Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions activists in Spain will be tried in court for the boycott and harassment of Jewish American singer Matisyahu in the summer of 2015, a Spanish court ruled.
The Examining Court No. 19 of Valencia has admitted into procedure a criminal complaint filed against nine BDS activists by the Legal Committee against Discrimination, an association of human rights lawyers combating discrimination and antisemitism in Spain.
In August 2015, Matisyahu was scheduled to perform at the annual Rototom Sunsplash reggae festival that takes place in Benicassim, north of Valencia.
Following pressure from the Valencia and Catalonia BDS movements, which the organizers of the festival said waged a campaign of “pressure, coercion and threats” against them, the organizers asked Matisyahu to publicly denounce Israel and declare his support for a Palestinian state.
Matisyahu refused, saying that he was the only artist asked to declare his political position in order to sing, and canceled his participation in the festival.
The affair was picked up by the international media and triggered a wave of criticism against the festival by the press, the Spanish government, and Jewish organizations.
As a result, Matisyahu was re-invited, and decided to perform as scheduled at the festival, saying that he “always believed in the power of music to unite all people, regardless of religion, politics or geography.
“This was an excruciating decision, as I felt that my core, essential being was being used as a pawn for political convenience.
It is my deep conviction however that acceptance and the ability for rebirth allow us to move forward,” he wrote on his Facebook page of his experience.
The singer defiantly performed at the concert to thousands of fans, though under massive security and in an atmosphere of hostility orchestrated by the BDS movement.
If found guilty, the nine BDS leaders, who face charges of incitement to hatred and discrimination, could face jail time.
According to David Hatchwell, the president of the Jewish Community of Madrid, “With this deplorable episode the BDS removed its mask: the goal of that movement is not a two-state solution or the improvement of the Palestinians’ lives. The real goal is to ostracize the Jews and criminalize defending a Jewish state and its right to exist.
The objective is to deny the Jews their own vibrant and diverse democracy.
“The BDS movement, like all antisemites, aims to condemn the Jews to the role of helpless victims that was sadly reserved to them through history,” he said in a statement.
“BDS militants are used to getting away with their racist goals and violent methods,” Hatchwell said. “No one holds them accountable for actions that, carried out against any other ethnic or religious minority, would be shocking and punishable.
A civil society that can resort to the rule of law to protect itself from bullying and cowardly abuses, in both the social networks and the real world, demonstrates its maturity.”
Hatchwell expressed confidence that “this time the violent instigators of these antisemitic campaigns will suffer criminal sanctions for their actions.”
In the wake of the court ruling, BDS activists launched an online petition called “Defend Human Rights.”
“We consider this a flagrant violation of our freedom of expression and an attempt to criminalize and suppress our democratic right to defend human rights at home and internationally,” they wrote.
In their petition, they continued to vilify Matisyahu, saying they have been accused of committing acts of “threat and coercion” and “hate crimes” for what they dubbed their “peaceful campaigning to convince the Rototom Sunsplash Festival to cancel the invitation of an artist based on his track record of defending war crimes and gross violations of human rights, incitement to racial hatred, denial of the existence of the Palestinian people, and documented connections to extremist and violent fundamentalist groups.
“We consider the false accusations against us to be part of the much wider, well-funded campaign led by Israel and its lobby groups, to demonize or criminalize peaceful campaigning for Palestinian human rights, and in particular the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality,” they wrote.
The activists pledged to “expose the fabrications and lies thrown at us by Israel’s lobby and its supporters in the Spanish state and to mobilize our networks of grassroots support and solidarity.”