Category Archives: ireland

Irish BDS activists reject smears as dance festival in Israel is cancelled

We are reproducing this long post from the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign in which they refute allegations that threats and danger to dance students brought about the cancellation of the first Israeli Irish Dance Feis, planned for Tel Aviv in August.

The piece explains the goals and tactics of this particular cultural boyott campaign and in the process explores the principles of applying BDS in the arts.
There is much more on this subject on the website of Artists for Palestine UK.

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IPSC Statement on the cancellation of the Israeli Feis: A victory for Palestinian rights marred by disgusting and defamatory comments

According to a post on the Facebook page of the Carey Academy in Israel and The Carey Academy of Irish Dancing in Birmingham, the Israeli Irish Dancing Feis scheduled to take place in Tel Aviv on August 15th has been cancelled. The post announcing the cancellation makes scurrilous and defamatory remarks against human rights activists and organisations*.

[* Note: A first posting, several hours before the one that is now visible, contained even more malicious and defamatory statements. This has since been removed by the Carey Academy, though we have it archived. In this statement we focus solely on the posting of Tuesday 7th July at 5.03am.]

0. Feis statement

In 2005 over 200 Palestinian civil society, trade union, faith and artistic groups called for a comprehensive boycott, including a cultural boycott, of Israel and Israeli institutions until Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian lands and abides fully by its commitments under international law. As supporters of this call based in Ireland, the IPSC welcomes the cancellation of the Israeli Feis as it represents the cancellation of an event that – consciously nor not – sought to ‘greenwash’ Israeli human rights abuses, war crimes and international law violations by bringing international cultural figures to Israel.

However, it is important to clarify from the outset that the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign – in accordance with the Palestinian guidelines for the Cultural Boycott of Israel – never sought the cancellation of the Feis. Instead we sought to encourage Irish people who had planned on attending the competition – including the advertised adjudicators Seamus and Ainé Ó Sé – to boycott the event in solidarity with Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and Apartheid. Separately, we pleaded with An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha (CLRG; The Irish Dancing Commission), as an organisation which receives money from the Irish taxpayer via Conradh Na Gaeilge, to withdraw its endorsement, promotion and support for the event taking place under its auspices.

In other words, if Israelis in Israel want to host and partake in an Irish dancing competition – or any other cultural activity – this does not fall within the guidelines for the cultural boycott. An event only becomes subject to a call for a cultural boycott when international artists, cultural figures or institutions are asked to take, or listed as taking, part. This was very much the case with the Israeli Feis which not only involved international (Irish) adjudicators, a musician from Birmingham in England (who subsequently withdrew from the event), was endorsed and promoted by the CLRG and included an open call to Irish dancers from all over the world to attend. Thus it met the criteria to be focused on by principled human rights activists acting in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

That culture and the fight against oppression are inextricably linked is recognised by the more than 500 Irish creative and performing artists that have already signed up to the Irish Artists’ Pledge to Boycott Israel. These artists join a growing list of international artists like Roger Waters, Lauryn Hill, Ken Loach, Mira Nair, Nigel Kennedy, Cat Power and Elvis Costello who have refused to perform in Israel as an act of solidarity with the occupied and besieged Palestinian people. Famed anti-Apartheid activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu said last year that the conflict’s solution will “come from that nonviolent toolbox we developed in South Africa in the 1980s, to persuade the government of the necessity of altering its policies.  The reason these tools – boycott, sanctions and divestment – ultimately proved effective was because they had a critical mass of support”.

11. Bilin 3

The Carey Academy announcement states that their page “started to be attacked” – by which they presumably mean people were leaving comments in support of Palestinian human rights and the cultural boycott campaign – by a “radical political group” – by which they mean the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), an organisation that supports Palestinian human rights and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

The post further states that the IPSC is “led by” Raymond Deane, Kevin Squires and Amanda Crawford. Ms. Crawford is a member of the Irish Palestinian Activists Collective, and not a member of the IPSC. Mr. Deane is a former Cultural Liaison Officer of the IPSC. Mr. Squires is a part-time employee of the IPSC.

