MADRID (Reuters) - Jewish groups protested on Monday after a Spanish reggae festival canceled a concert by an American Jewish musician when he failed to reply to a demand to clarify his position on Palestinian statehood.
Matisyahu, who fuses reggae, hip-hop and rock with Jewish influences in his songs, had been due to perform next Saturday at the week-long Rototom Sunsplash reggae festival at Benicassim near Valencia in eastern Spain.
But after pressure from the local supporters of the movement to boycott and back sanctions against Israel over its policies towards Palestinians, the organizers announced over the weekend that they were cancelling his appearance.
“Rototom Sunsplash, after having repeatedly sought dialogue in the face of the artist’s unavailability to give a clear statement against war and on the right of the Palestinian people to their own state, has decided to cancel the concert,” they said in a statement.
The Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities condemned the decision as cowardly, unjust and discriminatory, saying that Matisyahu had been asked to take a political position because he was Jewish when this was not required of other performers.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder expressed outrage at the decision, urging Spanish authorities “to take appropriate action against those responsible for it.”
Matisyahu, whose real name is Matthew Miller, made no comment on the controversy on his Twitter or Facebook sites and the organizers said there had been no reaction from the musician, who had a concert scheduled in Brussels on Monday.
The Valencia section of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign had launched a public campaign for Matisyahu’s performance to be canceled, saying he was a “lover of Israel” and demanding he make a public statement on his stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The BDS movement, which objects to Israel’s 48-year-old occupation of territories where Palestinians seek an independent state, has campaigned against groups and individuals over their links to Israel.
The moves against Matisyahu had led some other participants to cancel their appearances at the festival, according to press reports.
Reporting by Adrian Croft; editing by Sarah Morris and Dominic Evans