Matisyahu Excoriated and Redeemed.

I was on the number 7 bus heading up Haight Street in San Francisco talking to one of my more interesting and edgy students from City College of SF a few years ago.

For reasons that elude me, now, I mentioned the great American Jewish Reggae musician, Matisyahu.

We were sitting opposite one another on a loud and bouncy MUNI bus and I said something like, “Matisyahu is an absolutely terrific Jewish performer who is merging Chasidic Judaism with Reggae music.  The man is unique.”

At that moment, just as the bus was easing into my stop, at the corner of Haight and Broderick, some stranger, a black man, spit me straight in the face.

I have no idea what offended him other than the fact that a Jew was doing Reggae and, apparently, he did not appreciate it… which if you know a thing or two about Rasta is a little unusual.

It was a very weird moment.  The bus came to a halt, the guy spit on me, and cursed me, as I was rising to depart, and then my student, a young non-Jewish man in his twenties, arose to confront my assaulter.  I thought that he was going to slug him.  I stood up, wiping the phlegm from my face, and put myself between my student and the hideous schmuck.  I told him to not get into a fight and then I simply hopped off of the bus, heading home.

I probably should have slugged the racist in the face, myself, but G-d only knows what happened after that and we never spoke of it, afterward.

But I will remember that moment for the rest of my life.

I have no idea what upset that individual other than the fact that a Jewish man, Matisyahu, was excelling at a traditional black musical art-form.  Normally that kind of thing upsets no one but the racists.  Plus, of course, Matisyahu was not merely a Jew, but a hard-core practicing Jew dressed in black, although I understand that he has in recent years gone to a more secular style and has left the Chassids.

On the day that I write this, in the middle of last week, we learn from Douglas Murray that Matisyahu has been disinvited to the Rototom Sunsplash Reggae festival in Spain because he refused to endorse a political point-of-view concerning the Arab-Israel conflict.

The Spanish seem to be among the least friendly European people toward the Jewish people and polling data bares this out.

Murray writes:

This week the news came in that a Spanish music festival had cancelled a planned performance by Matisyahu, an American reggae star. Matisyahu became famous as the “hassidic reggae star,” although he left Orthodox Judaism in 2011. He no longer has a beard of wears a skullcap, but he does remain proud of his Jewish identity. Next weekend, on August 22, he was due to perform at the Rototom Sunsplash festival in Benicassim, north of Valencia.

Unfortunately for anyone simply interested in music, a group of local Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists found out about Matisyahu’s upcoming performance. They claimed that Matisyahu is a supporter of “an apartheid state that practices ethnic cleansing,” and demanded that the festival cancel the performance.

If this was the US I would call them up and scream my bloody head off.  I harassed the Met over the The Death of Klinghoffer, so why not these guys?

Matisyahu is of course not the first Jew to suffer this type of pressure. In Europe, and increasingly in America too, any and all performers who come from Israel can be abused and vilified in the name of “progressive” values. In London, the Jerusalem String Quartet and Israel Philharmonic Orchestra have been the targets of attempts to cancel their performances. When the performances have gone ahead, they have had to suffer obscene and threatening performance interruptions by protesters.

The ironic thing is that Matisyahu is a deeply caring humanitarian.  This video, King Without A Crown, demonstrates that quite clearly, does it not?

Matisyahu is an American Jew who grew up in White Plains, New York, a stone’s throw from my parents’ house in Bardonia, New York, when I was a kid.

It is obvious that what we are seeing now – via BDS and western-left anti-Zionism – is an attack on Jewry, in general.

The good thing, of course, was that by overreaching BDS invited significant push-back which resulted in the music festival capitulating and re-inviting Matisyahu.  As Jared Samilow writes in the Jewish Journal:

Looking back, the whole episode seems dryly amusing. Spain’s BDS coterie should have known better, really. Discretion is the better part of valor. It was entirely predictable that openly discriminating against an American Jew would not fly in front of a broad public. Such garish antisemitism might cut it among certain benighted precincts, but was bound to get the cold shoulder from ordinary concert-goers and the political elite.

Well, I don’t how amusing it is.

The Spanish Reggae festival spit Matisyahu straight in the face.  Unlike with my little encounter with flat-out physically hostile anti-Jewish racism on a bus in San Francisco, we know how this one ended up.

The good guy won.

{And I’m guessing that this may be the last we hear of this story.  Maybe.  In any case, I am bringing up the rear.}

Posted at the Elder of Ziyon and Israel Thrives

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One comment

  1. Leon Poddebsky

    Those Spanish people who hate all Jews asked Matisyahu for a statement denouncing Israel and Zionism.
    Matisyahu refused to make such a statement; he remained silent.
    Instead of remaining silent, Matisyahu could have made a statement to the effect that the boycotters want to deprive the Jewish People of the human right of national self-determination, that they aim to throw us back to a pre-national emancipation era so that they and the like-minded can once again regard the Jews as their underlings, at best, and the victims of their sadism, at worst.
    He could have pointed out that Zionism is one of the great humanitarian movements that has emancipated a nation.
    Instead, Matisyahu remained silent
    He must have regretted that silence, for, having been re-invited to the concert, he sang about Jerusalem, expressing the above ideas.