Cancel hate, not culture

Matisyahu is simply and proudly Jewish—and that’s why he was targeted.

matisyahu_hob image
Image pulled from Facebook post of US Palestinian Community Network, March 8, 2004.

American pop star Matisyahu's sold-out concert at Chicago's House of Blues was canceled the day of the scheduled show. The U.S. Palestinian Community Network boasted that it was due to their "relentless pressure," a "victory" that shows Chicago "stands with Palestine" rather than Israel.  

Except Matisyahu isn't Israeli.  

Matisyahu is simply and proudly Jewish--and that's why he was targeted.  

The "relentless pressure" put on the House of Blues was justified by "standing with Palestine;" but it consisted of thousands of threats of violence. 

An added irony is that the singer's biggest hit promotes peace. That's not just ironic, it's clarifying. These protestors don't want peace and certainly not a Jew publicly singing about it.   

Being pro-Palestinian is not being anti-Jewish.  But for too many it is. 

This of course is not the first time that haters have attempt to erase Jews or our culture. Normalization of this or any kind of hate is unconscionable, as is the silence of so many bystanders.  

These haters don't only curtail local Jews' ability to gather peacefully: Their protests intentionally disrupted everyday life in Chicago for hundreds of thousands. That's what happens when bullies disguising themselves as humanitarians are given free reign rather than treated like any other hate group violating the law. 

Beyond shutting down concerts, commuter trains are halted, rush hour traffic is paralyzed, O'Hare's access roads are blocked, and voter forums are disrupted.   

The result?  Missed flights home for the holidays, missed medical appointments, lost wages, jobs, and much more.  

All this as Chicago's ordinances--the ones that the rest of us are expected to follow--are being flaunted, with few arrests and zero prosecutions. 

The organizations wreaking this havoc revel in their "success." They shamelessly proclaim that their rights supersede yours: 

  • "On January 4 [we and allies] took over Union Station…we made our message very clear: we will not stop…shutting it down…"   

  • American Muslims for Palestine Facebook post, January 5, 2024. 

  • "…we reject the notion that Zionists should be able to gather…." 

  • Hatem Abudayyeh, chair of the US Palestine Community Network (Chicago Tribune October 24, 2023). 

The groups sponsoring these protests, and the individuals participating, are entitled to their First Amendment rights. But those protestors, like all of us, must play by the same rules: 

  • They must acquire and abide by the terms of a city-issued permit. They do neither.

  • The applying groups must be duly registered to operate in the State of Illinois. They are not.

  • They must not violate the terms of the permit by blocking other people's right of way. That's not just the law, it's common sense and common decency. They do the exact opposite. 

  • Finally, law enforcement, and especially the Cook County's State Attorney, need to prosecute violations of law, particularly when public safety is endangered. They have not. 

Canceling and intimidating Jews, and planned anarchy is alarming. It's time everyone hears the music, and the haters are not able to shut down our shows or streets.  In one voice we must all speak out against hate. 

An abridged version of this column was published in the Chicago Sun-Times on March 17, 2024.

Jay Tcath is Executive Vice President of JUF. 

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