Denver, CO, October 16, 2015 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today honored the Jewish American reggae artist Matisyahu for his courageous stand in the face of an attempt to cancel his appearance at a music festival in Spain because of his religion and his support for Israel.
Matisyahu made brief remarks and sang "Jerusalem" during an appearance at the ADL’s Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, where he was recognized for his actions this past August, when he refused to comply with the demand of organizers of a reggae festival that he issue a statement in support of Palestinian statehood and against "Israeli war crimes."
The organizers of the Rototom Sunsplash reggae music festival ultimately relented and let Matisyahu perform. In an act of defiance in front of protestors waving Palestinian flags, he performed his popular song "Jerusalem," which celebrates the Jewish Biblical connection to the land of Israel.
"It is my honor to stand here today as head of ADL to recognize you for having the courage to stand up against those forces of ignorance and intolerance" said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO, who presented the Jewish reggae performer with a paper cut made in Israel and inscribed with the words "Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself" in Hebrew and in English.
"Thank you for standing with us here today, and thank you for standing up against the forces of bigotry, hatred and intolerance," Mr. Greenblatt added. "As someone who has made a commitment to performing as a proudly identified religious Jew, and as someone whose music is imbued with the words of the prophets, you have inspired a generation of young Jews to take pride in their heritage and to connect to it."
The protests in Spain against Matisyahu were organized by activists with the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to impose a global economic boycott against Israel in protest of its policies toward the Palestinians.
ADL has pointed out that many proponents of BDS employ tactics that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent.
In the case of Matisyahu, ADL joined a chorus of condemnation of the protest’s tactics, which singled him out because he was Jewish for a political litmus test.
"When everything was happening in Spain, you guys were the first to speak out, so thank you," Matisyahu said in accepting the honor.
"This was a clear a case of anti-Semitism as any we’ve seen recently," Mr. Greenblatt said. "These campaigns, such as they are, are often blindly waged against Jewish performers, academics and athletes with total disregard as to their positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or their politics more generally."