Spanish government criticizes music festival’s ban on Jewish US singer

Ministry says request for Matisyahu to make a political statement “violates the conscience”

Matisyahu performs in Seattle in October.
Matisyahu performs in Seattle in October.M. Hayward (Getty)

The Spanish government said on Tuesday that it “condemns” the decision by the Rototom Sunsplash music festival in Benicássim to cancel this Saturday’s concert by Jewish-American singer Matisyahu.

The musician said organizers of the event, which is partly funded with public money, tried to “coerce” him into making a public political statement on the Israel-Palestine conflict which, according to the Foreign Ministry, “violates the conscience.”

“The imposition of the requirement for a public statement, which was only demanded from him, constitutes a way of acting that violates the conscience and that, to the extent that it is determined by the fact that Matisyahu is Jewish, questions the principle of non-discrimination that is the basis of plural and diverse societies,” the ministry said in a press release.

Spain underscores its rejection of boycott campaigns against Israel” Spanish Foreign Ministry statement

A few hours before the government’s statement on Tuesday, the Israeli Embassy in Spain also emphatically condemned the cancellation of the concert, saying it arose from “motives of ideological censorship with shades of anti-Semitism.”

The Spanish government added that it understood the anger expressed by Jewish communities – The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain has announced that it is considering legal action against Rototom’s organizers – and repeated its rejection of all types of anti-Semitism.

“Spain underscores its rejection of boycott campaigns against Israel and its firm position in favor of a negotiated solution to the conflict on the basis of an independent Palestinian state that co-exists in peace and prosperity with Israel.”

The Rototom Sunsplash music festival announced its decision to cancel Matisyahu’s performance last Saturday after he refused to make a statement outlining his position on Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

In a post on his Facebook page, Matisyahu described 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 Rototom reggae festival has begun conversations with Spanish and international Jewish groups

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.

The Rototom reggae festival has since said it has begun conversations with Spanish and international Jewish groups to allow both sides to lay out their positions.

Meanwhile, the Valencia regional government said it regretted the cancellation of the concert, despite the fact that Ignasi García, a spokesman for Compromís per Castellón – the provincial branch of the left-wing coalition that governs alongside the Socialists in the region – signed a statement calling on Matisyahu to “make clear his views on the ‘apartheid the Palestinian people are subjected to every day.’”


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