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Spanish Festival Backtracks, Re-invites Jewish Singer


FILE - Matthew Paul Miller aka Matisyahu performs onstage at Park City Live Day 1 on Jan. 16, 2014 in Park City, Utah.
FILE - Matthew Paul Miller aka Matisyahu performs onstage at Park City Live Day 1 on Jan. 16, 2014 in Park City, Utah.

Following a barrage of criticism, organizers of an international reggae festival in Spain backtracked Wednesday and apologized for cancelling a concert by Jewish-American singer Matisyahu because he had declined to state his position regarding a Palestinian state.

Rototom Sunsplash festival said in a statement that it publicly apologized for canceling the concert and invites Matisyahu to play as originally planned on Saturday.

It said it recognized its mistake, adding that it had been the fruit of pressure by a local branch of the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, which campaigned against Matisyahu's participation.

The change comes after the World Jewish Congress wrote to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, calling on him to condemn the cancellation, adding that the “scandalous behavior” of Rototom Sunsplash festival organizers demanded firm action by Spain.

The government also slammed the festival's decision.

The World Jewish Congress and the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain hailed the reversal Wednesday and thanked the organizers.

It wasn't immediately known if Matisyahu will accept the new invitation.

In the letter sent Tuesday, the Jewish congress said the decision's “anti-Semitic overtones are not in Spain's best interests,” adding that the Jewish community in Spain and worldwide were deeply troubled by the incident.

The organization had suggested Spain should consider recuperating public funding for the festival, being held this week in eastern Spain.

Spain's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday the government understood the Jewish communities' unease, adding that Spain opposed boycott campaigns against Israel. It reiterated its support for a Palestinian state through negotiations.

Festival organizers originally said they canceled the Aug. 22 concert because Matisyahu refused to state his positon regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the issue of a Palestinian state. He was the only artist asked to do so. They had said the festival has always supported the Palestinian people's rights and denied that the decision was a result of a pro-Palestinian group's campaign.

But in the statement Wednesday, it recognized that the group's pressure tactics had prevented them from seeing the situation clearly.

It said the festival rejects anti-Semitism and respects the Jewish community.

On his Facebook page, Matisyahu, whose name is Matthew Miller, said Monday that the festival organizers were pressured by the pro-Palestinian group and wanted him “to write a letter, or make a video, stating my positions on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to pacify the BDS people.”

“I support peace and compassion for all people. My music speaks for itself, and I do not insert politics into my music,” he said.

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