Jewish reggae artist Matisyahu arrives at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles February 11, 2007.  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Jewish reggae artist Matisyahu arrives at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles February 11, 2007. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni


Spain – Rapper and reggae star Matisyahu, who was axed over the weekend from a festival line up near Valencia, Spain, because he would not sign a statement saying he supported a Palestinian state, made a statement on Monday saying that he was offended and appalled that the organizers were trying to coerce him into political statements.

“The festival organizers contacted me because they were getting pressure from the BDS movement. They wanted me to write a letter, or make a video, stating my positions on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to pacify the BDS people,” Matisyahu wrote on Facebook.

“The festival kept insisting that I clarify my personal views; which felt like clear pressure to agree with the BDS political agenda,” he wrote.

“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,” he asked.

Matisyahu wrote that his music “speaks for itself, and I do not insert politics into my music. Music has the power to transcend the intellect, ideas, and politics, and it can unite people in the process.”

Valencia has developed a strong BDS campaign and organizers have accused the Jewish artist of being a “Zionist” who supports the practice of “apartheid and ethnic cleansing.”

“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. As musicians that is what we seek” Matisyahu wrote in his Facebook post.

The annual reggae music festival Rototom Sunsplash takes place in Benicassim, north of Valencia.

The Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities condemned the decision as cowardly, unjust and discriminatory, saying that Matisyahu had been asked to take a political position because he was Jewish when this was not required of other performers.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder expressed outrage at the decision, urging Spanish authorities “to take appropriate action against those responsible for it.”

The moves against Matisyahu had led some other participants to cancel their appearances at the festival, according to press reports.

Born Matthew Miller, Matisyahu has been the most visibly Jewish artist in the hip-hop world since his debut album “Shake Off the Dust… Arise” was produced by JDub Records in 2004.

While he first affiliated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, Matisyahu later distanced himself from the movement and moved on from JDub, which closed its doors this year.  He shaved his signature beard and side locks and issued a statement saying “no more hassidic reggae superstar.”

The reggae and alternative rock star’s appearance in Spain is just one of a number of stops during his tour of Europe this summer, which also includes Poland, Belgium, Germany, Ukraine and the Czech Republic, before his return for a whirlwind tour of the US.

As reported by Vos Iz Neias