Spanish media reported on August 15 that Matisyahu’s upcoming performance at a Spanish music festival was canceled after he refused to endorse Palestinian statehood at the behest of the organizers.
The Rototom Sunsplash Reggae Festival canceled the formerly Hasidic Jewish-American reggae artist’s August 22 show due to what organizers said was Matisyahu’s refusal to comply with their request to write a statement or a video message supporting “the Palestinian’s right to a state.” Jamaican musician Etana filled his slot.
The reports said that the show was canceled after a lot of pressure from the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, as artists who were scheduled to perform at the event threatened to cancel if Matisyahu performed because he was “seen to represent Israel.” The local BDS movement went so far as to accuse Matisyahu of being a “Zionist” who is in favor of “apartheid and ethnic cleansing.”
According to Spanish daily newspaper, El Pais, the organizers gave Matisyahu an ultimatum and told him that if he would “sign such a declaration [publicly affirming his support for the Palestinians, he] can perform.”
While Matisyahu is not Israeli, he has performed in and visited Israel numerous times.
The Rototom Festival’s organizers wrote on Facebook that the move was in connection with “the festival’s sensitivity to Palestine, its people, and the occupation of its territory by Israel.”
The front page of the Valencia-based festival’s website showcases a two-and-a-half hour video with pro-Palestinian activists holding Palestinian flags and condemning Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip.
Matisyahu, whose real name is Matthew Miller, was raised as a Reconstructionist Jew in West Chester, Pennsylvania and joined the Chabad movement in 2001. In 2004, he entered the music scene as a beaded, beat-boxing, Hasidic music star. However, in 2011, Matisyahu decided to leave Orthodox Judaism, but still performs all over the world. Matisyahu asserts that his music is still inspired by Jewish religious sources. He has yet to address this incident.