Matisyahu Dropped From Concert Lineup for Not Endorsing Palestine

A Spanish music festival canceled a performance by hip-hop artist Matisyahu as part of an anti-Israel boycott. DeShaun Craddock on Flickr

Organizers of a music festival in Spain dropped the hip-hop artist Matisyahu from their lineup because he would not endorse a Palestinian state. The annual reggae music festival, Rototom Sunsplash in Benicassim, Valencia, began August 15. Matisyahu was scheduled to perform August 22, the final day.

The festival supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, an international campaign started in 2005 that boycotts Israel. Academic groups, including some in the United States, have also supported the movement.

A post on the festival's website says, "The Festival has decided to replace Matisyahu's performance by Etana. The Jamaican artist will perform at the Main Stage the night of August 22."

The Spanish news outlet El Pais reported that the festival urged Matisyahu to sign a statement or otherwise endorse a Palestinian state.

"The fact is that right now the Matisyahu concert is canceled and in his palce is going to be Etana," a representative for the festival, who would only give his first name, George, told Newsweek. "The festival said Matisyahu should sign [an endorsement] and Matisyahu didn't want to, and that's the matter of the cancellation."

Matisyahu's manager, David Serber, said by email, "We are still dealing with the festival on this matter, but we plan on making a statement in the coming days."

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, an official partner of the Spanish government, said in a statement the cancellation was "cowardly, unfair and discriminatory." That taxpayer money goes toward a festival that supports the BDS movement, the statement said, is "shameful."

"It is noteworthy that the festival is not interested in the opinions of other participants on policies of Iran, the Islamic State, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah," the statement said.

The festival representative declined to respond to the federation's statement.

Matisyahu, the stage name of Matthew Miller, is an American Jew, but not Israeli. He was affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement and sported a long beard and skullcap, but left the movement in recent years. He has publicly supported Israel, telling Ynet in 2009, "I will definitely move to Israel, God willingly. In the meantime I try to visit Israel every chance I get."

As Newsweek has reported, anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe. However, the Spanish government has recently made efforts to support the Jewish community. In June, the government passed a bill that will enable descendants of Sephardic Jews exiled centuries ago to apply for citizenship. Also in June, a small Spanish town that had been called Camp Kill Jews changed its name.

Four other artists will not be appearing in the Rototom festival because of the BDS movement, according to El Pais.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that El Pais reported about the Matisyahu cancellation on August 16. El Pais reported it on August 15.