Row erupts over canceling of Jewish US musician’s festival performance

Matisyahu says Rototom tried to “coerce” him into stating position on Israel-Palestine

Jewish American reggae singer Matisyahu says the organizers of the Rototom Sunsplash music festival in Benicássim have banned him from performing at the event this Saturday after he refused to make a statement outlining his position on Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

Matisyahu described in a post on his Facebook page, what he called the “appalling and offensive” efforts to “coerce” him into making a public statement if he wanted to perform on the last day of the eight-day event in Castellón province. The singer said the organizers of the reggae event contacted him as a result of “pressure from the BDS [Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions against Israel] movement to write a letter, or make a video, stating my positions on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

“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,” Matisyahu wrote.

Matisyahu, a US citizen who does not hold an Israeli passport, says he does not understand why he has been singled out to conform with what he calls the agenda of the local BDS País Valencià movement. “Were any of the other artists scheduled to perform asked to make political statements in order to perform?” asked the singer on his Facebook page. “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,” he added.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain says it is considering bringing legal action against Rototom’s organizers for canceling Matisyahu’s scheduled performance, accusing them of inciting racism.

Ignasi García, a spokesman for Compromís per Castellón, the provincial branch of the left-wing coalition that governs alongside the Socialists in the Valencia regional parliament, signed a statement calling on Matisyahu to “make clear his views on the ‘apartheid the Palestinian people are subjected to every day,’” adding that while the festival respected different points of view, “it is about more than music, and we don’t accept certain conducts as normal.”

The Valencia regional culture department said it had no knowledge of the BDS campaign and the cancellation of the concert.