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Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel clarifies position on campaign to cancel Matisyahu show

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The following statement was published by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel on August 25, 2015:

Occupied Palestine, 23 August 2015 — Rototom Sunsplash festival organizers had canceled the performance of US artist Matisyahu from this year’s program after pressure from human rights activists in Spain objecting to his incitement to racial hatred and his defense of Israeli war crimes. The festival, which focuses on human rights and issues of justice, has now backtracked on the decision, following reported high-profile pressure by Israel lobby groups and the Spanish government.

Frustrated at their failure to thwart the fast spread of the global, Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, supporters of Israel’s regime of oppression have used this opportunity to unleash vicious propaganda and a smear campaign against the activists and the movement.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), the part of the Palestinian leadership of the BDS movement that deals with the academic and cultural boycott, issues this clarification to set the record straight.

Since the launch of our campaign in 2004 we have adopted a principled approach to the cultural — and academic — boycott of Israel. To enable a consistent and effective implementation of the institutional cultural boycott of Israel, PACBI has devised a set of guidelines for a coordinated, principled and focused approach to ending complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

An important part of this work is to expose Israel’s cynical use of culture “as hasbara,” or propaganda, in the “Brand Israel” campaign to whitewash its decades-old regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.

From its inception, PACBI has called for boycotts against Israeli institutions, including its international lobby groups, that are complicit in Israel’s violations of international law.  Israeli cultural institutions are clearly implicated in supporting, justifying and whitewashing Israel’s occupation and systematic denial of Palestinian rights. The cultural boycott does not target individual artists unless they serve as cultural ambassadors to rebrand Israel as a normal country, or are representatives — as opposed to mere affiliates — of complicit institutions, as specified in the BDS guidelines.

This approach of targeting institutions and not individuals differs from the cultural boycott movement against apartheid South Africa, which targeted individuals and institutions alike. This is not because individual Israeli artists or academics tend to be more progressive or opposed to injustice than the rest of society, as often mistakenly assumed or falsely argued without any evidence, but because we are opposed on principle to political testing and “blacklisting,” both forms of McCarthyism that the BDS movement categorically rejects.

The campaign for cancelling Matisyahu’s concert at the Rototom Sunsplash festival objected specifically to his defense of Israeli war crimes and gross violations of human rights, incitement to racial hatred, and connections to extremist and violent fundamentalist groups in Israel.

Furthermore, Matisyahu has performed for AIPAC, fundraised for Israel’s occupation army, which is directly responsible for massacres and other egregious war crimes against Palestinians, and collaborated in propaganda initiatives to paint Israel’s “prettier side” with the Israeli Foreign Ministry. This evidence is a far cry from Matisyahu’s absurd claim, “I do not insert politics into my music.”

This context is crucial to understand this “common sense” boycott, which is outside the realm of the BDS movement’s guidelines. The PACBI guidelines  state that:

“While an individual’s freedom of expression should be fully and consistently respected in the context of cultural boycotts, an individual artist/writer, Israeli or otherwise, cannot be exempt from being subject to “common sense” boycotts (beyond the scope of the PACBI institutional boycott criteria) that conscientious citizens around the world may call for in response to what they widely perceived as egregious individual complicity in, responsibility for, or advocacy of violations of international law (such as war crimes or other grave human rights violations), racial violence, or racial slurs.  At this level, Israeli cultural workers should not be exempted from due criticism or any lawful form of protest, including boycott; they should be treated like all other offenders in the same category, not better or worse.”

This is in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on which the BDS movement’s principles are based, and which states:

“In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order, and the general welfare in a democratic society.”

The organizers of the festival saw a contradiction between Matisyahu’s participation in the festival and the festival’s founding values of “peace, equality, human rights and social justice,” especially given the festival’s long history of solidarity with Palestinians and opposition to Israel’s occupation and grave violations of international law, as demonstrated in the several debates it has hosted throughout the years in the Social Forum highlighting the Palestinian plight.

PACBI is convinced that the pressure campaign waged by human rights activists in Spain to cancel this bigoted artist’s performance at this progressive festival is a well justified “common sense” boycott campaign, even though it falls outside the realm of the BDS institutional boycott guidelines.

