Matisyahu responded to a Spain music festival canceling his performance due to pressure from the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement because the artist wouldn't sign a pledge supporting the Palestinian state.
The "One Day" singer, who is not Israeli but has visited the country several times wrote on Facebook that he found the festival's organizers' cancelation of his show "appalling and offensive."
"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," Matisyahu wrote on Facebook.
He continued, "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."
The event director, Filippo Giunta, asked the singer on Thursday to issue a “signing statement or video” that expressed in a “very clear” way that Palestinians are entitled to their own state, according to Spanish newspaper El Pais. Other artists at the event threatened to cancel their own performances if Matisyahu was allowed to take the stage because he was “seen to represent Israel,” according to the Times of Israel. The local BDS movement accused Matisyahu of being a “Zionist” who supports the practice of “apartheid and ethnic cleansing."
The festival, which began in 1994, has strong social justice overtones, including a particular affinity for promoting a Palestinian state. In a translated Facebook statement regarding the Matisyahu controversy, Rototom used the words “occupation” and “occupied” to describe Israel’s relationship with what the event organizers see as Palestinian territories. The festival’s website features a 2 ½-hour video focusing on pro-Palestinian activists, according to the Times of Israel.
The festival has a “social forum,” which has discussed the issue numerous times, according to the Facebook statement. Though permitting Matisyahu to perform his music, which is not characterized as pro-Israel but does draw on Jewish tradition, is apparently not part of that discussion.
Matisyahu, a Pennsylvania-born Jew whose real name is Matthew Miller, was set to perform at the Rototom Sunsplash festival on Aug. 22.