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Case closed against boycott promoters of Jewish singer Matisyahu in 2015

He was expelled from Rototom Sunsplash in Benicàssim after the pressure of Palestinian supporters. Although the festival invited him back later, the judicial process had continued.

FUENTES Protestante Digital AUTOR 5/Evangelical_Focus TRADUCTOR Jason Noble VALENCIA 05 DE FEBRERO DE 2021 09:48 h
Matisyahu during his performance at the Rototom Sunsplash in 2015. / Twitter

The Provincial Court of Valencia (Spain) has closed the case against eight activists of the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) who in 2015 promoted a boycott of the participation of the Jewish singer Matisyahu in the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Benicàssim.

The institution has taken into account the appeals of those processed so far, which assured that "[Matisyahu] was not discriminated against for being Jewish but for his alleged affinity with the policy of the State of Israel."

"The supposed criminal actions in question are attributed to the aforementioned musician for his alleged position regarding the policy of the Israeli government, not because of his status as a Jew, religion or any other circumstance", ruled the Valencian court.

In addition, they justify their decision to acquit the accused based on "the prevalence of freedom of expression despite the fact that the speech may be reprehensible".

The Prosecutor's Office has also supported this interpretation of the facts, considering that "there is no libelous or slanderous expression in the conduct of the appellant who exercised his right to freedom of expression". He also added that Matisyahu "is a public person and must be more tolerant of criticism". On the part of the defense of the musician, there has been no reaction to the dismissal of the case.

"We are not anti-Semitic", explained Bernat Sorinas, one of the eight members of BDS who was facing a four-year prison sentence and has now been acquitted, in an interview with Nació Digital. "The Zionist movement hides behind this complaint", he added.


The case

In 2015, the reggae festival Rototom Sunsplash, which takes place in Benicàssim, expelled Matisyahu, the stage name of Jewish-American musician Matthew Paul Miller, from its lineup after he refused to respond to pressure from BDS members to provide a public stement in favor of "the right of the Palestinians to have a state" and for "not showing solidarity with the Palestinian cause".

The decision of the festival was also supported by various political parties, such as Compromís, Izquierda Unida and Podemos. The government at that time, formed by the People's Party, stated in a press release that “the imposition of the requirement of a public statement, which was only required of him, constitutes a way of acting that violates the conscience and that, due to Matisyahu's status as a Jew, it questions the principle of non-discrimination that is at the heart of pluralistic and diverse societies”.

Matisyahu was accused of being a "representative of Israel" and "Zionist" by the BDS and also by other artists.

The decision generated the reaction of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain, which described the cancellation of the artist's participation as "cowardly, unfair and discriminatory". "Due to his status as a Jew, a political position is required from him and not from the rest of the participants", they denounced at the time. The World Jewish Congress also spoken out against Matisyahu's expulsion from the festival, calling it "anti-Semitic" and a "sad incident".

“Music has the power to transcend intellect, ideas and politics" , Matisyahu explained in a previously released statement, " and it can bring people together in the process. Beyond race, beliefs, country, cultural background, my goal is to make music for all people. As a musician this is what I want”.

Days after the announcement of his expulsion, the organizers of the festival invited the singer again and apologized for having excluded him. "The Rototom recognizes its mistake, the result of the boycott and the high pressure campaign, threats and coercion promoted by BDS País Valencià, considering that they could seriously alter the normal operation of the festival, which made it impossible to manage the situation clearly", they acknowledged.

The events led the president of the association, Legal Committee to Fight Discrimination, Abel Isaac de Bedoya, to file a criminal complaint against the eight BDS members who promoted the boycott of Matisyahu. The same complaint that has now been rejected by the Provincial Court of Valencia after the appeal of the accused.




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