Europe

Israel Boycotters Who Targeted Matisyahu in Spain Charged With Incitement to Hatred

A court in Spain’s southeastern Valencia province has admitted a criminal complaint against nine anti-Israel campaigners who targeted the Jewish-American singer Matisyahu after he agreed to perform at a local music festival in 2015, The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday.

Leaders of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign in Valencia and Catalonia reacted to news of Matisyahu’s scheduled appearance at the Rototom Sunsplash reggae festival, which is held annually in the town of Benicàssim, by using “pressure, coercion and threats” against the event organizers, according to a statement released by the festival. In response, the event organizers asked Matisyahu — the only Jewish performer in the line-up — to denounce Israel and express support for a Palestinian state. The singer refused, noting that he was the only artist being forced to make a political statement in order to perform, and canceled his appearance.

The concert’s organizers were harshly condemned by the media, Jewish organizations, and the Spanish government after their actions were publicized, leading Matisyahu to be re-invited. The singer ultimately chose to perform at the festival, saying that he “always believed in the power of music to unite all people, regardless of religion, politics or geography.”

“This was an excruciating decision, as I felt that my core, essential being was being used as a pawn for political convenience,” Matisyahu later added on Facebook. “It is my deep conviction however that acceptance and the ability for rebirth allow us to move forward.”

Nine BDS activists face charges of incitement to hatred and discrimination over the incident, and could face jail time if convicted.

“With this deplorable episode the BDS removed its mask: the goal of that movement is not a two-state solution or the improvement of the Palestinians’ lives,” David Hatchwell, president of the Jewish Community of Madrid, said in a statement. “The real goal is to ostracize the Jews and criminalize defending a Jewish state and its right to exist. The objective is to deny the Jews their own vibrant and diverse democracy.”

“The BDS movement, like all anti-Semites, aims to condemn the Jews to the role of helpless victims that was sadly reserved to them through history,” he added.

In an e-mail to The Tower, Hatchwell explained that the lawsuit “will establish a precedent where anti-Semites in Spain hiding under an anti-Israel cloak will think twice before inciting violence or slandering Jews or the Jewish state.”

Several months after the incident with Matisyahu, the producer of a metal music festival in Tel Aviv said several artists in his line-up received threatening messages from BDS activists that left them “truly fearing for their lives.”

The case against the BDS activists who targeted Matisyahu is the latest legal blow to the campaign to isolate and vilify Israel in Spain. Last month, two Spanish courts outlawed discriminatory municipal boycotts of Israel. Last year, Spain’s high court awarded an Israeli university in the West Bank $100,000 in damages after it was illegally excluded from a scientific competition.

Ramon Pérez-Maura, a journalist for Spain’s third-largest newspaper ABC, said in August that until recently, the Spanish judiciary was vulnerable to intimidation from BDS supporters. “The problem was pressure and intimidation of judges by lobby groups with anarchist traditions and violent tactics,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “There has been a crackdown on this sort of thuggery and this has empowered the judiciary, not only on Israel.”

In the clip from the Rototom festival below, Matisyahu can be seen performing his hit song “Jerusalem,” even as several audience members wave Palestinian flags.

[Photo: SassVideo / YouTube ]