Matisyahu: I Felt Physically Threatened by pro-Palestinian Protesters at Spanish Festival

Rototom Sunsplash festival initially disinvited reggae singer following pressure from BDS movement, but backtracked following international outrage.

Jewish American singer Matisyahu at the Rototom Sunsplash Reggae festival after BDS dis-invitation rescinded August 22, 2015.
Jewish American singer Matisyahu at the Rototom Sunsplash Reggae festival after BDS dis-invitation rescinded August 22, 2015.Credit: AFP

American-Jewish musician Matisyahu said he felt physically threatened by pro-Palestinian protesters while performing at the Spanish festival where he was temporarily and controversially removed from the bill.

The American Jewish star, who fuses reggae, hip hop and pop music, told The Daily Beast that when he stepped on stage at the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Benicassim, a town near Valencia, Spain., "about 20 [Palestinian flags] came out. People were standing on each other’s shoulders with flags giving me the middle finger. It was intense. It was not peaceful. It was like ‘Fuck you, Matisyahu.’"

"I’ve never had the experience of anything like that, as a Jew or anything in my life," Matisyahu said, adding that it was one of the only times he felt unsafe while performing.

“Among the public there were 20 flags, but that night at the festival there were more than 15,000 persons," a festival spokesperson told the Daily Beast, but it was unclear if "they were part of the BDS organization, or if they were just Pro-Palestinian."

The festival initially disinvited Matisyahu from the August 22 festival because he would not publicly endorse Palestinian statehood.

Revellers dance during a concert of Jewish American singer Matisyahu at Rototom Sunsplash Reggae festival. August 22, 2015.Credit: AFP

Matisyahu said he responded to Rototom’s initial request, saying he “couldn’t give them a direct answer.”

When the festival "came back and said they wanted a specific statement saying I supported Palestine and to speak out against Israeli quote-end quote ‘war crimes,’” he said.

“At that point, I said I wasn’t comfortable and if they didn’t want me there, I wasn’t interested in being there.”

Matisyahu's removal from the festival caused international uproar, with Jewish groups worldwide blasting the "discriminatory" move and the artist himself slamming the "appalling and offensive" cancellation.

“The first email I got [from Rototom] asked me to clarify my position on Palestine. It mentioned that they were getting pressure from this group, that they could make the group go away if I could make a statement,” Matisyahu told the Daily Beast.

The festival publicly apologized to Matisyahu and invited him to play as originally planned, saying that his initial removal had been due to pressure from the BDS movement.

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