Matisyahu Dropped From Reggae Fest

The organizers of the Aug. 15-22 Rototom Sunsplash reggae festival in eastern Spain stirred up a hornet’s nest when they dropped Matisyahu from the bill because he wouldn’t comment on Israeli-Palestinian politics. 

Photo: Jason Dixon for the 9:30 Club
9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.

A local group of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel had launched a public campaign to cancel the Jewish-American singer’s appearance, saying he was a “lover of Israel” and demanding he make a public statement on his stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to Reuters. The organizers reportedly demanded that Matisyahu clarify his position on Palestinian statehood with a statement or video in order to keep his slot on the bill, but to no avail.

“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,” they said in a statement.

That prompted the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities to condemn the decision as cowardly, unjust and discriminatory, saying that Matisyahu had been asked to take a political position because he was Jewish when this was not required of other performers. World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder expressed outrage at the decision, urging Spanish authorities “to take appropriate action against those responsible for it,” Reuters said.

Matisyahu broke his silence on the situation via his Facebook account.

“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.”