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Gilmore slams 'unacceptable efforts to harass' artists from performing in Israel

The Tánaiste says the treatment of groups like Dervish, who pulled out of an Israeli tour, is “totally unacceptable”.

Dervish perform at the Eurovision Song Contest in Finland in 2007. The group recently abandoned a planned tour of Israel.
Dervish perform at the Eurovision Song Contest in Finland in 2007. The group recently abandoned a planned tour of Israel.
Image: ALASTAIR GRANT/AP

THE TÁNAISTE Eamon Gilmore has criticised supporters of a cultural boycott of Israel, who are accused of bullying the music group Dervish into abandoning an Israeli tour this year, as “totally unacceptable”.

Gilmore said that while the Irish government was “firmly opposed” to a cultural boycott, led by the Irish-Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Irish artists should be free to decide for themselves whether they wished to engage with Israel.

“It is the right of others to take a contrary view” to the government’s, Gilmore said – adding that he thought “efforts to harass artists with a view to intimidating them from exercising their freedom of choice in relation to engagement with Israel” were “completely unacceptable”.

The remarks came in response to a written parliamentary question from Labour’s Joanna Tuffy, who had asked the foreign affairs minister to confirm the government’s stance on the cultural boycott and its proponents.

The IPSC’s boycott campaign has been called back into the public eye after Dervish announced it would not take part in an Irish music concert series, after meeting with significant online opposition to the tour.

“The organiser of the shows is a musician and friend of the band for many years. He has worked to bridge divides between people through music for much of his life,” the band said last month when it announced the cancellation.

“These concerts were organised in this same spirit. At the time we agreed to these performances we were unaware there was a cultural boycott in place.

“We now feel that we do not wish to break this boycott,” its statement concluded. That statement has since been removed from the band’s website.

A second band, FullSet, also withdrew from the tour, saying both groups had been “publicly berated and attacked for breaking a cultural boycott on Israel that neither group was aware of when accepting the tour”.

“The anger behind comments and insults thrown back and forth between people on our page and on Dervish’s in the past few days is saddening to read,” the band had said.

“These comments have come from people from every side of the spectrum. For us, regardless of anyone’s views or comments, the goodness is gone out of this trip.”

‘Directing its members’

Justice minister Alan Shatter has already criticised the IPSC for purportedly “directing its members” to target Dervish’s online pages, slamming it for directing an “avalanche of negativity” towards the band, a claim the IPSC rejects.

“Worryingly, reports of newly declassified documents, seized from his hideout in Pakistan following his death last year, indicate that the actions of the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Group [sic] and its associates have caught the attention of some of Osama Bin Laden’s followers who now see Ireland as promising ground for support,” Shatter had said.

The justice minister elaborated this week that he ‘deplored’ the “cyber-bullying and intimidation” which led Dervish to cancel its tour, and said cultural exchanges had the ability to “make a significant contribution to fostering understanding and tolerance in a troubled part of the world”.

Gilmore asserted that he had been happy to attend the opening of the Israeli Film Festival last November, and said he had underlined on that occasion that the government opposed the boycott campaign.

Composer Raymond Deane, the IPSC’s cultural liaison and boycott officer, said it was “lamentable that the Tánaiste would repeat such baseless accusations” and described his reply as a “slander”.

Dervish “received private approaches from very well-known colleagues in the traditional music world, pointing out the existence of the cultural boycott and the boycott pledge”, Deane said, pointing out that Dervish’s original statement cancelling the tour made no reference to online abuse.

“The torrent of intimidation came afterwards and came exclusively from Zionists, and from supporters of Israel.”

Deane added that Shatter’s original statement, linking IPSC’s actions to the documents recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, “should have testified to the absurdity of the [minister's] claim”.

Read: Gilmore condemns Israel for ‘legalising’ West Bank settlements

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Gavan Reilly

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