Spain condemns reggae festival's axing of Jewish singer

2015-08-19 15:59
US Jewish singer Matisyahu. (Tobias Schwarz, AFP)

US Jewish singer Matisyahu. (Tobias Schwarz, AFP)

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Madrid - The Spanish government has condemned a reggae festival's decision to boot a Jewish American singer from the line-up after he declined to state his position on a Palestinian state.

Matisyahu, who fuses reggae and hip-hop with Jewish influences in his songs, had been due to perform at the weeklong Rototom SunSplash festival, one of Europe's largest reggae festivals, in Benicassim in eastern Spain on Saturday.

But a local branch of the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement campaigned against the performance, accusing Matisyahu of being anti-Palestinian and a "Zionist" who supports the practice of "apartheid and ethnic cleansing".

Festival organisers then asked the singer to declare if he was in favour of a Palestinian state and when they got no reply they cancelled his show, sparking an outcry from Jewish groups and the Israeli embassy in Spain.

Spain's foreign ministry late on Tuesday condemned the move by the festival and reiterated Madrid's opposition to boycott campaigns against Israel.

"Demanding a public declaration only from him is a way of acting that violates his conscience and, if it was decided based on Matisyahu's Jewish identity, puts into question the principle of non-discrimination," it said in a statement.

Matisyahu, whose real name is Matthew Miller has appeared on stage wearing traditional Orthodox Jewish clothing, although in his latest album he lost his beard and his ultra-Orthodox trappings.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict

On his Facebook page he said the decision to cancel his show was "appalling" and said his music "speaks for itself, and I do not insert politics into my music".

"The festival organisers contacted me because they were getting pressure from the BDS movement. They wanted me to write a letter, or make a video, stating my positions on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to pacify the BDS people," he said.

"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."

Festival organisers also took to Facebook, denying that they had cowed to the boycott movement.

"We did not say no to Matisyahu because he has Hebrew roots or as a Zionist, but we just simply considered inappropriate organising something that would certainly generate a conflict," they said.

Read more on:    spain  |  us  |  palestine  |  israel  |  middle east peace

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