Start A Petition

BDS May Regret Getting Matisyahu Banned From Festival

World  (tags: Spain, America, Jew, BDS, 'CIVILLIBERTIES!', corruption, crime, ethics, freedoms, HumanRights, politics, world )

- 1277 days ago -
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.


We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.


Gillian M (11)
Wednesday August 19, 2015, 12:43 pm
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.

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.”

Join the Fighting BDS Facebook page and follow @FightingBDS on Twitter and stand up against the delegitimization of Israel.

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.

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 considering re-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.

Gillian M (11)
Wednesday August 19, 2015, 12:47 pm
The Rototom festival has reversed itself, reinstating Matisyahu's invitation to perform. Also, the Valencia BDS chapter issued a statement defending its decision but stating that it had outside the cultural boycott guidelines outlined by the larger BDS movement.

Over the weekend, American reggae singer Matisyahu, who is Jewish, was booted from Spain's Rototom Sunsplash music festival. According to the festival's organizers, they canceled his performance because Matisyahu refused to issue a statement endorsing a Palestinian state.

That's exactly as outrageous as it sounds: The implication is that Jews are a suspect class, that all Jews are presumed responsible for the actions of Israel, and that is appropriate to demand that Jews affirmatively prove they have the "right" loyalties and beliefs.

But this is about more than just one Spanish reggae fest. The controversy speaks to a much bigger fight over the growing international campaign to boycott Israel, and if that campaign can overcome the extremists in its ranks — or whether it even wants to.

The sequence of events here is important to understanding how this became an international controversy.

The first reports of Matisyahu playing Rototom appear around mid-April; he's scheduled for the Main Stage on August 22, the last day of the festival. His prominent billing makes sense; Matisyahu has been among the world's most famous reggae artists since about 2005. His music has always been pretty heavily Jewish-inflected, which was actually a selling point in Rototom's official bio on the website.

Sometime after that, the anti-Matisyahu campaign begins. It's spearheaded by the local chapter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in Valencia, Spain (the Rototom festival is held just outside of the city). BDS is a campaign that promotes boycotts of Israeli goods and sanctions on the country; more about this, and why it's so controversial, later.

The local BDS chapter, according to the newspaper El Pais (in Spanish), wanted Rototom to cancel Matisyahu's concert. Their main complaint, they said, was that Matisyahu is a Zionist who defends "a state — Israel — that practices apartheid and ethnic cleansing."

For a bit, Rototom's organizers stood by Matisyahu. They wrote in an August 11 Facebook post that his previous comments suggesting sympathy for Israel didn't mean he supported all Israeli policies.

Just two days later, though, the head of the festival, Filippo Giunta, demanded that the artist clarify his stance on Israel/Palestine. Matisyahu refused. On August 15, Rototom's organizers announced that the concert was canceled, citing the artist's failure to "clearly declare himself regarding the war and in particular the right of the Palestinian people to have their own State."

That's when the controversy exploded — and stopped being just about Matisyahu.

What Matisyahu actually believes and what it says about BDS

You might get the sense from all this that Matisyahu is an outspoken champion of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. In fact, he goes to some lengths to avoid discussing politics, and particularly the Israel-Palestine conflict, on which he has resisted taking a position. The fact that this alone got him booted from the Spanish music festival is significant for this episode.

Occasionally, a reporter will press him into discussing Israel, and typically Matisyahu will respond in a way that suggests sympathy for Israel but also a very strong desire to remain apolitical. In 2010, for example, he lamented what he called "one-sided" media coverage of the raid on a Gaza aid flotilla by Israeli forces, which killed 10. When the reporter asked him if he was a "militant Zionist," Matisyahu responded, "No. What does that even mean? That's getting into bigger questions, and I'm not going to do that. I'm a musician. My whole purpose is to bring people together; it's not about focusing on negative stuff."

