Matisyahu: Spanish festival ban is ‘appalling, offensive’

Rapper says organizers tried to coerce him to back BDS Palestine agenda; festival response calls rapper ‘American Hebrew’

US Jewish rapper Matisyahu seen visiting near Jerusalem's Old City. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
US Jewish rapper Matisyahu seen visiting near Jerusalem's Old City. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

American Jewish rapper Matisyahu hit back Monday at his ban by a Spanish music festival, branding a demand from the organizers to “declare his view regarding the Palestinians right to a state of their own” as “appalling and offensive.”

The Rototom Sunsplash festival, at Benicassim in eastern Spain, announced Sunday it was cancelling Matisyahu’s performance after the Valencia chapter of the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement described the singer as a “lover of Israel” and asked organizers to request that the singer “clarify” his political views.

Posting on his Facebook page on Monday, Matisyahu wrote that, “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.”

The singer said he supported “peace and compassion for all people,” since music “speaks for itself” and “has the power to transcend the intellect, ideas, and politics, and it can unite people in the process.”

The festival, he said, “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.”

Also Monday, Jewish groups protested the festival’s cancellation of the performer.

The Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities condemned the decision as cowardly, Reuters said. The organization characterized the festival’s behavior as unjust and discriminatory.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder was outraged by the decision, and urged Spanish authorities “to take appropriate action against those responsible for it.”

Matisyahu and Wiz Khalifa (photo credit: Matisyahu/Twitter)
Matisyahu and Wiz Khalifa (photo credit: Matisyahu/Twitter)

The festival posted a statement on its website where it said that “after having repeatedly sought dialogue given the unavailability of the artist for comment, in order to clearly declare himself [sic] regarding the war and in particular the right of the Palestinian people to have their own State,” the festival decided to cancel the performance by Matisyahu.
The artist was described in the statement as “the American Hebrew artist Matisyahu.”

The statement described the festival as an event that “has demonstrated on numerous occasions its sensitivity regarding Palestine, its people and the occupation of their territories by Israel.”

Boasting of the festival’s past efforts to promote “peace and coexistence,” the statement then goes on to enumerate events sponsored by the festival in past years, including “Palestine: the failure of the international community” in 2014; “Palestine: chronicles from the occupied territories” in 2012; “A light over the occupied territories” and “Freedom flotillas, from El Marmara up to today” in 2011 and 2010. “Palestine: an ongoing conflict that is in need of international solidarity” in 2010.

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