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The Snowballing of the BDS Movement

Defenders of the BDS movement often claim, in spite of evidence to the contrary, that it is narrowly targeted. The cultural boycott of Israel, for example, supposedly targets only events or artists commissioned or funded by Israel.

But just as allegedly narrow calls for an academic boycott have in the past led some enthusiasts simply to break ties with Israelis, the cultural boycott against Israel casts a wider net than its already discriminatory guidelines suggest. The most recent evidence for this proposition is the case of the reggae musician, Matisyahu. Avi Lewis of the Times of Israel reports that Matisyahu has been kicked off of the lineup for the Rototom Sunsplash Music Festival, which takes place in Spain this month.


Matisyahu is not an Israeli, nor is he sponsored by Israel.  Although the festival has been vague about the reasons for canceling Matisyahu’s performance, his crimes seem to come down to a handful of statements, about the flotilla incident of 2010, and (vaguely, in response to a question posed to him by the Cornell Daily Sun) about the status of Palestine under the British mandate. Not that it should matter from the standpoint of deciding who should perform at a reggae festival, but Matisyahu is not a political activist by any stretch of the imagination.


Nonetheless, the festival demanded that Matisyahu publicly declare his support for a Palestinian state. When Matisyahu balked, the festival parted ways with him. I suppose this is their way of living up to their view, stated on their website, that it “really is possible to create efficient channels of communication and an alignment between different cultures and people from all over the world, regardless of race, religion, borders and perceived physical and ideological barriers.”


As the page also notes, Rototum Sunsplash has been recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization as an “exemplary event.” With this act of discrimination against an American Jewish artist, the festival has no doubt has set itself up to receive more awards from the UN. More importantly, though, it has revealed, once again, that the BDS movement encourages the application of ideological purity tests to all Jews.

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