By David J. Seidemann, Esq.
The German armed forces were known as the Wehrmacht. Soldiers were required to swear an oath of allegiance to the Reich’s constitution. The actual oath went through different versions, originally requiring loyalty to the constitution itself. Almost a year after Hitler was appointed Reichskanzler, in December 1933, the oath was changed to require strict obedience to the commander-in-chief of the Wehrmacht, Adolf Hitler himself. The Fuhrer and chancellor of the German Reich became more important, at least in his eyes, than the fatherland itself. Hitler’s protectors, known as the SS, were steadfast in their dedication to the Fuhrer. To be a member of the “coveted” SS, there were all kinds of physical and racial requirements. Met the requirements? You’re a member of the SS. But if you were lacking in any one area, you might be able to be a regular soldier in the Wermacht, but you could never serve in the SS.
And what if you refused to swear the oath of allegiance? There were those who felt conflicted. After all, war crimes were being committed. But this oath served as a trap of sorts. Many felt that pull to obey despite that tiny voice in their head telling them that perhaps this was not the best.
Those who refused to swear their allegiance suffered greatly. Some lost their jobs and their pensions. Others were denied admission to institutions of higher learning. Still others were committed to psychiatric hospitals while others were executed.
One would believe that being forced to swear allegiance to a person, a country, or a cause as a precondition to anything was a thing of the past.
Not true, as a famed reggae singer, a Jewish singer, Matisyahu, found out. For those out of the loop, Matisyahu is one of the world’s leading reggae singers and entertainers. I met him years ago when he still sported his yarmulke, beard, and peyos. Those features helped get him noticed, as it was quite novel to see someone dressed like that take the world by storm in a genre of music once foreign to those with yarmulkes, beards, and peyos.
Though he shed his external religious garb, Matisyahu has never been shy about his love for Israel. To be fair, however, politics never entered his music. No lyrics exist in any of his songs that are derogatory in nature to Muslims, Arabs, or those Arabs that refer to themselves as Palestinians.
No one can point to any inflammatory rhetoric in his songs or interviews which would even slightly suggest that Matisyahu supports right-wing Israeli political ideology or to any dogma that suggests that he would be against what the world calls the two-state solution.
But in the world of the BDS movement, which I have written about many times before, reality has no place. I have written in countless previous articles that the BDS movement, which is sweeping across the world and on famed college campuses in the U.S., is nothing more and nothing less than unadulterated anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Israel right-wing beliefs.
And it reared its ugly head in Valencia, Spain this week in the days leading up to the Rototom music festival. In mid-April when it was announced that Matisyahu would be performing at the end of August, the BDS operatives went to work.
They began to pressure the organizers of the concert to cancel Matisyahu’s appearance. The BDS honchos argued that Matisyahu was a supporter of Israel, and Israel is an apartheid state involved in the genocide of Arabs. Initially, the organizers deflected the BDS concerns by pointing out that supporting Israel does not mean that Matisyahu is anti-Arab. So the show was “set to go on” with Matisyahu on the bill.
Now it would have been nice if the organizers would have pointed out the truth—that Israel is not an apartheid state and that in fact Arabs in Israel live better than Arabs in Gaza. But that would have been too much to ask. At least they pointed out that Matisyahu was not anti-Arab.
The anti-Semites’ appetite is not easily satiated; on August 13, the head of the concert buckled. He couldn’t ban Matisyahu outright. How would that look to the free world? So he shifted the onus on to Matisyahu. In actions that one can readily compare to events in the 1930s, the organizers demanded that Matisyahu sign a letter or release a video wherein he pledges his allegiance to the Palestinian cause. You can’t read this and not cringe. This is not insignificant. This is not unimportant because it involves a Jew without a yarmulke.
This is not to be ignored because it involves a nutty musician (not in my view, but in the view of many whom I have spoken with over the years about Matisyahu and other Jewish performers). This is not to be swept under the carpet because it involves something other than the learning of Talmud or the burning of holy books. This is a big deal because a Jew was asked to turn his back on Israel and embrace a political position as a pre-condition to participating in society.
And I add that no other performers were asked to sign anything about their political views, their religious views, their view on abortion, or their views on global warming or homosexuals.
This is huge but not surprising, because the BDS movement draws strength when leaders of nations that are supposed to act with moral clarity blur the lines and make support for Israel anything but iron-clad.
Matisyahu is not Israeli and has never endorsed an Israeli candidate or position. But it does not matter. The BDS movement and now the organizers of the Rototom concert in Spain have reminded us once again that a Jew is a Jew no matter where he lives, no matter what language he speaks, and no matter where he falls on the religious or political spectrum.
And now comes the trap. The left-wingers among us will try to defend Matisyahu and say he’s Jewish but not Israeli, so don’t punish him. I prefer when the anti-Semite reminds us that its one in the same. If you are anti-Israel you are anti-Jewish, and if you are anti-Jewish you are anti-Israel.
I give Matisyahu a great deal of credit. He refused to sign any such letter and refused to produce any such video. He remained staunch in his position even though it cost him fame and fortune. He refused conscription in the Wehrmacht, SS, or any other belief system that coerces allegiance to corruption.
There are small-minded people amongst us who won’t recognize the courage Matisyahu displayed in defense of his people and our homeland. Their refusal might be in part due to the fact that a yarmulke no longer sits atop his head. I am more impressed with what is in his head and in his heart. v
David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or firstname.lastname@example.org.