We are further convinced that this was a campaign guided by universal principles of human rights and justice and opposed to a performer’s record of incitement to racial hatred, violence and war crimes. Contrary to the lies spread by Israel’s influential propaganda machine in the mainstream western media, this was absolutely unrelated to Matisyahu’s identity.

Any artist in a similar situation, irrespective of his/her identity, who has consistently expressed racist views and defended, as well as helped to whitewash, gross violations of international law should expect to face outrage and common sense calls for boycott by people of conscience everywhere, as a reasonable measure of accountability.

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24 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    August 26, 2015, 11:39 am

    Good distinction, good statement, and good luck to re-boycotting this self-described non-political fellow who is so clearly a supporter of right-wing-Israeli lawlessness.

    • bryan
      August 27, 2015, 1:55 am

      Fair comment – but then you have to ask, why was he invited to perform in the first place? Does anyone have information on that?

      • annie
        August 27, 2015, 5:14 pm

        probably because they were unaware of his history when he was invited to perform.

      • bryan
        August 28, 2015, 2:39 am

        Indeed – but then one has to ask was he “so clearly a supporter of right-wing-Israeli lawlessness”?

  2. Bumblebye
    August 26, 2015, 3:38 pm

    I suppose the controversy will ensure Matisyahu won’t be invited to Rototom or similar gatherings again – too many people now aware of his pro-Israel no matter what credentials.
    It has also put this festival on my son’s radar – despite being in a reggae group (tho only for a few months) he hadn’t heard of it until I gave him details. He’s aiming to be there, one way or another, in the next couple of years!

  3. wfleitz
    August 26, 2015, 4:29 pm

    I visited this website ( and the first thing you see in huge letters is “PEACE WINS” and I thought about how in reality most musicians are just looking out for themselves and only have an interest in how much money they can make doing something they like to do. If these other musicians really believed in “PEACE WINS” they would boycott this event and refuse to share the same stage with “Yahu or whatever his name is. But of course they won’t because they really don’t care whether peace wins or peace loses.

  4. amigo
    August 27, 2015, 8:21 am

    Meanwhile back on planet Chutzpah sans frontiere ,

    As someone already said , you can,t dream this stuff up.

    • amigo
      August 27, 2015, 8:43 am

      Apologies for premature “Post ” comment action.

  5. amigo
    August 27, 2015, 8:41 am

    Meanwhile back on planetchutzpah sans frontiere ??.

    “Germany is supporting Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim’s efforts to bring the Berlin philharmonic (Staatskapelle) to Iran for a special performance.

    Responding to a query from The Jerusalem Post, the philharmonic released a statement indicating that talks are indeed continuing between cultural officials in Germany and their counterparts in Iran about a possible performance.

    “German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has taken on the patronage of this concert and supports Daniel Barenboim’s commitment to make music accessible to people beyond any national, religious or ethnic boundaries,” the philharmonic said.

    Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev demanded on Wednesday that German Chancellor Angela Merkel cancel the discussions about a performance.”

    I hope Merkel gives Israeli the middle finger or if she prefers perfect english , give them the two finger version.

    Btw, didn,t Israel just bitch to the Spaniards about Matisyahu being banned .

    • just
      August 27, 2015, 9:10 am

      “planetchutzpah sans frontiere”

      heh. Hypocrisy Central. It’s very like the US~ actually and unfortunately.

      Barenboim won’t back down, and I don’t think that Merkel will either. Miri “Sudanese refugees in the country “were a cancer in our body.”” Regev has made another dumb move. But the biggest mistake was naming this horror “Culture Minister”. As if…

      What’s so amazing to me is that Barenboim has citizenship in 4 countries and Regev chose to write this:

      “Barenboim’s Visit to Iran Would Harm Israel

      “Culture Minister Miri Regev said Wednesday that if Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim really plans to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic in Tehran he will undermine Israel’s efforts to block the Iranian nuclear deal and aid efforts to delegitimize Israel.”

      – See more at:

      He’s a man of the world and a polyglot. He’s not an insane and insular Israeli.

