World Jewish Congress head outraged after Spanish music festival drops Matisyahu

Ronald S. Lauder expressed "outrage" and "utter bewilderment" in the wake of Matisyahu's canceled participation in the Rototom Sunsplash festival.

August 17, 2015 09:35
2 minute read.



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The president of the World Jewish Congress on Sunday condemned the organizers of a Spanish music festival after they had disinvited prominent American Jewish musician Matisyahu for failing to sign a declaration stating he supports the creation of a Palestinian State.  

Ronald S. Lauder expressed "outrage" and "utter bewilderment" in the wake of  Matisyahu's canceled participation in the Rototom Sunsplash festival after activists in the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement pressured organizers to drop the performer from the lineup.

“This is a clear instance of anti-Semitism, and nothing else,” Lauder said and urged Spanish authorities “to condemn this sad incident and to take appropriate action against those responsible for it.”

The WJC leader added: “Matisyahu is an American Jew. More importantly, like everybody else in a free and democratic society, he not only has a right to express his views – whether you agree with them or not — but he also has every right not to have the repugnant views of the festival organizers imposed on him."

Lauder went on to say that "being a ‘Zionist’ and supporting Israel has nothing to do with supporting apartheid. Rather, it is about supporting democracy, the rule of law, freedom, openness and diversity.”

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. In light of the controversy, we have contacted Matisyahu to find out his views on the Israel-Palestine conflict and on Zionism,” the organizers wrote.

They said Matisyahu made clear that “he has never been a political activist and does not bring his personal views to his performances or song lyrics. The fact that he supports Israel does not in itself mean he backs their policies of violence against the Palestinians, so we did not consider it necessary to exclude him from the festival on these grounds.”

By Saturday that all had changed, however, and the festival announced it was dropping Matisyahu from the program because he was unwilling to “clearly speak out against the [2014 Gaza] war and the right of Palestinians to have their own state.”

Born Matthew Miller, Matisyahu has been the most visibly Jewish artist in the hip-hop world since his debut album Shake Off the Dust... Arise was produced by JDub Records in 2004.

Although initially affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, the artist later distanced himself from the movement and moved from JDub, which closed its doors this year. He shaved his signature beard and sidelocks and issued a statement saying “no more hassidic reggae superstar.”

Herb Keinon contributed to this article

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