Thoughts on Matisyahu and BDS

Let’s get a few things straight here.

  1. The people who most often issue Jewish litmus tests are the most up in arms about Matisyahu’s supposed Jewish litmus test. Don’t speakers at Hillel have to pass a pro-Israel litmus test? Don’t grantees of Federations have to pass a pro-Israel litmus test? Doesn’t Jeffrey Weisenfeld subject every speaker and honoree at CUNY to a pro-Israel litmus test? Did J Street not fail the Conference of President’s pro-Israel litmus test? Don’t Orthodox Jews constantly subject liberal Jews to tests of their Jewishness? And what about non-Jews? Don’t non-Jews also have to pass a pro-Israel litmus test? To teach? To run for office? To speak at the 92Y? And did we forget about the Knesset’s efforts to introduce a loyalty oath for Arab citizens of Israel? Who are you people fucking kidding with your chest beating about litmus tests when you cornered the fucking market on litmus paper? You can bet your ass if a Palestinian performer who was on record making even vague anti-Israel statements and keeping associations with Muslim extremists had been invited to perform, the Jewish community would be lining up to have his performance canceled.

  2. Matisyahu wasn’t targeted because he’s Jewish. He was targeted because he’s a prominent pro-Israel figure who has publicly supported the IDF and denied Palestinian identity. Every time he opens up his mouth about Palestine, he shoves his foot into it by spouting off some Hasbara nonsense, and then reels it back and says, “But really I’m not political.” He has performed at Friends of the IDF fundraisers, the AIPAC convention, and for right-wing extremist Chloe Valdary’s pro-Israel campus organization. He also performed at a benefit for the OR Movement, an organization which intentionally seeks to displace Israeli bedouin to establish Jewish-only communities on the former sites of their villages. His spiritual mentor, Ephraim Rosenstein, to whom he attributes his spiritual regrounding, lives in occupied Hebron, praised Baruch Goldstein after the Tomb of the Patriarchs massacre, and raises money for an organization that provides legal aid to Israeli extremists charged with murdering Palestinians. He spent a decade as a Lubavitcher, a sect which idealizes “settling the land” as a religious obligation and whose main theological work, Tanya, begins by declaring non-Jews to be metaphysically inferior to Jews. He has expressed a desire to move to Israel. He has reportedly house hunted in Israel. And he had a top 40 song called “Jerusalem” which professes his love for Israel. If you can overlook all these facts and still insist that boycotting Matisyahu is an unjustified act of antisemitism, you’re as completely full of shit as he is.

  3. I don’t think the organizers should have caved to the BDS movement, but mostly because I don’t find academic and cultural boycotts to be strategically effective in this context. People have a right to boycott whomever they want, however, and the organizers of a private festival have every right to take whomever they want off the bill. No one is entitled to a performance or a paycheck.

  4. One night at a Beatbox Festival in NYC in the mid-2000’s, beatbox impresario Yuri Lane was performing a segment of his piece “From Tel Aviv to Ramallah,” a beatbox portrait of life in Israel and Palestine. According to Lane, Matisyahu pulled the cords out of the amp while he was performing because his message was “pro-Arab.” Never mind how many times Matisyahu forced female performers off stage because of “Kol Isha.” I myself wrote several articles for a certain publication I won’t name about Matisyahu’s transition from Orthodoxy to secularism. When that same publication wanted an interview with Matis a year later, he insisted all my articles be removed as a precondition of his interview. For this douchebag to whine to anyone about being silenced is the height of arrogance and hypocrisy.

40 thoughts on “Thoughts on Matisyahu and BDS

  1. This is one of the most “uncle Tom” arguments I’ve ever read. First off its a logical fallacy to immediately bring up all the litmus tests of hillel and co; if your opposed to their litmus tests then you should have some principle and oppose this action. Second, once youve gone down the rabbit hole of starting analysing matisyahus political views and freakin song lyrics for heaven’s sake (Jerusalem if i forget thee.. Yep saying one who recites that is automatically racist is not just anti semetic, it’s just dumb. its the Glenn beck like equivalent of saying anyone who recites Koran is a terror supporter), not to mention claiming he’s a d- bag and seeking other ex post facto justifications for bit allowing him to perform, than you’ve missed the whole point.
    That’s thought police 101. He’s a freaking musician for Christsake. Welcome to 1984…

  2. What completely obtuse nonsense.
    Whatever Matisyahu’s associations are, the fact of the matter is that no other performer at Rototom was examined in this way. Matisyahu was treated this way because he’s Jewish, and for no other reason, and frankly, Rototom was fairly upfront about that, referring to Matisyahu’s as an “American Hebrew,” and saying nothing about any of the associations Sieradski mentions here.
    Whatever litmus tests the Jewish community may apply (and they are all political, rather than racial or religious), we should all be able to recognize this for the clear and obvious act of antisemitism that it is.

