For a festival claiming to support "dialogue and open perspectives," the Rototom Sunsplash reggae festival sure had a strange way of showing it by removing Jewish American musician Matisyahu from their lineup over his support of Israel.
To try to understand how such a controversial move could be made, The Jerusalem Post attempted to contact festival organizers and members of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement who initiated the debacle.
An audibly-nervous spokeswoman for the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Benicassim, north of Valencia, Spain, claimed that it was not the festival's decision to remove Matisyahu from its lineup of performers, but rather "a decision made by Matisyahu and BDS."
She was possibly referring to the singer's refusal to sign a declaration stating that he supported a Palestinian state.
No other artists were asked to sign a similar statement in order to perform.
Last Tuesday, the festival
, facing a boycott by five of the 250 artists booked for the week-long festival, wrote on its Facebook page that they contacted Matisyahu to determine his positions on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that the singer said that despite his support for Israel, he has never inserted his political positions into his shows.
“We have never invited anyone to the festival who intends to spread hate messages, and this criteria has been used in exactly the same way when inviting Matisyahu here," the organizers initially wrote.
Later on Monday, the Post
spoke with Jorge Ramos, a member of Valencia's BDS movement who was involved with initiating the anti-Israel declaration that Matisyahu was asked to sign. He was later involved in starting a petition against Matisyahu after the refusal to sign.
From his point of view, the declaration was simply one that would show, if signed, that Matisyahu was "in favor of human rights." He described Matisyahu as someone "in favor of peace, as assumed by his songs," though described the artist several times as someone who "does not respect human rights" and justifies "Israeli crimes."
"Nevertheless, Matisyahu has never declared that he is in favor of human rights, nor the human rights of 'Palestine,'" Ramos said. "Unlike us."
Ramos said that it was BDS Valencia's duty to inform the festival of Matisyahu's personal political positions.
Ramos repeated the timeworn BDS refrain that the movement is staunchly opposed to "all types of racism..." which he said includes anti-Semitism, homophobia and Islamophobia." When asked if artists from other parts of the world should have to sign a document opposing global humanitarian crises around the world, such as the war in Syria or in Sudan, Ramos avoided the question, saying simply that his cause is Israel and the Palestinians, though he supports other human rights initiatives around the world.
"Rototom is a festival dedicated to human rights," he said, although the festival bills itself as a reggae festival.
Ramos emphasized that the BDS outburst was not directed at Matisyahu because he is Jewish, but rather because of his political positions. Herb Keinon and JPost Staff contributed to this report.