Big Brother Is Watching

The Jewish American singer Matisyahu has been dropped from the Rototom Sunsplash Reggae Festival in Spain.

Chalk it up as a victory for Big Brother.

Matisyahu had been scheduled to perform at the Valencia-based festival on August 22, but was disinvited when he declined to endorse Palestinian statehood.

I have no idea whether he’s a principled opponent of a Palestinian state or whether he refused to submit to a politically correct decree.

Whatever the reason, I’m appalled by the festival’s decision.

Pressure was brought to bear on the festival, an advocate of peace, equality, human rights and social justice, by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. BDS activists in Valencia had accused Matisyahu, a rapper who has performed in Israel on many occasions, of being a “Zionist” and a defender of a state that “practices apartheid and ethnic cleansing.”

By all accounts, Matisyahu’s fellow performers did not wish to be associated with an artist who’s regarded as representing Israel.

Organizers gave Matisyahu — an American Jew who had been identified with the Chabad brand of Orthodox Judaism — an ultimatum. Sign a statement endorsing Palestinian statehood, or leave our hallowed festival. Presumably insulted by its high-handedness, Matisyahu pulled out.

I support the Palestinians’ right to independence and sovereignty within the framework of a just two-state solution. This has been my position since the Six Day War, and I have consistently adhered to it because I know of no other practical way of achieving a fair and durable peace agreement that might satisfy the national aspirations of both sides.

The festival is an ardent supporter of Palestinian rights and its website carries a lengthy video extolling the rights of the Palestinians and denouncing Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip last summer. Festival organizers are entitled to their pro-Palestinian stance, however grotesquely one-sided it is, but they have no right to bar a performer on the basis of his or her political views.

It’s Orwellian.

In their infinite and unassailable wisdom, the Thought Police at the festival’s Ministry of Truth have laid down suffocating political parameters that no self-respecting performer could possibly accept.

The Thought Police have decreed that performers must abide by certain political beliefs, that “Zionists” are beyond the pale and that Israel had no right to defend itself in 2014 when Hamas rockets rained down on its residential neighborhoods.

The Thought Police were not remotely interested in the fact that Hamas was committing war crimes.

Regrettably, the festival is peddling reactionary ideas and notions that would have been hailed in Stalinist Russia and China during its stifling Cultural Revolution. Myopically, the festival has conflated arts with politics and stumbled into a black hole.

Matisyahu need not worry. Festivals worthy of his musical talents will be only too happy to invite him. And as far as I’m concerned, the Rototom Sunsplash Reggae Festival should get a big kick in the rear.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal,