BDS May Regret Getting Matisyahu Banned from Festival

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 to 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.

Featured image: CC BY-NC César Astudillo via flickr with additions by HonestReporting

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