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Matisyahu

A Spanish music festival has re-invited a Jewish performer who was earlier banned for not endorsing a Palestinian state. 

Matisyahu, an American rapper known for blending Orthodox Jewish themes with reggae, can now attend the Rototom Sunsplash in Valencia on 22 August, as Jewish leaders said “lessons should be learned” from the saga.

The artist had earlier been labelled “a Zionist” who was “seen to represent Israel” by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and was told to sign up to a Palestinian state by festival organisers. When he refused, his appearance was cancelled. 

The move prompted outrage, with Richard Verber, senior vice president of the Board of Deputies, saying: “The Spanish Inquisition may have ended a long time ago, but it seems Jews are still put on trial for their beliefs.”

Under international pressure, the Spanish government on Wednesday waded in, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying the ban “violates the conscience” and “puts into question the principle of non-discrimination”.

Within hours, organisers had performed a U-turn and re-invited Matisyahu, who said he was only singled out because he was Jewish. 

“They kept insisting that I clarify my personal views, which felt like clear pressure to agree with the BDS agenda,” he said. 

“It was appalling and offensive that as the one publicly Jewish American artist scheduled for the festival they were trying to coerce me into public statements. Were any other artists asked to do that?”

The decision to re-invite him was welcomed by Jewish leaders, with a Board of Deputies spokesman saying: “We welcome the apology of the festival organisers to Matisyahu over his disgraceful treatment and their decision to reinvite him to perform.

“We particularly welcome their admission that the initial decision was influenced by the strong-arm tactics and intimidation of the BDS movement in Valencia/ Spain. It is crucial that the organisers of festivals and events retain their independence and artistic integrity by standing up to the bullies.”

Likewise the World Jewish Congress said “lessons should be learned” from the sorry saga. 

WJC President Ronald Lauder added: “This affair leaves us with a sour taste in our mouths. It was yet another example of how anti-Jewish attitudes, dressed up as vicious and unfair criticism of Israel, are still widespread, and are especially prevalent in a number of far-left global political parties.”
 
Isaac Querub, president of the Spanish Jewish community, thanked the organisers for reconsidering, saying: “The Rototom Sunsplash should be about celebrating music and not about politics. I am glad that the festival organizers have realized that.”