A fantastic concert, and a huge show of support for Matisyahu.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has been targeting American Reggae musician Matisyahu because he is Jewish and refuses to denounce Israel.
In the summer of 2015 an international firestorm of controversy erupted after BDS succeeded in getting Matisyahu banned at the Spanish Rototom Reggae festival. The ban was reversed only after an international outcry, including denunciations by the Spanish government and a leading Spanish newspaper that the action amounted to religious discrimination.
So when Matisyahu booked an appearance in Ithaca, NY, as part of his world tour, it was not long before the local BDS crowd, including our own BDS “star,” sought a boycott of the event and planned a protest.
But it didn’t work.
There was a substantial backlash in favor of artistic freedom. Ithaca resident Linda Glaser wrote a powerful op-ed in The Ithaca Journal, Let Jewish artist perform in Ithaca:
Artistic freedom is the right of every American, as it is based on the First Amendment right of freedom of speech. The Ithaca Coalition for Unity and Cooperation in the Middle East (ICU-CME) supports the right of American musician Matisyahu to perform and to be heard free from intimidation at the State Theatre of Ithaca.
Untrue statements are being spread by the Ithaca Committee for Justice in Palestine about Matisyahu to justify their discrimination against him. Because he is a prominent Jewish artist who refuses to take an anti-Zionist position, BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) supporters around the world are attempting to block his cultural and artistic expression.
As Matisyahu has said, “I have always believed in the power of music to unite all people, regardless of religion, politics or geography.”
We urge the Ithaca community to stand for artistic freedom and reject the boycott of American musician Matisyahu.
I attended the concert last night, and it was great.
By the time I arrived there already was a long line outside the historic State Theatre in downtown Ithaca:
There also was a crowd of Matisyahu SUPPORTERS with signs welcoming him to Ithaca.
Security was tight, as predicted, with everyone undergoing a metal detector pat down, including this suspicious-looking character (a friend):
There were very few BDS protesters.
The much ballyhooed “boycott” and protest fizzled out. Mostly the handful of BDS protesters just handed out leaflets. Every person who received one of the BDS leaflets was given an alternative, pro-Artistic Freedom leaflet.
I heard several of the younger people comment with friends how ridiculous it was that BDS was trying to politicize the event.
Here is the only anti-Matisyahu sign I saw.
One Ithaca resident commented:
Crazy evening but a good one for for the pro-peace, pro-love crowd. Handed out hundreds of flyers, lots of conversations; the good, the bad and the ugly. Matisyahu came out and thanked us, and we also met his Mom and got a Jewish power Mom group photo. We outnumbered the BDS supporters and we had cool signs and better flyers. For vacuousness, moral and otherwise one cannot really beat this BDS supporter. He was very upset that Matisyahu had said “Palestine was never a country” but you could tell he really would have loved to go to the concert, I didn’t have the heart to tell him there really are no “Palistians”.
The concert itself was fantastic. While there were some empty seats towards the back, the main sections were full. Not that seating mattered, because as soon as the music started, the crowd of mostly 20-somethings rushed forward toward the stage, where they danced and shouted for songs.
I was very impressed with Matisyahu’s performance, though disappointed he didn’t sing some of his best known songs. There is no doubt the crowd loved it too, based on what I heard as we left.
Here are some photos I took during the performance, as I tried to avoid getting knocked over. Matisyahu started off in an overcoat:
But the heat of the stage caused various stages of undress:
All in all, it was a wonderful time, and a huge belly-blow to the local BDS crowd. After their stunning defeat at the Greenstar Food Coop, the defeat at the Battle of Matisyahu may signal that Ithaca no longer is a BDS playground where they can bully people into submission.
Just one thing more.
As I was in the middle of the packed crowd near stage, huge clouds of strange smelling smoke wafted through the air. I tried not to inhale. After a while, the walls started to move, everything seemed to move in slow motion, and I swear Matisyahu was singing directly to me. When we got home, I chowed down like there was no tomorrow.
Strange. Is that what Reggae does to you?DONATE
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