Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon/FLASh90
Matisyahu in Jerusalem.March 08, 2012.

( On Wednesday, Spain’s Rototom Sunsplash festival officials said that the decision to cancel American reggae rapper and alternative rock musician Matisyahu’s appearance had been made under “threats and coercion promoted by Valencia’s BDS that could seriously disrupt the normal functioning of the festival.”

The same organizers originally said they were forced to cancel his gig after having “repeatedly sought dialogue in the face of the artist’s unavailability to give a clear statement against war and on the right of the Palestinian people.”


It is also likely that festival organizers’ decision to reverse their original booting of the formerly-Orthodox Jewish singer came under force as well. Late Tuesday, Spain’s foreign ministry said the request from the festival for the singer to confess his politics or be booted was an “act that violates the conscience” and “put into question the principle of non-discrimination.”

Also, it appears that the Spanish government’s decision to put pressure on the festival was also forced, by the World Jewish Congress, which said it had protested the concert cancellation to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. WJC President Ronald Lauder asked Rajoy to condemn the “scandalous behavior” of Rototom Sunsplash festival organizers.

Lauder said the decision’s “anti-Semitic overtones are not in Spain’s best interests.”

Nobody was able to force Matisyahu to do anything, as he wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday:

“The festival organizers contacted me because they were getting pressure from the BDS movement. They wanted me to write a letter, or make a video, stating my positions on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to pacify the BDS people. I support peace and compassion for all people. My music speaks for itself, and I do not insert politics into my music. Music has the power to transcend the intellect, ideas, and politics, and it can unite people in the process. The festival kept insisting that I clarify my personal views; which felt like clear pressure to agree with the BDS political agenda.

“Honestly it was appalling and offensive, that as the one publicly Jewish-American artist scheduled for the festival they were trying to coerce me into political statements. Were any of the other artists scheduled to perform asked to make political statements in order to perform? No artist deserves to be put in such a situation simply to perform his or her art. Regardless of race, creed, country, cultural background, etc, my goal is to play music for all people. As musicians that is what we seek. – Blessed Love, Matis.”

Ha’aretz was critical of the Spanish BDS “initial targeting of a non-Israeli, Jewish artist for his views on Israel-Palestine. For years, BDS activists have worked hard to denounce criticism of their movement as anti-Semitic. ‘It’s not about Judaism, or Jews,’ they said, ‘but about the belligerence of Israeli policy.’ That claim received quite a body blow with this latest turn of events. While far from coloring the entire movement as anti-Semitic, the Spanish, inquisition-like push for Matiayahu’s ‘confession’ regarding his political views, if only because he is a Jewish man, leaves a tad more than just a bad taste in one’s mouth.”


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