World Jewish Congress Appeals to Spanish PM After Matisyahu Concert Canceled

WJC President Ron Lauder calls urges PM Mariano Rajoy to rescind festival's public funding after Jewish reggae singer told he couldn't perform without declaring position on Palestinian state.

Ronald Lauder.
Ronald Lauder.Credit: Bloomberg News

The World Jewish Congress said Wednesday it had written to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy protesting the cancellation of a concert by Jewish-American singer Matisyahu at a reggae festival because he declined to state his position regarding a Palestinian state.

Congress President Ronald S. Lauder called on Rajoy to condemn the cancellation, adding that the "scandalous behavior" of Rototom Sunsplash festival organizers demanded firm action by Spain.

In the letter sent Tuesday, Lauder 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.

Lauder praised Spain for taking steps recently to improve relations with the Jewish community, most notably with the passing of a law setting a citizenship path for descendants of Sephardic Jews forced to flee the country in 1492.

The World Jewish Congress suggested Spain should consider recuperating public funding for the festival, being held this week in eastern Spain.

Spain's Foreign Ministry issued a statement Tuesday evening, criticizing the cancellation, saying the organizers' demands made only of Matisyahu were an "assault on conscience.”

It said Spain understood the Jewish community’s unease, adding that Spain opposed boycott campaigns against Israel. It reiterated its support for a Palestinian state through negotiations.

Festival organizers 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 said the festival has always supported the Palestinian people's rights and denied that the decision was a result of a boycott campaign against Matisyahu's participation by a Spanish branch of the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement.

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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