Fallout from 2015 Rototom Sunsplash Reggae Festival
You may recall the incident in the summer of 2015 involving Jewish American musician Matisyahu.
His appearance at the Spanish Rototom Reggae festival was cancelled after threats from local Spanish activists from the Boycott, Divestment and Movement (BDS) movement.
Spain has a particularly malicious BDS movement, which until recently, has had success convincing municipalities to boycott Israel, creating so-called Zionist-free zones. Those municipal boycotts have been declared to be illegal discrimination by Spanish courts.
Matisyahu made a name for himself as a religious Jewish Reggae singer with hits advocating peace, such as One Day.
Festival Cancels Matisyahu Under BDS Pressure
Matishyahu was one of the featured performers at the Spanish Rototom Reggae festival, until local BDS groups found out.
Matisyahu, because he was Jewish (though not Israeli), was asked to sign a pledge supporting a Palestinian state. When he refused, his appearance was cancelled. We explained at the time the significance of this litmus test imposed on Jews:
For years we have been arguing that at most there is a thin line between the Israel hatred of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and hatred of Jews.
BDS was born at the anti-Semitic 2001 Durban conference, but was repackaged as a grassroots “civil society” movement in 2005, and now has duped many progressives into thinking BDS is just about Israel leaving the West Bank. Groups like Jewish Voice for Peace do BDS’s bidding is perpetuating this charade.
That thin line has all but disappeared in Europe, where BDS paves the was to anti-Semitism:
- Summer 2014 – “Pro-Palestinian” rallies morph into anti-Semitic hatefests
- Boycott Movement Gang Attacks Two Jews on Paris Street
- Vienna: “Free, Free Palestine” chant becomes “Kill, Kill the Jews”
So it is, in a sense, no surprise to hear the outrageous news that American Jewish musician Matisyahu has been banned at a Spanish Reggae music festival due to pressure from the BDS movement after he failed to sign a statement recognizing a Palestinian state.
BDS has shifted from its practice of banning and attacking Israeli musicians, to Jewish musicians who fail to pledge allegiance to the BDS movement. It was a natural shift for the movement.
Matishayu’s position was that he’s just a musician and shouldn’t have to take a political pledge, particularly since he was singled out because he’s Jewish. No non-Jewish musicians were pressured to sign any pledges.
He wrote on his Facebook page:
“The festival organizers 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. 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. 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, that as the one publicly Jewish-American artist scheduled for the festival they were trying to coerce me into political statements. 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. – Blessed Love, Matis”
Festival Apologized, and Reinstated Matisyahu
There was a furious — and unusual — backlash against this anti-Semitic BDS abuse, including from a leading Spanish newspaper, Unacceptable Discrimination:
He is the only musician performing at Rototom, which is funded with public money, 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: as said, he is not an Israeli national. When Miller refused to comply, the organizers of Rototom decided to cancel his appearance, scheduled for the final night of the eight-day festival. But the Spanish Constitution explicitly forbids any type of discrimination on the grounds of “birth, race, sex, religion, opinion, or any other personal or social condition or circumstance.”
It is absolutely unacceptable that in the Spain of the 21st century, individuals and organizations can still demand that somebody explain themselves in ideological terms in order to be able to exercise their profession, and takes us back to the dark days when everybody was required to prove their religiosity and purity of blood.
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 Spanish government condemned the ban as unlawful discrimination:
“Imposing a public declaration [from Matisyahu] puts into question the principles of non-discrimination on which all plural and diverse societies are based,” Spanish foreign ministry officials said in a statement sent to media outlets on Tuesday afternoon. The Spanish Constitution forbids discrimination on the grounds of “birth, race, sex, religion, opinion, or any other personal or social condition or circumstance.”
The festival organizers backed down, Spanish Festival apologizes for BDS-pressured ban on Jewish musician, including an apology
1. Rototom Sunsplash rejects anti-Semitism and any form of discrimination towards the Jewish community; we respect both their culture as religious beliefs and we sincerely apologize for what has occurred, thereby rectifying point 4* in the previous release regarding this controversy.
2. Rototom Sunsplash would like to publicly apologize to Matisyahu for having cancelled his concert and invite him to perform at the festival next Saturday 22 August, as was initially programmed in the lineup.
3. Rototom Sunplash admits that it made a mistake, due to the boycott and the campaign of pressure, coercion and threats employed by the BDS País Valencià because it was perceived that the normal functioning of the festival could be threatened. All of which prevented the organization from reasoning clearly as to how to deal with the situation properly….
The BDS movement was in panic — it’s not used to losing these battles in Spain. The excuse used was that Matisyahu was singled out not because he’s Jewish, but because he’s a pro-Israel Jew, Boycott Movement: We only ban Zionist and pro-Israel Jews (i.e. most Jews):
If being Zionist and pro-Israel were justification for a ban, then BDS would be justified in banning the vast majority of Jews from public appearances. So tell me again how BDS is not anti-Semitic?
Matisyahu Performed In Face of BDS Protests
Matisyahu did perform at the festival, but was harassed by anti-Israel activists who taunted him and others with Palestinian flags as he sung, Matisyahu sings “Jerusalem” in face of anti-Israel protesters at Spanish Festival
Matisyahu’s appearance was greeted with joy by many at the festival, who didn’t like the way BDS politicized Reggae music.
