Matisyahu has responded after a Spanish music festival dropped him at the last moment over what they perceived to be his inadequate response to questions about Israel and Palestine.
The American reggae rapper (who was Orthodox Jewish when he rose to fame) was removed from the lineup for Rototom Sunsplash near Valencia, Spain, after he declined to confirm or deny his position on the creation of an independent Palestinian state. According to the rapper, the festival was being pressured by the BDS movement — which has called for various boycotts against Israel — to “stat[e] my positions on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to pacify the BDS people.” Matisyahu’s now-axed concert was set for Saturday, Aug. 22.
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 World Jewish Congress decried the move as a “clear instance of anti-Semitism,” according to the Jerusalem Post. The WJC added that Matisyahu “has a right to express his views” as well as “every right not to have the repugnant views of the festival organizers imposed on him.”
Following the WJC’s statements, Matisyahu took to Facebook to comment on the situation.
Although Matisyahu refused to come down strongly on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — “I support peace and compassion for all people… and I do not insert politics into my music,” he wrote — he did condemn the festival’s decision.
“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,” he wrote. “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.”
When reached for comment, Rototom Sunsplash directed Billboard to the statement on its website.