Spanish Officials Condemn Matisyahu Concert Cancellation

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Matisyahu performs in concert during 'Live at Stubb's: A 10 Year Anniversary' at Stubb's on March 6, 2015 in Austin, Texas.

Government responds to outrage after American Jewish artist removed from line-up for refusing to clarify position on Palestine

The Spanish government has condemned the much publicized cancellation of Matisyahu’s appearance at this weekend’s Rototom Sunsplash festival near Valencia, Spain after he failed to meet festival organizers' demands that he clarify his position on Palestinian statehood.

“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.”

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The American reggae rapper (who was Orthodox Jewish when he rose to fame) was removed from the festival line-up after organizers received pressure from the BDS movement -- which has called for various boycotts against Israel. Matisyahu said the festival axed his Aug. 22 appearance after he refused to "stat[e] my positions on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to pacify the BDS people."  

In a statement on its Website, the festival spoke of its history of "sensitivity regarding Palestine, its people and the occupation of their territories by Israel." In their view, Matisyahu's inability or unwillingness to "clearly declare himself regarding the war and in particular the right of the Palestinian people to have their own state" directly influenced their decision to drop him from the lineup.

The Spanish government declared its “rejection of any anti-Semitic action,” stating that Spanish officials understand the angry reaction of spokespeople for Jewish organizations in Spain, some of whom, the newspaper El Pais newspaper reported, are studying the possibility of a legal response against festival organizers. After word of the controversy spread through the press and social media, some government officials in Valencia also spoke out against the actions of the festival, which receives public funding.

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Among Tweets that expressed support for Matisyahu on Tuesday, Urguayan singer Jorge Drexler, who lives in Spain, called out festival organizers for barring Matisyahu’s performance, but featuring Capleton, known for his anti-gay views and lyrics, in the line-up. “It seems Rototom Sunsplash doesn’t want to contract Jews like Matisyahu,” tweeted Drexler. “But they do want homophobes like Capleton. Please, someone explain that to me.”

Representatives of the festival have begun talks with outraged members of Spanish and international Jewish organizations, according to El Pais, which also published an editorial on Tuesday calling the Matisyahu cancellation and the events leading up to it “unacceptable discrimination.”  Rototom is expected to issue a statement about its actions against Matisyahu on Wednesday.