The post insinuates that the IPSC – or these individuals – sent “threatening messages” to “teachers, parents and students”. Leaving aside the near impossibility, were one even so inclined, of finding contact details for teachers, parents and students which are presumably only in the hands of organisers, this is a completely defamatory statement. Neither the IPSC nor anyone officially associated with it sent a single threatening message to anyone. This statement smells of the usual lies and hasbara (Israeli propaganda) spewed forth when human rights activists are campaigning in favour of a cultural boycott.

We routinely hear of “threats” by the IPSC yet evidence has never been produced by any accuser to back up such defamatory claims. Indeed, it is not the first nor will it be the last time such lies are told about the IPSC. They are par for the course when campaigning against Israeli apartheid and for Palestinian human rights. If such an incident has occurred, it is of course important to state that IPSC neither advocates nor stands behind any violent act or violent threat made in the name of the BDS movement – nor does the international BDS movement itself – and that if anyone has genuinely made such statements or engaged in such actions they represent themselves only.

Yet, we are surely not alone in suspecting that having been taken to task by international human rights activists and realising the increasing indefensibility of their position and having their name and reputation associated with Israeli apartheid, The Carey Academy decided to pull the plug on the event, but sought to insinuate that non-existent threats of violence were the rationale.

Meanwhile, very real threats and racist comments have already started appearing in the IPSC mailbox and on our social media pages.

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For the record, it is important to chronicle just what actions the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign took during the course of this short campaign.

On 17th June we wrote privately to Aine and Seamus Ó Sé and asked them not to take part in the Feis. We received no response to this letter. We subsequently wrote again to Seamus Ó Sé – this time via email – when we had been made aware by a third party that Mr. Ó Sé was circulating false statements about the IPSC. In this letter we informed him that as “you have indicated in the email to Ms. Ni Bhriain (though, it must be pointed out, not to us) that nothing will change your mind on this issue it seems there is little point in continuing a dialogue with you and your partner as individuals who have chosen to break the boycott. It is heartbreaking that you would choose to ignore the calls from Palestinian civil society, from Palestinian dancers, musicians, singers, artists, writers, musicians, poets, human rights activists and everyday people not to help whitewash their oppression by the Israeli state, but ultimately the choice is yours alone to make.” Once again, we received no response to this email.

On 18th June we wrote privately to the CLRG and asked them to cease their endorsement, promotion and support for the Israeli Feis. We received no response to this letter.

On 19th June the IPSC was contacted by Colin Coyle of the Sunday Times, who was of the belief that the “social media campaign” was being organised by the IPSC. Mr Coyle was told that it wasnot an IPSC campaign, but that the petition was set up by the Irish Palestinian Activists Collective. The IPSC subsequently sent a statement to the Sunday Times, but despite this the printed article claimed the social media campaign was being organised by the IPSC. The journalist was immediately contacted and this erroneous statement was corrected in the online edition. A number of letters then appeared in the following week’s edition of that paper which named the IPSC. A right of reply was sought but, alas, not granted by the paper.

The same statement that was issued to the Sunday Times was also sent, upon request, to the website Irish Central and was quoted in full in this piece.

On 25th June, on behalf of the Israel citizens’ group Boycott From Within, we sent a letter to the CLRG calling on them to support the cultural boycott and posted the letter on our website at their request. To the best of our knowledge, BFW did not receive a response to their letter.

On 29th June we posted a statement that had been emailed to us from Jewish Voice for a Just Peace (Ireland) calling for a boycott of the Israeli Feis on our website.

Several times over the course of four weeks on our social media sites we shared the petition created by the Irish Palestinian Activists Collective and asked people to sign it, and on 6th July we shared their call for a Twitter Thunderclap. Finally, we shared images of Palestinians calling for a boycott of the event.

This is the sum total of the actions taken by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign during this campaign.

