The week began with the news that Spanish Reggae festival Rototom Sunsplash had canceled the show of Jewish artist Matisyahu because he refused to explicitly support the creation of a Palestinian state. Now, after international reactions from governments, political parties and Jewish associations, the festival apologises and invites the Jewish artist back. “Imposing a public declaration [from Matisyahu] puts into question the principles of non-discrimination on which all plural and diverse societies are based”, said the Spanish government in a statement on Tuesday, describing the pressure put on the Jewish artist as “anti-semitic attitude”. The pro-Palestinian BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) managed to convince several artists of the festival and other social organizations - including political parties – to sign a statement against Matisyahu, describing him as a “representative of Israel” and a “Zionist” who defends “apartheid” of Israel. MATISYAHU: ‘MUSIC TRANSCENDS POLITICS’ Matthew Paul Miller (Matisyahu’s real name) - born in New York and with no Israeli passport - defended his right to make music without “pressures” and wrote on his Facebook profile: “The festival kept insisting that I clarify my personal views; which felt like clear pressure to agree with the BDS political agenda. Honestly it was appalling and offensive.” “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 (…) Were any of the other artists scheduled to perform asked to make political statements in order to perform? 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”, Matisyahu concluded. JEWISH COMMUNITIES REACT But the controversy had become massive in only 24 hours. The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain defined the decision as “coward, unjust and discriminatory” and recalled that the festival receives public funding. The Jewish World Congress expressed “outrage” and asked Spanish authorities “to condemn this sad incident and to take appropriate action against those responsible for it.” CONTROVERSY INVOLVES ALL POLITICAL PARTIES All political parties in Spain also expressed their views. The Conservatives (PP), Social Democrats (PSOE), and Liberals (Ciudadanos) criticised the boycott, but left-wing parties Podemos and Izquierda Unida supported the exclusion of Matisyahu. Major newspaper ‘El País’ wrote an editorial supporting the singer calling the decision to drop him a “intolerable discrimination.” Meanwhile, thousands were showing their support for Matisyahu on his social network profiles. The Embassy of the United States in Spain did also condemn the decision in a public statement, and even the Israeli government briefly commented the news. FESTIVAL REACTS: “PUBLICLY APOLOGISE” On Wednesday, the festival finally reacted: “Rototom Sunsplash would like to publicly apologise to Matisyahu for having canceled his concert and invite him to perform at the festival next Saturday 22 August, as was initially programmed in the lineup.”
Organisers also admitted that they made a “mistake” in the rush of the moment and criticised the “threats, coercions and pressures promoted by BDS.” The question remaining now is to know if Matisyahu will accept this new invitation (his show is programmed for Saturday) or will definitely refuse to play.