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Spanish Reggae Fest Backtracks on BDS Pressure to Ban Matisyahu

August 24, 2015

“When he was insulted, he didn’t retaliate with insults; when he suffered, he didn’t threaten, but handed them over to Him who judges justly.”  (1 Peter 2:23)

Matisyahu (Official Press Shot)

Matisyahu (Official Press Shot)

Jewish American musician Matisyahu (Matthew Paul Miller) sang of Jerusalem at the Spanish reggae festival Rototom Sunsplash on Sunday after organizers apologized for caving to BDS pressure and re-invited him to the venue.  

The former member of the Hassidic community had been dropped from the venue when he refused to express support for a Palestinian state.

“Jerusalem, if I forget you, let my right hand forget what it’s supposed to do,” Matisyahu defiantly sang Sunday paraphrasing Psalm 137, as many applauded and others waved Palestinian flags.

One month after the Spanish government gave citizenship rights to descendents of Sephardic Jews, the first law of its kind following Spain’s 1492 expulsion of the Jews, Spanish authorities slammed the reggae festival for blatant anti-Semitic discrimination.

“Requiring a public declaration, which was demanded of him alone, is a violation of conscience and—to the extent that it came because Matisyahu is Jewish—challenges the principle of non-discrimination which is the basis for all plural and diverse societies,” the Spanish Foreign Ministry wrote on Tuesday.  (TOI)

On August 13, not long before the musician’s August 22 slot, festival director Filippo Giunta tried to force Matisyahu “to clearly declare himself regarding the war and in particular the right of the Palestinian people to have their own State.”

Other artists on the lineup threatened to boycott the festival if the Jewish American singer, “seen to represent Israel,” performed.

However, Matisyahu refused to issue a political statement, and Giunta kicked the artist from the lineup, balking under pressure from nearby Valencia-based BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] activists who accused Matisyahu of being a “lover of Israel.”

“The festival kept insisting that I clarify my personal views, which felt like clear pressure to agree with the BDS political agenda,” Matisyahu said in an open statement.  “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,” he wrote.

On Wednesday, Rototom Sunsplash reversed its position, saying it “rejects anti-Semitism and any form of discrimination towards the Jewish community; we respect both their culture as [sic] religious beliefs and we sincerely apologize for what has occurred.”

The statement included an apology to Matisyahu: “Rototom Sunplash [sic] admits that it made a mistake, due to the boycott and the campaign of pressure, coercion and threats employed by the BDS País Valencià because it was perceived that the normal functioning of the festival could be threatened.”

buycott versus boycott-buy Israeli products

People around the world can help fight the boycott of Israel by deliberately buying Israeli products.

The statement said the tactics employed by the BDS against Israel “prevented the organization from reasoning clearly as to how to deal with the situation properly.”

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain (FCJE) called the festival’s oust of Matisyahu a case of “anti-Semitic cowardice,” with the Israeli Foreign Ministry in agreement.  Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon pointed to the ejection of the singer as a demonstration that “BDS was not connected to the Palestinian issue or the settlements but was nothing more than Jew hatred.” (Jpost)

According to Messianic Jewish Rabbi Russ Resnik’s blog “Divine Reversal,” the BDS movement calls for three conditions to be met before its campaign against Israel would be lifted:

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

“Israel was already at work on item B without any help from BDS.  But if you understand the context and implications of A. and C., you’ll realize that they’re tactics for dismantling Israel altogether as the homeland of the Jewish people,” Resnik writes, adding, “That’s why being a ‘lover of Israel’ merits boycott in the BDS world.  BDS aims not so much for justice for the Palestinians, which is a worthy goal, but for the end of Israel as a Jewish state.”

“BDS uses the unjust means of targeting Jews because they’re Jews, and excluding Jews because they’re Jews, to pursue what it claims is a just cause for Palestinians,” Resnik writes.  “Contra BDS and today’s hyper-partisan culture, one can demand justice for oneself and still demand it for the other side as well.”

Rototom Sunsplash is one of the biggest reggae festivals in Europe.  (Photo by Piero Tasso)

Rototom Sunsplash is one of the biggest reggae festivals in Europe.  (Photo by Piero Tasso)

On its website, Rototom Sunsplash claims to follow “A Culture of Peace,” pledging “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.”

The pledge claims “an alignment between different cultures and people from all over the world, regardless of race, religion, borders and perceived physical and ideological barriers,” and boasts recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as an “Exemplary Event … for our efforts in promoting multiculturalism and dialogue as a fundamental tool for the peaceful resolution of conflicts.”

FCJE President Isaac Querub showed gratitude for the festival’s position reversal, stating, “On behalf of the Spanish Jewish community, I thank the organizers for their statement, and we hope that lessons have been learned for the future.  We need to stand together and work together in the fight against all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and hatred.  This includes avoiding discriminating against people who may have a different opinion than oneself on certain issues.  The Rototom Sunsplash should be about celebrating music and not about politics.  I am glad that the festival organizers have realized that.”  (JTA)

“I will treat you in accordance with the anger and jealousy you showed in your hatred of them and I will make myself known among them when I judge you. Then you will know that I the Lord have heard all the contemptible things you have said against the mountains of Israel.  You said, “They have been laid waste and have been given over to us to devour.”  (Ezekiel 35:10–12)

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