Spanish fest cancels Matisyahu gig over refusal to endorse Palestinian state

Under pressure from boycott movement, organizers cut reggae singer — who is not Israeli — from line-up over ‘sensitivity to Palestine’

Matisyahu on a visit to Israel. (photo credit: courtesy)
Matisyahu on a visit to Israel. (photo credit: courtesy)

A Spanish music festival demanded Jewish-American reggae star Matisyahu endorse Palestinian statehood, and then canceled his upcoming show after the singer declined, Spanish media reported Saturday.

The Rototom Sunsplash Reggae Festival called off the formerly Hasidic rapper’s August 22 show, with organizers saying Matisyahu had refused to comply with their demand to pen a statement or a video message backing “the Palestinians’ right to a state.”

Festival organizers were driven by intense pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the reports said. Artists scheduled to perform at the event threatened to cancel their appearances if Matisyahu were to perform because he was “seen to represent Israel.”

The organizers gave Matisyahu an ultimatum, telling him if he would “sign such a declaration [publicly affirming his support for the Palestinians, he] can perform,” according to Spanish daily, El Pais (Spanish Link).

Although not Israeli, Matisyahu has visited and performed in the Jewish state multiple times.

In a statement on Facebook, Rototom organizers said that the move was linked to “the festival’s sensitivity to Palestine, its people and the occupation of its territory by Israel.”

The front page of the Valencia-based festival’s website features a two-and-a-half hour video on pro-Palestinian activists holding Palestinian flags and decrying Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip.

Local BDS activists welcomed the move after accusing the Jewish rapper of being a “Zionist” and “defending a state that practices apartheid and ethnic cleansing” on a link posted on his Facebook page.

Matisyahu will be replaced by Jamaican reggae artist Etana.

Matisyahu, who was raised a Reconstructionist Jew in West Chester, Pennsylvania, joined the Chabad movement in 2001 and burst onto the music scene in 2004 as a bearded, beat-boxing, Hasidic star. In 2011, he parted ways with Orthodox Judaism, but continues to perform internationally and maintains that his music still draws inspiration from Jewish religious sources.

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