagher’s interview of Waters demonstrates that the questions journalists don’t ask Palestinians and their advocates can be as potentially misleading to readers as outright distortions or falsehoods about the Jewish state.

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