In June, the Spanish government passed a law granting descendants of Sephardi Jews forced from that country in the 15th century the right to dual Spanish citizenship.
Only someone unfamiliar with the toing and froing of Jewish migrations and expulsions could be blind to the magnificence with which this move dovetails with history. For millennia, princes and fiefs, kings and counts expelled the Jews from their realms in one generation and then enticed them back in successive ones, when their perceived value rebounded or when the duchy or kingdom was in financial peril. Sometimes it took a generation, sometimes it took 600 years, as in the case of Spain, which, it should be noted, is now just a few notches above Greece on the financial solvency scale.
But Jews who consider taking up Spain’s generous offer will be taking a sober second look after recent events. OK, the events were a relatively small-scale tempest – a reggae festival in Valencia – but the lessons are wide-ranging and deeply telling.
Matisyahu, the once Chassidic, now just Jewish, reggae rapper, was disinvited from the Rototom Sunsplash Festival after he refused to sign a pledge in support of a Palestinian state. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement had convinced the festival organizers that participants should be forced to commit to the Palestinian cause.
The quality of the performers or the wishes of the audience were secondary to the political positions of the musicians, apparently. Why this obscure music festival should become a flashpoint for a kerfuffle over the Middle East may seem baffling, but the strategy of the movement has been to demand loyalty oaths from anyone at any time in any place. Canadian film festivals, including the Toronto International Film Festival and the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, have been roiled over the topic in the past. These efforts at a “cultural boycott” are atrocious enough, but the worst tactics of the movement promote an academic boycott, which is as close as we can come to literal book-burning.
Is it additionally appalling that Matisyahu is not Israeli, but American? Sort of. The boycotters have attacked Israelis for the most part, but now they are turning their cannons on anyone who might think that Israel has a right to exist alongside a Palestinian state. (Note that the oath did not address a two-state solution. Coexistence is not top of the agenda for BDSers.)
Not all Jews are Zionists and, indeed, some Jews support the BDS movement. However, if you believe in the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people, but not for the Jewish people, then you are at the least a hypocrite.
The BDS movement, while a relatively new phenomenon, has its historical antecedents in the people who would paint Stars of David on Jewish shop windows. It is a mob of bullies for the most part, which calls itself pro-Palestinian, but exhibits nothing positive, only hatred and vilification of Israel.
Although a reggae festival might seem an odd place to start, the BDSers and the larger “pro-Palestinian” contingent could buy themselves some legitimacy by taking an oath themselves: to work together with all people to find a peaceful resolution so that two peoples can live in coexistence in Jewish and Palestinian states. It’s a pledge the Jewish people accepted in 1947-48 and have reiterated throughout the ensuing seven decades. The Matisyahu brouhaha is an example of the answer the Jewish people have received to that olive branch.