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Music Festival Apologizes to Jewish Singer

Michael Johnson

Organizers of the Rototom Sunsplash music festival apologized Wednesday for canceling a performance by Matisyahu. Leaders of the reggae concert series in Spain faced international criticism for banning the Jewish singer, a decision they made following pressure from pro-Palestinian activists.

Matisyahu had been scheduled to play at Rototom since April, taking a prominent spot in the festival’s lineup: mainstage on the closing day. But, under pressure from a local Boycott Divest and Sanction (BDS) chapter in Valencia, which said the artist supports “apartheid and ethnic cleansing,” the concert’s leader Filippo Giunta asked Matisyahu to clarify his stance on Palestinian statehood. When Matisyahu refused, organizers canceled his performance citing the artist’s unwillingness to “clearly declare himself regarding the war and in particular the right of the Palestinian people to have their own State.”

Matisyahu during a performance. (Photo: EPA)

Matisyahu responded on Facebook, writing that “I support peace and compassion for all people. My music speaks for itself, and I do not insert politics into my music.” A statement that echoes others made by the artists over the past few years.

Besides the defamatory comments made by BDS supporters, more worrying is the target for their attacks. As a Pennsylvania-born Jew, without Israeli citizenship, the pro-Palestinian movement has decided it can now hold Jews across the world accountable for policies enacted by the State of Israel. Therefore, by association, Jews can be boycotted and shunned unless they clearly condemn the Israeli government. Such logic, as argued by the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson, unmasks “Jew hatred” and BDS’s anti-Semitic undertones.

Israel’s government is not the only one to condemn the festival’s organizers for canceling Matisyahu’s performance. On Tuesday night, the Spanish foreign ministry said the festival’s response, “put into question the principle of non-discrimination.” However, BDS organizers, stand by their original argument excluding artistic expression at a time when they say they stand for inclusion.