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August 30, 2015 12:34 pm

Matisyahu Speaks Out About ‘Intense’ Spain Concert, Accuses Organizers of Antisemitism

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Matisyahu says he had never experienced antisemitism until he performed in Spain last week. Photo: Facebook.

Matisyahu said he had never experienced antisemitism until he performed in Spain last week. Photo: Facebook.

Jewish-American reggae star Matisyahu spoke out on Sunday about his widely reported performance at the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Spain last week, saying he felt the audience was full of hatred.

“People were standing on each other’s shoulders with [Palestinian] flags giving me the middle finger. It was intense,” he said, in an interview with The Daily Beast. “It was not peaceful. It was like ‘F*** you, Matisyahu.’ I’ve never had the experience of anything like that, as a Jew or anything in my life.”

Rototom organizers originally canceled Matisyahu’s concert after he refused to publicly endorse the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and sign a letter of support for Palestinian statehood. Later, at the behest of the Spanish government, and following outrage from Jewish groups, the concert organizers issued a public apology to the singer, and invited him back to perform.

Matisyahu was the only artist scheduled to perform at Rototom who was called on to make a public statement on a political issue. When asked if he thought being singled out with the demand constituted antisemitism, Matisyahu told The Daily Beast, “Absolutely. That was the first thing I said in the first email I wrote back to them.”

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He said the incident was his first encounter with antisemitism.

“I’ve been touring in Europe even from the time I had a beard and yarmulke,” he said, referring to his earlier Chasidic look, now replaced with a clean-shaven, bare-headed hipster style. “And I had never been with people who expressed what I thought was outright antisemitism. You hear stories. You hear things on the news, but at the end of the day, you relate back to your experience.”

Matisyahu told The Daily Beast that before he took to the stage last Saturday night, he noticed a Palestinian flag in the audience. When he stepped out in front of the crowd, however, “About 20 flags came out.”

The artist, whose real name is Matthew Paul Miller, said his Rototom performance was one of the only times he has ever felt unsafe going out on stage.

“I just assumed everyone in the festival was going to be regular reggae festival-goers, so I got really nervous,” he said. “I felt totally open and that anyone could do whatever they want.”

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