His performance met with rave reviews, particularly his message of Peace (via El Mundo – Google Translate)…
But BDS was not interested in peace. It sent out protesters, including many in the crowd waiving Palestinian flags while Matisyahu performed.
One of Matisyahu’s most famous songs is “Jerusalem.” If you add up all the different versions on YouTube, it has tens of millions of views.
1. By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, we also wept when we remembered Zion.
2. On willows in its midst we hung our harps
3. For there our captors asked us for words of song and our tormentors [asked of us] mirth, “Sing for us of the song of Zion.”
4. “How shall we sing the song of the Lord on foreign soil?”
5. If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget [its skill]
6. May my tongue cling to my palate, if I do not remember you, if I do not bring up Jerusalem at the beginning of my joy.
Tonight was not easy but at the end of it all I feel blessed to be given the opportunity. Thank You! pic.twitter.com/B9EJuuEbOT
— Matisyahu (@matisyahu) August 23, 2015
But it wasn’t over for Matisyahu. He’s still the subject of boycott attempts by BDS, including when he appeared in Ithaca, NY, and was protested by our local anti-Israel activists, Artistic freedom showdown as BDS protests Matisyahu appearance in Ithaca, NY. There were a lot more counter-protesters in favor of Matisyahu than anti-Israel protesters trying to quash his artistic freedom:
Criminal Prosecution of BDS Activists in Spain
There has just been a very interesting twist in Spain.
The Jewish Community of Madrid (JCM) is the main Jewish organization in the Autonomous Region of Madrid. David Hatchwell is its president:
The JCM filed a complaint against nine BDS activists behind the Matisyahu intimidation campaign. (I have not been able to obtain a copy of the complaint itself, but this press release describes it.)
That complaint was just accepted by a Magistrate, meaning that the Magistrate found enough to move to the next stage, which is an oral trial. The acceptance of the complaint is a big deal legally. The Magistrate was not required to accept it.
The Spanish system is not like ours, it’s more of an investigatory system where the Magistrate will conduct the investigation and come up with a result. I was provided with this description of the next stage:
Now that the complaint is admitted, the Examining Magistrate will be in charge of investigating the crime, its circumstances, perpetrators and any other matters relating to the offence. He will summon the defendants to appear before the Court, assess the evidence submitted and rule on whether there is enough circumstantial evidence of the commission of the crime for holding an oral trial. The court has discretion to refer the complaint to the public prosecutor for his/her opinion on the above as well as on any other matters. If the Court finds that the case merits prosecution it will confirm the charges against the defendants and fix a date for the beginning of the oral trial (“juicio oral”, in Spanish).
ACOM (Acción y Comunicación sobre Oriente Medio), a Spanish organization that fights BDS in Spain, including through the court system, has a post in which it describes the importance of the court accepting the complaint, ACOM supports judicial initiatives against BDS leaders in the Matisyahu boycott that could result in prison terms:
We are happy to share the news about the judicial initiative by Spain’s Legal Committee Against Antisemitism and Discrimination, that obtained from a Valencia Court the acceptance to proceed in the criminal case again nine leaders of the BDS gang in the regions of Valencia and Catalonia. Those gang members were directly responsible for the bullying, threats and violence exercised in the boycott against the singer Matisyahu in the summer of 2015
Through the last years, ACOM has denounced the anti Semitic thuggery of the BDS, its genocidal objectives, its fraudulent narrative and its despicable means, no matter how much its activists try to disguise them as a legitimate criticism of Israel.
The campaign orquestrated [sic] in those days in 2015 against the singer, only for being Jewish and for his rejection to be singled out and criminalised, and the violent mob that tied to intimidate him and cancel the concert, exposed the BDS group for what it is: sectarian, extremist and an obstacle to democratic, civic coexistence.
At ACOM we know that because we were there, at the concert, confronting the sectarians and supporting Matisyahu….
ACOM’s website indicates the defendants face up to 4 years in prison.
The Spanish BDS activists are claiming they are the victims, which is what BDS activists always do when they are held accountable. The Jerusalem Post reports:
[President of the Jewish Community of Madrid, David] Hatchwell expressed his confidence that “this time the violent instigators of these Anti-Semitic campaigns will suffer criminal consequences for their actions.”
In the wake of the pending criminal hearings, the BDS activists launched an online petition called, “Defend Human Rights.”
“We consider this a flagrant violation of our freedom of expression and an attempt to criminalize and suppress our democratic right to defend human rights at home and internationally,” the BDS activists wrote.
In their petition, they continued to vilify Matisyahu saying they have been accused of committing acts of “threat and coercion” and “hate crime” for what they dubbed their “peaceful campaigning to convince the Rototom Sunsplash Festival to cancel the invitation of an artist based on his track record of defending war crimes and gross violations of human rights, incitement to racial hatred, denial of the existence of the Palestinian people, and documented connections to extremist and violent fundamentalist groups.”
“We consider the false accusations against us to be part of the much wider, well-funded campaign led by Israel and its lobby groups, to demonize or criminalise peaceful campaigning for Palestinian human rights, and in particular the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality,” they wrote.
The activists pledged to “expose the fabrications and lies thrown at us by Israel’s lobby and its supporters in the Spanish State and mobilize our networks of grassroots support and solidarity.”
In a statement provided to Legal Insurrection, Hatchwell of The Jewish Community of Madrid vowed to fight on:
The Jewish Community of Madrid will spare no efforts in fighting antisemitic behavior using the full extent of Spanish law.
We will continue to follow this case.DONATE
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