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To return to the Carey Academy statement, it claims that “unfortunately, there was a protest outside our dance studio. We do not want to risk the safety of anyone connected to the Carey Academy”. By this they mean the Carey Academy in Birmingham, England – not their Israeli branch. People have a right to peaceful protest and judging by the complete lack of any evidence to contrary it seems this protest was entirely peaceful in nature. With the growth of the global BDS movement over the past ten years, institutions that do business with Israel – whether financial, cultural or otherwise – should expect protests from people concerned at these associations. This is what happens in democratic societies. The outrageous insinuation that dancers, or anyone else associated with the Academy, were ever in physical danger is simply a barefaced lie.

However, this protest in Birmingham was not organised by the IPSC – as the Carey Academy is located in England, it is outside of our ‘jurisdiction’. For the IPSC to organise a protest in England would be akin to our colleagues in the British PSC organising an action in Cork. Indeed, as the Carey Academy is based and located in England, we never saw it as our role to focus on their involvement with the Feis, preferring to leave that to local activists – we focus on trying to convince Irish cultural figures to join the more than five hundred of their peers in respecting the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel.

Further, the Carey Academy states that “age, nationality or religious beliefs do not matter to us, Irish Dancing has no boundaries and brings people together.” This seemingly liberal and worthy statement elides at least one very major fact – Israel is a racist state that operates a racist entry law. Therefore any event that takes place in Israel automatically excludes millions of Palestinian refugee families who are denied their UN-mandated right of return to the homes they were expelled from in 1948 and 1967. Israeli also operates a severely restrictive entry regime for Palestinians from the territories it has occupied since 1967. This reality exists alongside the ‘Law of Return’ under which anyone of Jewish ancestry anywhere in the world can claim Israeli citizenship. The Israeli state openly discriminates on the basis of “nationality [and] religious beliefs”, therefore any event held in that state will also be discriminatory on the same basis.

It is worth looking also at a previous statement made by the Carey Academy on June 19th that said “Running a feis in Israel does not mean we support or are involved with the Israeli government [… ] Why should we starve these people of their enjoyment of Irish dance just because they live in a country who’s politics we do not agree with?”

Yet, while it may be true that the Israeli government was not directly involved in the Feis, the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel is predicated on the fact that the Israel state routinely uses culture as a tool to normalise and whitewash its decades of human rights abuses, war crimes, occupation and apartheid policies.

As the Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in 2005, for Israel “culture is a propaganda tool of the first rank, and I do not differentiate between propaganda and culture.” Another Israeli foreign office official, Arye Mekel, remarked that culture was way of “show[ing] Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war” and occupation.

Israel is a frequent and flagrant violator of international law and human rights norms, and regularly commits war crimes. Just last year in a brutal assault on Gaza, Israel killed over 2,200 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians, including more than 500 children. In a human rights report following this attack, Defence for Children International said that it “found overwhelming and repeated evidence of international humanitarian law violations committed by Israeli forces. These included direct attacks on children, and indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilian homes [and] schools”.

Therefore, whatever the intentions of the organisers, or those who were willing to take part, they were in effect providing cultural cover for the Israeli state’s horrendous treatment of the Palestinian people.

Indeed, the Israeli Embassy in Ireland mentioned the Feis, and even posted some of the anti-Palestinian, anti-BDS letters that appeared in the Sunday Times on its Facebook and Twitter pages. One post was subsequently shared by the ‘1st Israeli Feis’ event page, operated by the Carey Academy – certainly strange behaviour for an organisation that insinuates its own opposition to the actions of the Israeli government as it did on 19th June.

Finally, as part of the Feis, the Carey Academy were offering participants “a bus tour to some incredible place in Israel … will be chosen according to your votes”. The very first option is a tour of “Jerusalem (Old City)” and the second is “A Tour of Three Religions in Jerusalem”. Of course the Old City of Jerusalem is in illegally annexed Israeli-occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem, and no “three religions” tour would be possible without visiting the Old City. Thus, we see the Carey Academy, whether wittingly or unwittingly it does not matter, reinforcing the Israeli state narrative of East Jerusalem being part of Israel, when no country in the world (other than Israel) recognises it as such.