  3. Untrue. There is no evidence that Matisyahu was disinvited for any reason other than his faith.
    Rototom issued a press release referring to Matisyahu as an “American Hebrew,” and there is no evidence that any other performance was quizzed on his political views. It’s antisemitism, very clearly.

  4. Up to “douchbag” you were worth reading. But the addition of the obscenity ruins your entire argument.

    1. I disagree with putting limits on language. Assuming everything written here is true, then “douchebag” is a perfect word to use, though some may argue that “asshole”, “waste-of-carbon-molecules”, or “fuck face Von Clownstick” would be better, though I think as Jon Stewart pointed out, the last appellation rightfully belongs to Donald Trump.
      What matters is the facts and the logic, both of which were well presented here. The colorful language only helps the reader better remember what was written. As George Orwell once said, restricting language is doubleplusungood.

    2. And if he used a less harsh epithet like “snob” or “head up butt”, would his argument still have been valid? Or are you as full full of shit as the “artist” you are objectively defending?

    3. Oy vey one should be more concerned that he did not spell it correctly than whether he used it at all.

  5. Wow. Haven’t looked at your site in like 8 years. You’re still the rebel without a clue. That’s really stickin’ it to the folks, eh? Pathetic.

  6. hey nice read except i also didnt like the douchebag moniker.
    also in general people have a right to change you know?
    sure he was a brash kid back in the day and he keeps evolving.
    i know his scene a bit from the inside.
    anyhow, may it all be good and may we all evolve… and evolve away from namecalling too 🙂

  7. A friend of mine turned me on to this article. I’ll be coming back for more. Good stuff.
    I wish you’d given dates and places or the events. I know pedestrian things like facts and stuff break the flow of a rant, but they’re really helpful. For example, it is said that Matisyahu’s collaboration with really bad actors reflects his “thinking” twenty years ago. I think the statute of limitations for fascism is about fifteen years. It would be nice if he’d disassociated himself from them, but at least he’s refrained from repeating them. Also, didn’t he make a statement about his being banned? If so, wonder what your take on it is.
    About Lubavitch… any Jews to the right of Modern Orthodoxy are tied to the traditional interpretation of Orthodox dogma, which has some unlovely things to say about Gentiles. Most Orthodox Jews I know shrug off these views; this isn’t what made them Orthodox. It’s pretty clear from Matisyahu’s wonderful songs that he never found this kind of thinking attractive. Cut him some slack on that.

  8. Untrue. There is no evidence that Matisyahu was disinvited for any reason other than his faith.
    Rototom issued a press release referring to Matisyahu as an “American Hebrew,” and there is no evidence that any other performance was quizzed on his political views. It’s antisemitism, very clearly.

  9. This article was a stupid waste of space, a he did this, he did that meaningless story. The singer was targeted because he was Jewish. He is not unknown and the festival did not have to invite him to play. Once they did, they should have had the balls to stick with their lineup instead of caving to a movement that’s sole objective is to pressure people to Villanueva Israel, Israeli’s and apparently anyone who is Jewish. If they are so concerned about human rights where are their issues with China? Iran? Saudi Arabia? Turkey?

  10. I don’t know which is better, the article – really nice, David, or Robin Messing’s response/comment – Long live Orwell!!
    Seriously though, David, this is some really interesting insight into this issue. I was pretty certain this guy was a douchebag indeed!!
    But the fact that now they invited him back, b/c the WJC whined to the Spanish Gov’t, WTF???? You definitely need to re-post this in response to some of the latest Haaretz pieces on this (needless to say the TOI – right wing rag that it is), b/c they are making it seem like he never uttered anything anti Palestinian. Cheers.

  11. Your idiotic article confirms he was boycotted because he was Jewish. Christians or Atheists who support Israel would not be boycotted by the racist BDS movement. It is clear organizations like JVP and other fascist groups are racist and anti semitic.

    1. “Christians or Atheists who support Israel would not be boycotted by the racist BDS movement.”
      You have no confirmation of that other than the hole between your buttocks that you pulled it out of. Would you imagine that someone affiliated with CUFI would be united for support?
      Also, we have a famous pro-Israel atheist named Bill Maher. And guess what? BDS BOYCOTTS HIM TOO.

