A Spanish music festival denied Jewish-American reggae star Matisyahu the opportunity to perform because he would not express support for Palestinian statehood.
El Pais reports that organizers of the Rototom Sunsplash festival were under pressure from local members of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Members of Valencia BDS dubbed Matisyahu a "Zionist" who "defends the state of Israel which practices apartheid and ethnic cleansing."
Although Matisyahu is an American Jew, local BDS activists said the singer has "headlined Pro-Zionist festivals, has acknowledged that he is a ‘lover of Israel,’ and has said, ‘Palestine does not exist.'" Other artists at the festival supported the BDS boycott, refusing to perform with Matisyahu because he was "seen to represent Israel."
The director of the festival, Filippo Giunta, cancelled the performance when Matisyahu would not write a statement or release a video that declared "the right of Palestinians to have their own state."
After the cancellation, the festival’s organizers said "the hostility of the attacks" that the festival had "suffered" were "unjustified." In a statement defending their decision, the organizers said, "Rototom Sunsplash has demonstrated on numerous occasions its sensitivity regarding Palestine."
According to the Times of Israel, the festival’s website displays "a two-and-a-half hour video on pro-Palestinian activists holding Palestinian flags and decrying Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip."
In a statement on the World Jewish Congress (WJC) website, Ronald S. Lauder, president of the WJC, said the cancellation is "a clear instance of anti-Semitism and nothing else." He called on Spanish authorities to "condemn this sad incident and take appropriate action against those responsible for it."
"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 is a musician who has been denied the opportunity to play his planned gig at a European reggae festival purely because he is Jewish and because he refuses to side with the vicious and bigoted BDS movement."
"The Rototom Sunsplash festival benefits from financial support from public authorities," Lauder continued. "I very much hope that they will convey a clear message to the organizers that either they re-invite Matisyahu and apologize for their outrageous behavior, or they pay back that financial aid, because anti-Semitism and racism must not be rewarded by public support—not in Spain, and not anywhere else."