Matisyahu, the reggae rapper whose refusal to be bullied into a political pledge resulted in his being removed from the lineup of a Spanish music festival, was eventually allowed to perform last weekend.
Global outrage over the politicizing of the musical event – and the potential whiff of antisemitism – led organizers of the Rototom Sunsplash Festival to reverse their demand that the Jewish American musician pledge support for an independent Palestine. (Not a two-state solution, mind you, or a negotiated settlement of the conflict.)
After he received an apology, Matisyahu accepted the invitation to play after all. He mounted the stage to heckles and chants of “out, out,” from multiple audience members waving large Palestinian flags.
“Let music be your flag,” he urged the audience as he proceeded with his 45-minute set, ending with a spine-tingling rendition of “Jerusalem,” a defiant anthem of Jewish survival and resilience: “3,000 years with no place to be / And they want me to give up my milk and honey,” he sang. “Don’t you see, it’s not about the land or the sea / Not the country but the dwelling of His majesty … Rebuild the Temple and the crown of glory / Years gone by, about sixty / Burn in the oven in this century / And the gas tried to choke, but it couldn’t choke me / I will not lie down, I will not fall asleep.… Afraid of the truth and our dark history / Why is everybody always chasing we?”
The incident was a nasty one, certainly, but its lesson is beautiful. Do not let bullies win, whether they attack you because of who you are or the ideas you carry. It is an issue we reflected on locally earlier this summer when outside forces attacked our community for hosting speakers from the New Israel Fund and it is an issue we face continually from the BDS movement, which, in the Matisyahu imbroglio, has shown its true colors.
Matisyahu also showed his. And it was a thing to see.