ENDS

IRISH APPEAL TO CHRIS DE BURGH – GIVE HOPE TO THE CHILDREN OF WAR

chris de burghJ-BIG actively supports a wide range of cultural boycott campaigns, one of the most important of which works to persuade well-known artists not to endorse Israeli Apartheid by performing or allowing their work to be exhibited or performed in Israel.
Plans by singer Chris de Burgh to perform in Tel Aviv on March 29 has provoked an eloquent letter from Dr Raymond Deane of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
We reproduce Raymond’s letter below.
______________________________________________________________
Dear Chris de Burgh,
 
In your song Lebanese Nights you wrote:
                                All over the world, the gift from before,
                                Nothing is left for the children of war…
 
Since the year 2000 more than 1400 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli soldiers and illegal colonial settlers. Defence for Children International estimates that “since the year 2000, around 8,000 Palestinian children have been detained and prosecuted in the system…. The majority of these children are charged with throwing stones.”
In a report last month (February 2014), Amnesty International declared that Israeli forces have displayed a callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank over the past three years with near total impunity…”
These children are indeed “children of war”, but is there really nothing left for them except “the gift from before”? Do we not owe them our solidarity, particularly in view of the failure of the international community to end Israel’s “near total impunity”?
Almost a decade ago, in July 2004, dozens of Palestinian federations, associations, and civil society organizations “call[ed] upon our colleagues in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid…”, and in particular to “refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions” (note that this call is not directed against individuals).
 
One year later a more comprehensive call came from some 170 Palestinian civil society organisations for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the Israeli state “until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law.” A year later again, over 100 Palestinian Filmmakers, Artists and Cultural Workers called for a cultural boycott in similar terms. These calls from the oppressed constitute a strong mandate.
Recently such famous musicians as Roger Waters (who declared his “solidarity, not only with the people of Palestine, but also with the many thousands of Israelis who disagree with their government’s racist and colonial policies, by joining a campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel…”) and Elvis Costello (“there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent… “) have refused to perform in Israel.
 
Not least, at time of writing some 260 Irish creative and performing artists have signed a pledge undertaking not to accept invitations to Israel. Musicians constitute the largest single group of signatories, including Andy Irvine, Dónal Lunny, Peadar Ó Riada, Liam Ó Maonlaí, Damien Dempsey, Sharon Shannon, and many others from the fields of popular, traditional, jazz and classical music.
 
In view of these manifestations of solidarity and concern, your decision to perform in Tel Aviv on 29th March has been noted with deep disappointment.
 
It is because our governments refuse to take action to curb Israel’s crimes, even when enjoined to do so by the International Criminal Court or indeed by their own statutes (e.g. article 2 of the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement), that civil society is obliged to call for such harsh tactics as cultural, sporting and academic boycotts. Such tactics are aimed at bringing to an end the circumstances that called them into being – in this case, Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, its siege of Gaza (declared illegal by an independent UN panel), and its policies of apartheid and colonisation.
 
You may argue that music is “above politics”, but this hardly stands up in view of a statement by Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, now Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, that Israel “see[s] culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank, and… do[es] not differentiate between propaganda and culture.” (Ha’aretz, 21/09/05). This means that any artist(e) visiting Israel will be exploited by that state’s very active propagandists to normalise it and to whitewash its crimes. By cancelling your projected concert in Tel Aviv you will be joining the likes of Stevie WonderAnnie Lennox, Roger Waters, Elvis Costello and other conscientious musicians in refusing to be “propaganda tools” for the Israeli state.
But most importantly, by not crossing the picket line you will be showing the persecuted Palestinians that something is indeed left for the children of war – hope.
Yours sincerely –
Dr Raymond Deane
Cultural Liaison
Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign

BUILD PRESSURE ON UEFA TO “RED CARD ISRAELI APARTHEID”

Six months have passed since the 2011 UEFA Under-21s competition in Denmark and the launch of a campaign to persuade European football’s governing body to reverse its decision granting Israel the junior final in 2013.

