Spanish Festival Apologizes to Jewish Reggae Singer Matisyahu, Reinvites Him to Play

World Jewish Congress, which protested the Rototom Sunsplash festival's cancelation of Matisyahu's performance over Palestinian issue, welcomes 'significant' decision.

Matisyahu with his new look. He still spices his music with Yiddish and reggae.
Matisyahu with his new look. He still spices his music with Yiddish and reggae.

Organizers of an international reggae festival in Spain have backtracked and apologized for cancelling a concert by Jewish-American singer Matisyahu because he had declined to state his position regarding a Palestinian state.

Rototom Sunsplash festival said in a statement Wednesday it publicly apologized for canceling the concert and invites Matisyahu to play as originally planned on Saturday.

It said it recognized its mistake, adding that it had been the fruit of pressure by a local branch of a pro-Palestinian group.

The change comes after the World Jewish Congress wrote to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy protesting the incident. The government also slammed the festival's decision.

World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder and Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain (FCJE) President Isaac Querub Caro welcomed the statement and the reinvitation. “This is a very significant and welcome decision, and we thank the organizers for realizing their mistake and for taking the necessary steps to remedy it. However, lessons must be learned from this affair,” Lauder and Querub said.

It wasn't immediately known if Matisyahu would accept the new invitation.

In the letter sent Tuesday, the Jewish congress said the decision's "anti-Semitic overtones are not in Spain's best interests," adding that the Jewish community in Spain and worldwide were deeply troubled by the incident.

The organization had suggested Spain should consider recuperating public funding for the festival, being held this week in eastern Spain.

Spain's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday the government understood the Jewish communities' unease, adding that Spain opposed boycott campaigns against Israel. It reiterated its support for a Palestinian state through negotiations.

Festival organizers originally said they canceled the Aug. 22 concert because Matisyahu refused to state his positon regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the issue of a Palestinian state. He was the only artist asked to do so. They had said the festival has always supported the Palestinian people's rights and denied that the decision was a result of a pro-Palestinian group's campaign.

But in the statement Wednesday, it recognized that the group's pressure tactics had prevented them from seeing the situation clearly.

It said the festival rejects anti-Semitism and respects the Jewish community.

On his Facebook page, Matisyahu, whose name is Matthew Miller, said Monday that the festival organizers were pressured by the pro-Palestinian group and wanted him "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," he said.

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