The Spanish Rototom Sunsplash music festival has issued a lengthy apology to Matisyahu for disiniviting him from performing, and has invited him again to perform on his original concert date.
The reggae festival had cancelled Jewish American musician Matisyahu’s performance on Aug. 22 because he had refused to publicly support Palestinian statehood. Following a chorus of condemnations faulting the festival for singling Matisyahu out as a Jew, including from the Spanish government, the festival backtracked.
“Rototom Sunsplash rejects anti-Semitism and any form of discrimination towards the Jewish community,” read a statement Aug. 19 on the festival’s Facebook page. “We respect both their culture as religious beliefs and we sincerely apologize for what has occurred.”
The statement continued, “Rototom Sunsplash would like to publicly apologize to Matisyahu for having cancelled his concert and invite him to perform at the festival next Saturday 22 August, as was initially programmed in the lineup.”
The statement said that the cancellation came due to pressure from the BDS movement, which seeks to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. The statement cited a “campaign of pressure, coercion and threats” against it that stoked fears the festival would be disrupted and “prevented the organization from reasoning clearly.”
The festival, according to the statement, “reaffirms its commitment to a Culture of Peace and respect between cultures, including the freedom of belief as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Spanish Constitution.”
The World Jewish Congress and Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain welcomed the reversal.
“On behalf of the Spanish Jewish community, I thank the organizers for their statement, and we hope that lessons have been learned for the future,” said FCJE President Isaac Querub in a statement. “We need to stand together and work together in the fight against all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and hatred.”
The singer spoke out Aug. 17 against the original decision.
On his Facebook page, a day after festival organizers announced that he was no longer invited to perform there, Matisyahu said the festival organizers had asked him “to write a letter, or make a video, stating my positions on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to pacify the BDS people.” However, he wrote, “My music speaks for itself, and I do not insert politics into my music.”
Matisyahu, who for many years was a chassidic Jew, added that he felt “pressure to agree with the BDS political agenda.”
“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 added. “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.”