UPDATE: The Rototom Sunsplash reggae festival has reversed its decision to cancel Matisyahu’s performance. It also apologized to the artist and issued a statement condemning discrimination and anti-Semitism.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS Movement) is a global campaign attempting to increase economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with the stated goals of the movement: the end of Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and respect for the right of return of Palestinian refugees. (wikipedia.org)
If there was ever a case that showed the true face of BDS, the saga of Jewish reggae artist Matisyahu and his ouster from a music festival in Spain might well be it.
BDS ( has revealed itself as a hate group that targets Jews because of their political views. And its members will use pressure tactics to silence those who think differently than they do.
Not content with targeting artists from Israel, the BDS bullies have moved to targeting artists who support Israel, like Matisyahu, who is American.
The BDS bullies pushed the festival to demand that Matisyahu issue a statement in support of Palestinian statehood, a condition not placed on any other artist at the festival. The BDS singled him out as a “lover of Israel,” according to Reuters.
The BDS wasn’t alone in its discrimination. According to Rolling Stone magazine, “Other artists at the Rototom Sunsplash Reggae Festival threatened to pull out of the festival since they felt that he, as a Jewish American, was ‘seen to represent Israel.’”
As an American Jew, he was seen to represent Israel.
In a statement published on Facebook, Matisyahu said that his music was non-political. He also slammed the festival for singling him out. “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.”
It would be bad enough – if he were Israeli – to discriminate against him for his national origin, which the BDS openly advocates. But to target him because he’s a Jew and supports the Jewish state is nothing short of anti-Semitism. Then to pressure him to issue a political statement against his will takes it another level altogether.
Matisyahu said on facebook :
“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.
I support peace and compassion for all people. My music speaks for itself, and I do not insert politics into my music. Music has the power to transcend the intellect, ideas, and politics, and it can unite people in the process.
The festival 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. – Blessed Love, Matis”
And it may have been a step too far.
The Spanish government issued a statement condemning the festival’s actions. “Imposing a public declaration (from Matisyahu), puts into question the principle of non-discrimination on which all plural and diverse societies are based,” the Spanish Foreign Ministry said.
More damning, however, may be the press coverage BDS depends on to spread its hate. Spanish newspaper El Pais also condemned the festival in an editorial titled, “Unacceptable discrimination,” noting that “he is the only musician…who has been demanded to make such a statement, and to make matters worse, he has been asked to do so solely on the grounds that he is Jewish.
The paper then concluded that such behavior has no place in modern Spain:
Anti-Semitism and discrimination on the grounds of ideology cannot be tolerated and must be stood up to. Criticism of Israel’s policies and defense of the Palestinians cannot be used as cover for systematic persecution of those who hold different views, or because they are Jewish. Spain’s politicians need to speak out about this scandal that questions this country’s commitment to free speech and thought.
The Daily Beast also smelled a rat:
It is very hard not to read more than a hint of anti-Semitism wafting from the decision to kick out the rapper, which appears to undermine Rototom’s commitment to being a “point for meeting, sharing, and intercultural understanding,” as it states on its website.
Stigmatizing and restricting Jewish artists because they profess love for Israel seems unjust. To hold them accountable for all of Israel’s policies is absurd, and sets a damaging example.
While the festival is absorbing the bulk of the condemnations (and reportedly consideringre-inviting the artist), the BDS movement is claiming credit for the victory, calling it a “cry of popular solidarity.”
It may be a victory they will come to regret. The real cry of solidarity, clearly, is with Matisyahu, who already enjoys the support of fans across the world. And that audience will only grow from the sympathetic coverage he’s receiving across the globe.
The story also highlights the vast difference in what the BDS likes to say and what it actually does in the world. As the Wall Street Journal aptly put it: “Remember the Matisyahu affair the next time proponents of the anti-Israel boycott, divest and sanction movement insist their aim is to promote Palestinian rights, not anti-Jewish bigotry.”
And if people start to forget, just remind them.