Jewish hip-hop artist Matisyahu has been dropped from the lineup of a Spanish music festival because the festival supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel. But Matisyahu is Jewish, not Israeli. Instead, he hails from America, which has led Jewish leaders to slam the decision as purely Anti-Semitic.
Matisyahu was scheduled to appear on the last day of the annual Rototom Sunsplash festival this week, a taxpayer funded festival in Valencia which features reggae acts from around the world. However, the festival officially supports the BDS movement against Israel, while Matisyahu has been outspoken in his defence of the country, voicing a desire to live there someday, Newsweek has reported.
Consequently, when the festival organisers asked Matisyahu to sign a statement or otherwise endorse a Palestinian state, he refused. A post to the festival’s website reads, “The Festival has decided to replace Matisyahu’s performance [with Jamaican reggae act] Etana. The Jamaican artist will perform at the Main Stage the night of August 22.”
The festival prides itself on its inclusivity. Its website boasts: “in addition to promoting a variety of music, throughout our history we have placed particular emphasis on the promotion of the values which make it possible for a society to advance in the most just and fair way possible.
“From our very beginnings, the culture of peace has always been present in our way of understanding, not just in the festival, but in life in general.”
It added that UNESCO had recognized its “efforts in promoting multiculturalism and dialogue as a fundamental tool for the peaceful resolution of conflicts.”
A representative of the festival, who would only give his first name, George, has told Newsweek: “The fact is that right now the Matisyahu concert is cancelled and in his place is going to be Etana. The festival said Matisyahu should sign [an endorsement] and Matisyahu didn’t want to, and that’s the matter of the cancellation.”
Matisyahu’s manager, David Serber, said by email, “We are still dealing with the festival on this matter, but we plan on making a statement in the coming days.”
Jewish groups have been outspoken in their condemnation. The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, an official partner of the Spanish government, has released a statement calling the decision to cancel “cowardly, unfair and discriminatory.” That taxpayer money goes toward a festival that supports the BDS movement, the statement said, is “shameful.”
“It is noteworthy that the festival is not interested in the opinions of other participants on policies of Iran, the Islamic State, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah,” the statement said.
The president of the World Jewish Congress has similarly denounced the cancellation as “shameful”. In comments reported by the Jerusalem Post, Ronald S. Lauder expressed “outrage” and “utter bewilderment” over the decision, which he said was “a clear instance of anti-Semitism, and nothing else.”
Lauder has called on the Spanish authorities “to condemn this sad incident and to take appropriate action against those responsible for it,” adding: “Matisyahu is an American Jew. More importantly, like everybody else in a free and democratic society, he not only has a right to express his views – whether you agree with them or not — but he also has every right not to have the repugnant views of the festival organizers imposed on him.”
He continued: “being a ‘Zionist’ and supporting Israel has nothing to do with supporting apartheid. Rather, it is about supporting democracy, the rule of law, freedom, openness and diversity.”
Emmanuel Nahshon, a spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry said: “We always said that BDS was not connected to the Palestinian issue or the settlements but was nothing more than Jew hatred. This demonstrates that.”