Similarly, in 2012 he told the Cornell Sun in an interview that "as far as I understand, there was never a country called Palestine." It was a bizarre thing to say and understandably offensive to Palestinians. But he appeared to be speaking historically about a Palestinian state, not ideologically about the existence of Palestinians as a people. And, more to the point, he hastened to add, "I’m not going to claim that I have the answer or the truth or the right knowledge. I’m a singer. ... I have no answers as to who’s right and who’s wrong, and how we should deal with such huge issues that go back so far."

The point is that if you look at what Matisyahu has actually said, yes, he has at times suggested a vague sympathy for Israel, but it's clear that his overwhelming view is that he is apolitical and doesn't think it's his business to weigh in.

Yet the BDS campaign against Matisyahu claims he supports "apartheid and ethnic cleansing." Why? Given the scant evidence, it looked like the BDS chapter had concluded this based in part on Matisyahu's religion, and an assumption that Jews necessarily support all Israeli policies unless they prove otherwise. It's not a standard, after all, that non-Jews are being held to.

At the same time, the hostility to Matisyahu also seemed to reflect a belief that showing any support for Israel or Israelis is tantamount to complicity in all Israeli actions. That's an odd standard, given that many Americans can oppose certain US policies, such as drones or the Iraq War, without opposing the existence of the United States itself.

That standard starts to make more sense, though, if you think that not just Israeli policies, but the existence of Israel itself, is the problem. And indeed that is the position of some, though certainly not all, within BDS.

This shows a fundamental problem for BDS

BDS, as a movement, officially has one central objective: to put economic and political pressure on Israel in order to get it to change its policies towards the Palestinians.

That's a cause with mainstream support in Europe, and elsewhere, as a means to end the occupation. But it's also a cause that's attracted support from activists who take a more extreme position. The incident with Matisyahu speaks to that, and to the way in which the movement is at times defined by its most hard-line members.

Much of the support for BDS comes from anger at Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank and its policies toward Gaza. "The main reason for [BDS's] continued growth ... is the failure to end the occupation that began in 1967 and achieve Palestinian national liberation and sovereignty," Matt Duss, the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, said in recent congressional testimony.

Yet BDS has also attracted members who want to do more than just stop Israel's occupation of the West Bank and its policies toward Gaza. While the movement takes no official position on how to end the Israel-Palestine, one of its co-founders, Omar Barghouti, has called for unifying them into a single state, which would mean dissolving Israel as a Jewish state. This has fed suspicions that at least some proponents of BDS do not see it as just a means to pressure Israel to change its policies, but a means to ending Israel itself.

Proponents of anti-Semitism, which is rising globally, have also at times gravitated toward BDS. This spring in South Africa, for example, protesters rallying in support of BDS shouted, "You Jews do not belong here in South Africa."

That said, it would of course be wrong and unfair to judge an entire movement by the policy positions of a few of its members, or to judge all of BDS based on the statements of a few proponents in a protest. And indeed, many BDS proponents stress their support for a two-state solution that preserves Israeli statehood and protects Israeli interests. That includes the European Union, which is considering a measure to label any imports produced in Israeli settlements — a sort of soft boycott of those settlements.

But the Matisyahu incident shows that BDS really can sometimes look like the movement its more hard-line members want it to be. And the movement really has failed to deal with this. As the left-wing writer Moriel Rothman-Zecher points out, it's not clear BDS knows how to deal with this problem:

The majority of the BDS campaigns I have followed are non-violent and justice-seeking...[but] it seems that many pro-BDS activists are unwilling to even question a BDS campaign (like the Matisyahu one) or entertain the thought that there could be some traces of bigotry involved unless the organizers of the campaign go full out and say "Btw we hate all Jews." It is as if all one needs to do is swap out the word "Zionist" for "Jew," and they’re good to go.

Who is welcome in BDS?

The issue goes beyond a few cranks. Part of BDS's objective is to stigmatize: to make opposing their vision for Palestinian liberation unacceptable in polite circles, just as the campaign against South African apartheid made it socially unacceptable to support that government.

But they at times extend that stigmatization to any association with Israel, whether it is related to the occupation or not; an implication of this logic is that the Israeli state itself should be considered fundamentally illegitimate.

