This week, a concert by the Jewish-American musician Matisyahu was canceled in Spain. This would not be news, except for the fact that the show was canceled because the singer refused to agree with the BDS movement’s agenda. Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin discusses the incident before posting Matisyahu’s own response:
It shouldn’t have taken the decision of a music festival in Valencia, Spain to make this clear. Long before the Rototom Sunsplash told American singer Matisyahu that he must either sign a declaration of support for the creation of a Palestinian state or have his appearance canceled, it was clear that the BDS — boycott, divest, sanction — movement had crossed the line between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism…
The facts of the Matisyahu incident are interesting because, as a religious Jew, his public image is so closely tied to Judaism. Though he no longer sports the look of a Hasid of the Chabad movement with which he was once affiliated, the singer whose real name is Matthew Miller is still very much identified as a Jew. Regardless of whether you think a Palestinian state would be a good thing, demanding that he make a political statement about the conflict with Israel is hardly reasonable. Nor does it appear that the pro-BDS organizers of the festival asked any of their other artists to weigh in on those nations and groups that threaten Israel with annihilation.
As the singer explained on his Facebook page:
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. I support peace and compassion for all people. My 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. The festival kept insisting that I clarify my personal views; which felt like clear 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. 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. As musicians that is what we seek. – Blessed Love, Matis