AIDA REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank — Pink Floyd's former frontman Roger Waters said Tuesday he'll take to the stage the minute Israel tears down its West Bank separation wall, just as he did in Berlin two decades ago when another wall came down.
Visiting a Palestinian refugee camp in the shadows of the towering concrete structure, the British rocker who co-wrote the iconic 1970s album "The Wall" said he hopes "this awful thing is destroyed soon."
Waters, 65, said the West Bank wall has been on his mind since he first saw it up close in what he described as an eye-opening visit in 2006, following a concert in Israel.
"People who haven't actually seen this, what's going on here, can't actually imagine the impression that it has on you, the sick, kind of churning feeling that you get in your very heart when you see this, how depressing it is," Waters told The Associated Press in an interview.
Water's comments didn't sit very well with Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev, who, quoting The Wall's most famous lyric, said "we don't need no education" from Waters.
Israel began building the barrier _ a concrete wall in urban areas and fence with sensors and barbed wire along rural stretches _ in 2002 following Palestinian bombings and shooting attacks on Israeli civilians. Israel insists it's a temporary security measure.
Palestinians says it's a land grab because, once the final third is built, it will slice off 10 percent of the West Bank, part of the lands they want for their state.
The stretch of barrier between Jerusalem and the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem consists of graffiti-covered gray slabs, with army watchtowers rising up at intervals. At an Israeli-run wall crossing, large crowds of Palestinians wait in long lines, particularly during morning rush hour, to reach jobs in Israel.
On the northern outskirts of Bethlehem, the Aida refugee camp, home to about 5,000 Palestinians, abuts the wall. Palestinian officials often escort foreign dignitaries to the camp _ among them Pope Benedict XVI during his Holy Land pilgrimage last month _ to illustrate the disruption of daily life by the barrier.
Waters dismissed Israel's security argument, saying he believes the wall "is not here to stop Israelis being blown up on buses." He said if that was the sole reason, "what's it doing in the occupied territories, surrounding settlements and cutting (Palestinian) farmers off from their olive trees and so on and so forth?"
"This is an exercise of colonialism," said Waters.
Regev said the barrier has sharply reduced Palestinian attacks, which have killed hundreds of Israelis since the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian fighting in 2000.
"We don't need no education about suicide bombers coming into Israel and murdering innocent people, and how the security barrier has prevented that by more than 95 percent."
But Waters said he believes the barrier is indefensible.
"When you stand in front of an edifice like this, whether it's here or outside a township in South Africa, or in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Second World War, or in Berlin in the 60s and 70s, it's something you know instinctively that this is wrong. It's a bad thing," he said. "It cannot survive forever."
If it does come down one day, he said, he'll perform at the site, just like he did in 1990, at a spot where the Berlin Wall had fallen just a year earlier. "In fact, I would insist on it," he said.
In the meantime, he's considering performing elsewhere in the West Bank, perhaps in the town of Ramallah, but has not made firm plans. On Monday, Waters visited a refugee camp in the northern town of Jenin to support efforts to reopen a local movie house that closed in 1987.
When he played in Israel in 2006, he was criticized by Palestinian activists trying to organize a cultural boycott of Israel. Waters said he now feels ambivalent about having performed in Israel.
Waters, who left Pink Floyd in 1985, ruled out a reunion with his former band mates; their last joint performance was in 2005, for a Live 8 concert. "We had a great career as Pink Floyd. We all enjoyed it. We all worked together and enjoyed everything and it was brilliant. I think it's over," he said.