Small Town Anti-Zionism

Children of Israel

The treatment meted out to Jewish-American reggae icon Matisyahu by the organizers of Spain’s Rototom Sunsplash music festival, held annually near Valencia, is by now common knowledge. Refusing to sign on to the pro-Palestinian BDS movement making the global rounds, he was disinvited from participating in the event. As Matisyahu posted on his Facebook page:

The festival kept insisting that I clarify my personal views; which felt like clear pressure to agree with the BDS political agenda. Honestly it was appalling and offensive, that as the one publicly Jewish-American artist scheduled for the festival they were trying to coerce me into political statements. Were any of the other artists scheduled to perform asked to make political statements in order to perform? No artist deserves to be put in such a situation simply to perform his or her art. Regardless of race, creed, country, cultural background, etc, my goal is to play music for all people. As musicians that is what we seek. – Blessed Love, Matis

It was only after the Spanish government and various prominent Jewish agencies intervened that Matisyahu was re-invited.

On the micro-level of public opprobrium, I recently experienced something similar. Having been invited, pro forma, with my pianist wife Janice to play a selection of my original songs at the farmers' market held in the small southeastern Ontario town where we make our home (let’s call it Cataraqui), I lingered six weeks to learn the date of our performance. Finally, I inquired by email. After a few days, I received the following message from the event organizer:

Hi David

I'm sorry, I've been somewhat out of the loop and had to step back a bit from market organising, but I thought someone had been in touch. My understanding was that there was some concern that your musical style might not be the best fit for the market but I believe moreso [sic] that the strong political content of your website was not something we were prepared to appear to be endorsing.

Somewhat taken aback, I checked my webpage for political comment. I could find little to speak of. Whether a song I had linked, called "Children of Israel," which I wrote in honor of the men and women who serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, could be classified as “political” is moot. The organizer (or her collaborators) probably did a Google search of my name and would have found innumerable references to my books and articles written from a pro-Zionist and deep-blue conservative perspective. This would have been enough for the PC thought police to cancel a musical performance on strictly political grounds. On second thought, even a psalm in praise of the heroic defenders of the small, beleaguered Jewish state would be regarded as politically offensive by the consensual bigots of our day. Doubtless, nothing more would have been required to motivate what amounted to a disinvitation.

In retrospect, what was so striking about the response was the unabashed directness. It would not have been necessary to say anything about the political content of my webpage. The organizer might simply have said that my music was not appropriate for the market, and I would have assented without creating problems. But she went further to state that my political convictions were unacceptable, even though my music is almost entirely apolitical. Her objection was not so much to the music as to the man behind the music; and so assured was she that it was her right to make decisions on political grounds that she could see no reason to disguise the fact. Had her object been merely to marginalize someone whose views she disliked, she could have done so discreetly. But that did not satisfy her: she wanted to make clear why I was being excluded and she was so confident that her attitude was unopposable and almost universally shared that she felt no need for subterfuge or diplomacy. That’s how far the ideological grunge has spread.