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Benicasim, Spain - Matisyahu: Anti-Semitism At Spanish Reggae Festival Was Something I Never Experienced Before

Published on: August 30, 2015 09:10 PM
By: Jerusalem Post
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A Palestinian flag flies as U.S. Jewish musician Matisyahu performs on stage during the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Benicassim, August 23, 2015. ReutersA Palestinian flag flies as U.S. Jewish musician Matisyahu performs on stage during the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Benicassim, August 23, 2015. Reuters

Benicasim, Spain - Jewish-American reggae star Matisyahu said he felt unsafe last week performing at the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Spain, facing a crowd that included a number of people waving Palestinian flags and flipping him the middle finger.

“People were standing on each other’s shoulders with flags giving me the middle finger. It was intense,” Matisyahu said in an interview that appeared Sunday on the Daily Beast website.

“It was not peaceful. It was like ‘F*** you, Matisyahu.’ I’ve never had the experience of anything like that, as a Jew or anything in my life.”


“I just assumed everyone in the festival was going to be regular reggae festival-goers, so I got really nervous. I felt totally open and that anyone could do whatever they want,” he said.

Matisyahu performed at the festival a week from Saturday night after the organizers buckled under heavy pressure from the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in Valencia and disinvited him when he would not come out in favor of a Palestinian state, only to re-invite him when this sparked international outrage.

The singer said that when he was standing backstage before the show, he noticed a Palestinian flag in the audience, and that “about” another 20 flags came out when he stepped onto the stage.

A spokesperson for the festival told the Daily Beast that there were 20 Palestinian flags among the audience of some 15,000 people. She said she didn’t know if those making the obscene hand signal to Matisyahu were BDS activists “of ir they were just pro-Palestinian.”

During his 45-minute set, Matisyahu played his song “Jerusalem,” which includes the lyrics, “Three thousand years with no place to be, and they want me to give up my milk and honey…”

He said, however, that he did not include that song in his set as a statement, but rather because it was one of his most popular hits. According to the report, he also denied that the song is Zionistic.

Regarding the Middle East, Matisyahu said, “I’m not a political scientist, and I don’t claim to know all the details and the facts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I haven’t chosen a side,” he said.

Palestinian flags fly as U.S. Jewish musician Matisyahu performs on stage during the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Benicassim, August 23, 2015. ReutersPalestinian flags fly as U.S. Jewish musician Matisyahu performs on stage during the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Benicassim, August 23, 2015. Reuters

The former Chabad hassid said that the organizers of the festival e-mailed him at the beginning of the whole affair and told him that they they were getting pressure from the BDS group, and that they could “make the group go away” if he would make a statement in support of Palestinian statehood.

“I responded that I was sort of taken aback they would ask me for it. It felt weird. I’m pretty much known throughout, I think, as someone who is pro-peace and all about building bridges and bringing people together. It was kind of interesting to me that they would take this group seriously.”

After writing back that he “couldn’t give them a direct answer,” the organizers wrote again for a specific statement in support of “Palestine,” and “to speak out against Israeli ‘war crimes,’”

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

Matisyahu said he “absolutely” felt he was the victim of anti-Semitism, saying he has never experienced anything like that before.

“I’ve been touring in Europe even from the time I had a beard and yarmulke, and I had never been with people who expressed what I thought was outright anti-Semitism,” he said.

“You hear stories. You hear things on the news, but at the end of the day, you relate back to your experience. I view it some extent as an isolated experience, but the [BDS] group seems to be making more noise. To me there’s no doubt, maybe not for everyone involved in that organization, but there’s definitely an anti-Semitism that’s there.”

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Read Comments (8)  —  Post Yours »


 Aug 30, 2015 at 09:37 PM golani Says:

This is the wake up call matisyahu get used to it, unfortunately we are in the beginnings of world War 3 and jews are being threatened again


 Aug 30, 2015 at 09:41 PM Anonymous Says:

What do you expect from the religion of 'peace' and the descendants of Fernidad and Isabella?


 Aug 30, 2015 at 10:21 PM Anonymous Says:

Once a chassid of the rebbe, ALWAYS a chassid of the rebbe. Maybe he doesn't put on a tallis katan and teffilin every morning but in terms of convey the essenece of a yiddeshe neshama, he has no peers among the usual list of top artists like LIPA, MBD, etc.


 Aug 30, 2015 at 10:35 PM Anonymous Says:

Rabbi Avigdor Miller said that antisemitism is put into this world so Jews would not assimilate. Throughout history when Jews lived during peaceful times intermarriage and people not following the Torah were at an all time high like we see today in America. Matisyahu, you've experienced antisemitism firsthand use this as a warning to live a moral and just life and follow the Torah. Hatzlachah.


 Aug 31, 2015 at 01:45 AM Ha-arah Says:

Kol Hakavod for Matisyahu! singing "Im eshkachech Yerushalyim" in front of all those anti semites!


 Aug 31, 2015 at 08:47 AM Easygoing770 Says:

You make us proud !!

You kept your cool, looked the beast in the eye and said "I'm proud to be a Jew".


 Aug 31, 2015 at 11:48 AM reaty Says:

halacha byidie eysof soyne ljakov this is behyned of all antesimitisom you cold be madern orthodox lefty ext .lfty if you are amber of the b d s tay hate you history will tel you I sow it 934 45 for a vile it was hiden to day it is open and proed of it tis is todays realty we have to face it and hope for rachmei somyim with hope to hasem


 Aug 31, 2015 at 03:17 PM FranZ Says:

Matisyahu is learning what many of us already know.....the Jew haters are everywhere......


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