World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder on Sunday expressed “outrage” and “utter bewilderment” at news that a music festival in Spain had disinvited American Jewish musician Matisyahu for failing to sign a pro-Palestinian declaration.
“This is a clear instance of anti-Semitism, and nothing else,” Lauder said in a statement, urging Spanish authorities “to condemn this sad incident and to take appropriate action those responsible for it.”
News media reported on Sunday that the appearance of Matisyahu was canceled by the organizers of the Rototom Sunsplash festival, which will take place next weekend in Benicàssim, in eastern Spain, following pressure from the anti-Israel BDS movement.
“Matisyahu is an American Jew. More importantly, like everybody else in a free and democratic society, he not only has a right to express his views – whether you agree with them or not — but he also has every right not to have the repugnant views of the festival organizers imposed on him. He is a musician who has been denied the opportunity to play his planned gig at a European reggae festival purely because he is Jewish and because he refuses to side with the vicious and bigoted BDS movement,” Lauder said.
“And to the people of Spain, I say this: Being a ‘Zionist’ and supporting Israel has nothing to do with supporting apartheid. Rather, it is about supporting democracy, the rule of law, freedom, openness and diversity,” he continued.
“The Rototom Sunsplash festival benefits from financial support from public authorities. I very much hope that they will convey a clear message to the organizers that either they re-invite Matisyahu and apologize for their outrageous behavior, or they pay back that financial aid, because anti-Semitism and racism must not be rewarded by public support – not in Spain, and not anywhere else,” added Lauder.
Matisyahu - who shot to fame as a bearded "hassidic reggae" star, before leaving Orthodox Judaism in 2011 - maintains a strong sense of Jewish identity, and is an unashamed supporter of the State of Israel - a fact that drew ire from anti-Israel boycott campaigners from the Valencian branch of the BDS movement.
The boycotters claimed he supported "an apartheid state which practices ethnic-cleansing," according to Spain's El Pais daily, and demanded the festival cancel his appearance.