Spanish media reported on August 19 that the Spanish Rototom Sunsplash Festival, which originally disinvited Jewish America reggae singer Matisyahu from performing after he refused to make a statement endorsing a Palestinian state—the only artist asked to do so, has now issued a lengthy apology and has re-invited him to perform for his original concert on August 22.
The festival re-invited Matisyahu, which is the stage name of former Ultra-Orthodox singer Matthew Miller, after receiving a lot of backlash that criticized the festival for singling the singer out as a Jew, including criticism from the Spanish government.
“Requiring a public declaration, which was demanded of him alone, is a violation of conscience and — to the extent that it came because Matisyahu is Jewish — challenges the principle of non-discrimination which is the basis for all plural and diverse societies,” the Spanish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on August 18.
Popular Spanish daily newspaper El Pais also condemned the decision, writing in an editorial on August 18, “He is the only musician performing at Rototom, which is funded with public money, who has been requested 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.”
In response, the festival made a statement on its Facebook page on August 19, saying, “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.
“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.”
The statement claimed that the local Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) group, País Valencià, which had pushed for Matisyahu to be disinvited, due to their “pressures, threats and coercion” efforts that threatened to “seriously disrupt the normal functioning of the festival” and “prevented the management of the situation with clarity.”
In addition, according to the statement, the festival “reaffirms its commitment to a Culture of Peace and respect between cultures, including the freedom of belief as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Spanish Constitution.”
The World Jewish Congress and Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain were pleased by the reversal.
“On behalf of the Spanish Jewish community, I thank the organizers for their statement, and we hope that lessons have been learned for the future,” said FCJE President Isaac Querub in a statement. “We need to stand together and work together in the fight against all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and hatred.”