Hasidic Jewish reggae musician Matthew Paul Miller, better known by his Hebrew name Matisyahu. (Reuters Photo/Mario Anzuoni)

Spanish Reggae Festival Changes Tack, Reinvites Jewish Musician


AUGUST 21, 2015

Madrid. A Spanish reggae festival, bowing to an international outcry, on Wednesday reversed its decision to cancel an invitation to an American Jewish musician because he had failed to spell out his views on Palestinian statehood.

The organizers of the Rototom Sunsplash festival were forced into a U-turn after the Spanish government and Jewish organizations condemned their decision last weekend to bar Matisyahu from playing.

"Rototom Sunsplash apologizes publicly to Matisyahu for cancelling his concert and announces that it has invited him to perform next Saturday, Aug. 22, at the festival as initially planned," they said in a statement.

The organizers said they had made a mistake under pressure from activists who call for a boycott and sanctions on Israel over its policies towards Palestinians.

Organizers of the week-long festival at Benicassim in eastern Spain said there had been no response yet from Matisyahu, who is on a European tour, to the new invitation.

The festival had asked the musician, who fuses reggae, hip-hop and rock with Jewish influences, to make a public statement about his views on Palestinians' right to their own state and withdrew the invitation when he did not respond.

Matisyahu, whose real name is Matthew Miller, said on Facebook on Monday that politics played no part in his music and that it was "appalling and offensive that as the one ... Jewish-American artist scheduled for the festival they were trying to coerce me into political statements."

The campaign to eject Matisyahu was led by the Valencia branch of the BDS group, which objects to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories and campaigns against groups and individuals over their links to Israel.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain had condemned the organizers' decision to withdraw the invitation as cowardly and discriminatory and worldwide Jewish groups and the Spanish government joined the condemnation.

The president of the World Jewish Congress wrote to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Tuesday urging him to intervene.

Ronald Lauder urged Spanish authorities to investigate the organizers' conduct and to demand the repayment of public money if they were found to have broken Spanish laws against discrimination.

The World Jewish Congress and the Spanish federation welcomed the organizers' reversal on Wednesday.