  12. “He has performed at Friends of the IDF fundraisers, the AIPAC convention, and for right-wing extremist.”
    From what I already know about this guy, I agree that he’s a douchebag, and I will be one of the many people protesting against his participation in this festival. But can you provide evidence (in the form of links, specific quotes or whatever) verifying the truth and accuracy of the above statements?

  13. The author of this piece is either actually stupid or being deliberately obtuse. The piece is posturing that the objection that people have to BDS is that it applied an ideological litmus test to Matisyahu. But that isn’t what BDS did. They applied an ETHNIC litmus test to Matisyahu. So show some examples of Matisyahu or Jewish orgs applying an ethnic litmus test, or admit that your comparison is ridiculous.

  14. your “article” if one could call it that, was a poorly thought out as it was poorly written.
    Were any other ethnicities asked to justify their nations policies? were the chinese acts asked to talk about tibet? were the americans asked to denounce america for stealing Native american land?
    Matis is a decent guy who is unashamed of being jewish and he openly supports the ancestral homeland of the jewish people, perhaps if more jews were vocal and proud we wouldnt see so many jews excusing what is clearly and obviously antisemitism. I am not even jewish and I could see that is exactly what this was

  15. i don’t have the time nor energy to refute all of the inaccuracies and half truths in your rant other than to clarify that the festival was most certainly not ‘private’ as you indicate.
    Indeed, it was financed with public funds and, as the organisers violated Spanish laws against discrimination (also enshrined in the Spanish constitution), the Spanish government was obliged to step in and point this out to said organisers … presumably with a not so subtle message that they could kiss any future public funding goodbye as well as face possible charges in the immediate.
    Whatever your personal issues with Matisyahu … and reading your opinion piece, it would seem there are quite a few … I would encourage you to put these aside for a moment and read the excellent piece in El Pais published earlier this week which encapsulates the issue well, including why this was a clear cut case of discrimination.
    Equally, whilst I’m not supportive of anyone needing to publicly profess support of Israel and/or take a ‘litmus test’ in order to speak or engage at Jewish events, this is a crap argument and has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not a publicly funded reggae festival in Spain has the right to single out the only Jewish performer for a public statement regarding Israel and a Palestinian state when no other performer was asked to do the same.

  16. I read the article and don’t agree with it. The truth of the matter is that Matisyahu has never said anything anti-Arab. He’s never made any statements that have endorsed violence, dispossession or hostility in any form. The most “aggressive” thing he’s said is that Israel is held to double-standards, which I agree with.
    Both his statements and his music are all about positivity for everyone, peace, love, etc. For him to be coerced into making any political statement or be subject to threats/censure over literally nothing offensive is troubling.

  17. The problem is not that BDS applied an ideological litmus test to Matisyahu. It is that they applied an ethnic litmus test. All of the examples you are citing in this piece are of the former variety, and therefore do not speak to any inconsistency among critics of what BDS has done.

  18. Thanks for writing this, Dan. It gives a a completely different perspective from the rest of the articles circulating among the Jewish blogs.

  19. I guess there are flavors to antisemitism..
    Some are purely antisemitic, some are simply obsessed with Jews..
    …Oh Jews are smart, Jews are great in business..Jews are this and Jews are that..
    These suffer from a severe Jewish Syndrome..
    Jews can also suffer from this syndrome, many of them do..
    And it is only natural for the sons of Israel, after all they were taught that Jews are the chosen people.. selected by God..
    The same also applies to Jews like you, people who behave as if they and their Jewish brothers are the center of existence, in our universe..
    These people act as if they are the conscious of the world, all too often they want to fix all evil in this world.
    It is therefore obvious for them to start inside, so they will first fix Jews, and what is a better target than Israel? Isn’t it called the Jewish state?
    These Jewish people, suffering from the Jewish Syndrome are of course convinced that they saw the light.. and obsessed with Jews, they portray Israel and the Israeli life as the center of the world’s evil, the source of all evil..
    To summaries it all .. BDS, are either Antisemitic, or Sick with severe Jewish Syndrome..
    In many cases both are the same..

  20. I oppose the occupation, but as an American Jew, I can’t vote in an Israeli election. If someone told me that I had to denounce Israel’s government or you can’t perform here, I would have refused to comply.

  21. Why was everyone opposed to Matisyahu playing but not a well-known homophobic reggae star… whose lyrics have called for the lynching and murder of gay people?

  22. I mean, really dude. Are you saying that because orthodox Jews impose litmus tests on liberal Jews, it’s ok for others to discriminate? Would you say that discriminate against Muslims is ok because Sunni Muslims don’t accept Shia Muslims? Because Jeff Wiesenfeld is an asshole, other Jews should pay the price for it? What is wrong with you?

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