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Spanish festival apologizes, re-invites Matisyahu to perform

(JTA) — The Spanish Rototom Sunsplash music festival has issued a lengthy apology to Matisyahu for disiniviting him from performing, and has invited him again to perform on his original concert date.

The reggae festival had cancelled Jewish American musician Matisyahu’s performance, which was scheduled for August 22, because he had refused to publicly support Palestinian statehood. Matisyahu, who is not an Israeli citizen, was the only festival performer asked to endorse a Palestinian state.

Following a chorus of condemnations faulting the festival for singling Matisyahu out as a Jew, including from the Spanish government, the festival backtracked. “Rototom Sunsplash rejects antisemitism and any form of discrimination towards the Jewish community,” read a statement Wednesday on the festival’s Facebook page. “We respect both their culture as religious beliefs and we sincerely apologize for what has occurred.”

The statement continued, “Rototom Sunsplash would like to publicly apologize to Matisyahu for having cancelled his concert and invite him to perform at the festival next Saturday 22 August, as was initially programmed in the lineup.”

The statement said that the cancellation came due to pressure from the BDS movement, which seeks to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel. The statement cited a “campaign of pressure, coercion and threats” against it that stoked fears the festival would be disrupted and “prevented the organization from reasoning clearly.”

According to the El Pais newspaper, other musicians had threatened to cancel their performances unless Matisyahu made the declaration. In a Facebook post last Saturday announcing its decision to cancel the singer, Rototom mentioned its “sensitivity to Palestine, its people and the occupation of its territory by Israel.”

The statement reversing that decision, said the Festival “reaffirms its commitment to a Culture of Peace and respect between cultures, including the freedom of belief as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Spanish Constitution.”

The World Jewish Congress and Spain’s Federation of Jewish Communities — which had decried the decision to cancel Matisyahu’s concert as “antisemitic cowardice” — welcomed the reversal.

“On behalf of the Spanish Jewish community, I thank the organizers for their statement, and we hope that lessons have been learned for the future,” said FCJE President Isaac Querub in a statement. “We need to stand together and work together in the fight against all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and hatred.”

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