"The Palestinian boycott call targets cultural institutions, projects and events that continue to serve the purposes of the Israeli colonial and apartheid regime," as BDS puts it on its website.

That's roughly the logic by which it makes sense to target Matisyahu for protest, even though he's not Israeli: His refusal to condemn Israel's treatment of Palestinians serves "the purposes of the Israeli colonial and apartheid regime."

But that logic only makes sense if you assume that this American Jew who goes out of his way to avoid discussing the Israel-Palestine conflict, and in his few statements has hinted at generalized sympathy to Israel, must therefore be somehow abetting Israeli policies. It's a logic that is either totally incoherent or anti-Semitic or both.

As long as the BDS movement refuses to clarify its position on what is and is not a legitimate target for boycotting, not to mention on whether it sees the Israeli state as legitimate, it will likely continue to attract, and to some extent be defined by, extremists like those in the Valencia chapter. Running any international, decentralized movement is difficult, and often requires accepting a plurality of views, but until BDS sets a clear line on what it won't accept, it will be known as the movement that attacks largely apolitical Jewish singers as well as the movement that seeks justice for Palestinians.


Hilary S (65)
Wednesday August 19, 2015, 5:51 pm
BDS activists are nothing more than a bunch of bullying, bigoted hypocrites, very selective in their choice of victims. if they were honest about their stance, they'l live in tents among the bedouins, with no internet connection and very little medicinal help, as the world relies on so much israeli knowledge and technology.

Lisa Miller (3)
Wednesday August 19, 2015, 8:48 pm
I heartily agree with all positive comments posted here. BDS is nothing more that a hate group against Jews, Israeli and American. Lowest class of hate mongers and ignorant morons. Sorry abut name calling but lets call a spade a spade.

Gillian M (11)
Thursday August 20, 2015, 5:24 am
liberty, the truth appears to offend you.

. (0)
Thursday August 20, 2015, 8:31 am
Yet more tiresome hasbara direct from Zionist central propaganda HQ Tel Aviv.

Colleen L (3)
Thursday August 20, 2015, 12:30 pm
Thanks Penny

Janet B (0)
Thursday August 20, 2015, 1:55 pm

Janis K (129)
Thursday August 20, 2015, 3:42 pm
Thanks for sharing.

Janis K (129)
Thursday August 20, 2015, 3:56 pm
Love Matisyahu!

David B (34)
Thursday August 20, 2015, 4:51 pm
Thanks Penny for sharing .I don't have a clue who Matisyahu is ,and I can't say I have any knowledge of BDS ,but if he's just a singer song writer the let him be . and if some of his songs have a message , so be it .I'd rather listen to music as a protest than watch people mobbing on the streets and being gunned down .

Debra G (0)
Friday August 21, 2015, 12:44 am
Yes, they had to reverse the decision to boot him from the festival after El Pais wrote about their bigotry (very Zola-like).And it wouldn't look good now that Spain is offering Spanish (EU) citizenship to any Sephardic Jew who can prove ancestry to the 1492 expulsion.

Vikram S (41)
Friday August 21, 2015, 1:38 am
Thanks for sharing. Noted.

Stan B (123)
Friday August 21, 2015, 1:41 am
I hope Matisyahu and others tell them to shove their festival up their sombreros.
Looks like Earl is still hanging around.

Nicolai L (39)
Friday August 21, 2015, 2:39 am
Thanks for sharing

Past Member (0)
Sunday January 22, 2017, 8:36 am
Anti-semitism has to be STOPPED.Evil thing are being said against anti-death sentence for unborn children,Jews,Christians,Rastafarians,and so many other people groups.Live and let live.It does not mean that you must agree with them.
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:
Please add your comment: (plain text only please. Allowable HTML: <a>)

Track Comments: Notify me with a personal message when other people comment on this story

Loading Noted By...Please Wait


butterfly credits on the news network

  • credits for vetting a newly submitted story
  • credits for vetting any other story
  • credits for leaving a comment
learn more

Most Active Today in World

Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.

New to Care2? Start Here.