Matisyahu 'Proud' He Stood Up for Israel Against BDS Movement

Jewish-American singer says he is 'glad' he got a chance to support Israel when facing boycott storm at Spanish festival this summer.

Orit Pnini

Matisyahu, the Jewish-American reggae singer, is not upset about being targeted by the international boycott movement against Israel and almost losing a chance to perform at a major international music festival. In fact, he says, “I’m glad that it happened in the end.”

On a visit to the Peres Peace Center in Jaffa this morning, Matisyahu told Haaretz: "I was given the opportunity to stand up for what I believe in, and as a proud Jew, to stand up for Israel.”

In August, Matisyahu, whose given name is Matthew Miller, was disinvited from the Rototom Sunsplash music festival in Spain after he rejected a demand by its organizers, under pressure from the international Boycott Divest Sanctions (BDS) movement, to clarify his position on Palestinian statehood. Following condemnations from the Spanish government and Jewish leaders worldwide, the organizers retracted their decision and Matisyahu eventually performed at the festival.

Asked whether he thought the BDS movement was anti-Semitic considering that it had targeted someone like him who is not Israeli, Matisyahu said: “I haven’t put too much thought into exactly what they are and why they’re doing what they’re doing. There’s probably a thousand different reasons why a thousand different people in that group are doing what they’re doing. Whether or not they’re anti-Semitic or they’re this or they’re that doesn’t matter to me so much.”

The internationally renowned musician, who once practiced Orthodox Judaism, says he has felt an outpouring of support from the Jewish world since he took his stand against the BDS movement. “A lot of Jewish organizations have reached out to me,” he said.

Matisyahu will perform a concert at the Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem on Saturday night together with Israeli singer-songwriter Idan Raichel. It will be his second performance in Israel in two months. 

Fresh off a flight from New York this morning, Matisyahu held a brief meeting with former President Shimon Peres, who commended his “courage” in defying the BDS movement. 

Matisyahu told reporters gathered at the event that his decision to visit Israel these days, following the recent slew of terror attacks, had raised concerns among his peers. “But I think it’s important for Jews outside of Israel, American Jews like myself, to come to Israel no matter what’s happening,” he said.