      • amigo
        August 27, 2015, 1:05 pm

        Indeed Just. Barenboim collaborated , (probably the word Israel applied ) with the late Edward Said in forming the , “East -West Divan Orchestra ” which sought to make a space for Arabs and Israelis to share their experiences .Barrenboim was often critical of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians and this adolescent stunt by them is pay back time.

        Israel , knows no end to it,s stupidity and lets hope they keep this up.

        For a people with so many Nobel Laureates , it sure makes me wonder if it is possible to be brilliant and totally dumb at the same time.Of course I am referring only to Jews of the zionist hue.

        Btw , I signed that petition which had reached 551,000 and climbing.

      • straightline
        August 27, 2015, 6:21 pm

        OMG Barenboim is an existential threat to Israel!

    • RockyMissouri
      August 27, 2015, 12:18 pm

      Barenboim is an exceptional human being! I treasure his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.!! An inspiring youth orchestra of Middle Eastern musicians…coming TOGETHER for a common goal. A stunning example of the potential that gives us HOPE. The young people showing adults how to proceed.

      All made possible because of the friendship that existed between him, and the late Edward Said. They both founded the orchestra. Simply heroic.

  6. CigarGod
    August 27, 2015, 10:39 am

    Wonderful logic. Wonderfully written.
    You don’t leave the apologists any wiggle room at all.
    Someone should be carving this into stone tablets.

  7. Boo
    August 27, 2015, 1:05 pm

    I’ve been a reggae musician since the early ’70s and, as a Hawaiian, am grateful to have lived long enough to see the rise of “Jahwaiian” reggae in my home islands. “Conscious” or “roots” reggae has always focused on social and economic issues of inequality, prejudice and repression (I’m not speaking of “toasting” or “dance hall” reggae).

    This style of reggae got its beginnings in the Rasta culture, the details of whose religious precepts cause many to snicker, but whose implementation of their faith is in many ways the closest thing to early Christian communities that we have nowadays. Matisyahu is a reggae pretender (like Capleton, whose homophobic viewpoint rightly earns him discredit).

    To be a true reggae artist requires an up-front and rock steady commitment to social justice, and Matisyahu has forfeited any claim to righteousness. He doesn’t belong at a reggae festival.

    • Froggy
      August 28, 2015, 5:56 am

      Thanks for the information, Boo. As a Celtic singer/musician I’m ashamed to admit this, but I know very little about reggae.

      • Mooser
        August 28, 2015, 12:19 pm

        ” but I know very little about reggae.”

        Me neither. I tried growing dreadnoughts, but couldn’t do it.

      • Froggy
        August 28, 2015, 1:25 pm

        -LOL- Mooser, you are in rare form today.

        How does one go about growing a ‘dreadnought’? ;)

      • oldgeezer
        August 28, 2015, 1:00 pm

        “Me neither. I tried growing dreadnoughts, but couldn’t do it. – See more at:

        Personally I think that would look terrible but whatever floats your boat.

      • Mooser
        August 28, 2015, 2:03 pm

        “Personally I think that would look terrible”

        Well I thought it might lead to navel escalation, so I decided I would continue to rely on my pocket battleship for defense. It’s a hipper class of vessel, and always a lot of fun on a spree.

      • Froggy
        August 29, 2015, 12:40 pm

        Your wit should suffice.

    • Bumblebye
      August 28, 2015, 2:37 pm

      Thanks Boo. My boy’s (36? boy?!) band usually appears on the same bill as an authentic (ie, as you describe) band with whom they’re pretty good mates. Seem to be progressing quite well too.

  8. hophmi
    August 27, 2015, 4:27 pm

    Still waiting for that list of Rototom performers whose political affiliations were examined and who were asked to sign statements regarding their political views. There isn’t one.

    This is a defense of antisemitism, pure and simple. And it will hurt the BDS movement in a major way.

    • annie
      August 27, 2015, 5:18 pm

      do us all a favor and hold your breath while you’re waiting! the took the action they did because they were informed of his political affiliation after he was invited. i’m sure the bds movement has checked out the other performers already to see if they’ve participated in the “defense of Israeli war crimes and gross violations of human rights, incitement to racial hatred, and connections to extremist and violent fundamentalist groups in Israel. “

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