Matisyahu was scheduled to perform at the Spanish reggae festival Rototom Sunsplash this Saturday, but as Reuters reports, he has been removed from the lineup due to political pressure. Because Matisyahu’s Jewish faith is deeply intertwined with his music, festival organizers faced protests from Valencia’s chapter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which supports strong international measures against Israel due to the nation’s policies with regard to Palestine. The BDS movement dubbed Matisyahu a “lover of Israel” and demanded he take a public stance on the Israel/Palestine conflict. The festival staff reached out to Matisyahu to clarify his position, and when the rapper did not respond to multiple inquiries, they decided to cancel his performance. Here’s Rototom Sunsplash’s official statement:
Rototom Sunsplash, after having repeatedly sought dialogue in the face of the artist’s unavailability to give a clear statement against war and on the right of the Palestinian people to their own state, has decided to cancel the concert.
The Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities is now calling the festival’s decision cowardly, unjust, and discriminatory, claiming that Matisyahu was held to an unfair standard because he was Jewish whereas none of the other performers were asked to offer their stance. World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder urged Spanish authorities “to take appropriate action” against the organizers of Rototom Sunsplash. Matisyahu, who is scheduled to perform in Brussels tonight, has yet to comment.
UPDATE: Matisyahu posted a statement to his Facebook account today decrying the festival’s decision as “appalling and offensive” and declaring, “I support peace and compassion for all people. My music speaks for itself, and I do not insert politics into my music.” Here’s the full statement:
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