Photo: Agence-France Presse

So far UEFA President Michel Platini has stubbornly refused to respond  to the appeal last June from 42 football clubs in besieged Gaza, not to reward Israel for its persistent infringements of Palestinian rights.

This is despite a steady stream of protests including a pitch invasion by French protesters,  a “Love Football, Hate Apartheid” action in Ireland and publication of a letter signed by high-profile individuals in two leading European newspapers.

The letter, over the names of renowned diplomat Stephane Hessel,  film-maker Ken Loach and Nobel Peace Prizewinner  Mairead Maguire among others, appeared in both the Irish Times and the UK Guardian.

“A state that uses military might to hold sway over land it illegally occupies and exploits, flouts international law and ignores UN resolutions surely forfeits the right to be treated as a member of the community of nations,” the letter said.

It called on UEFA to “respond positively” to the appeal from the 42 Gazan football clubs, backed by many sporting bodies.

Supporters of  the Red Card Israeli Apartheid campaign are now preparing to ratchet up the action with direct approaches to national football association presidents, supporters clubs and fans.

“UEFA is faced with serious ethical and moral problems by the choice of an Israeli venue for the finals,” said London-based campaign coordinator Geoff Lee. “With all the concern about racism in and around the game at the moment, it’s time to wake up to the fact that Israel’s entrenched discrimination against Palestinians amounts to systematic racism affecting football along with  the rest of society.”

Add your voice to the campaign by using this e-tool set up by the  Palestine Solidarity Campaign and following it on the BDSmovement website.

http://www.bdsmovement.net/2011/red-card-uefa-campaign-8178#.TvNpdOXoyTx

Culture and the Right Hand of the State: Lessons from Filmbase’s “Israeli Film Days”

This piece by Raymond Deane, cultural officer of Ireland’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign, reposted from Irish Left Review, includes a useful discussion of how to apply the criteria for cultural boycott.

Image of the protest at Filmbase during “Israeli Film Days” courtesy of Broadsheet.ie.

Between 24-27 November 2011, the Government of Israel held “Israeli Film Days” at Filmbase in Temple Bar, Dublin’s “cultural quarter”. In advance of this event, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) requested Filmbase to reconsider its decision to host the festival:

“At a time when Irish peace activists have been illegally imprisoned in Israel after their humanitarian ship the MV Saoirse was hi-jacked in international waters by Israeli commandos, hosting these ‘Israeli Film Days’ sends out the worst possible message: that Filmbase is indifferent to its exploitation as a site of propaganda for the state that perpetrates such atrocities.  To cancel the event at this point would… be perceived worldwide as an honourable gesture of solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people who have called for an international cultural boycott of the Israeli state.”

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) also issued an “Open Letter to Filmbase“, expressing its surprise

“that a prominent Irish cultural institution would allow the Israeli embassy to carry out this audacious ‘Brand Israel’ activity on its premises hardly two weeks after Irish peace activists were illegally apprehended by the Israeli navy in international waters, humiliated, and imprisoned in Israel…”

These approaches were rejected by Filmbase, despite much dissension among its employees, not all of whom supported the decision to host the event.

Read more.

Irish Times publishes UEFA Under-21 protest letter

The Irish Times has published a protest letter challenging UEFA’s decision to let Israel host the Under 21 finals in 2013 Irish Times.

The letter (appearing under the headline “Israel to host tournament”), mirrors one published in the UK Guardian a month ago, with the addition of prominent Irish names including that of  1976 Nobel Peace Prizewinner  Mairead Maguire.

This marks another step in the Red Card Israeli Apartheid campaign after a recent pitch invasion by French protesters and a “Love Football, Hate Apartheid” action in Ireland.

Photo: Agence-France Presse

European football’s governing body has yet to reply to an appeal from Palestinian football clubs in June not to reward Israel for its persistent infringements of Palestinian rights.

Red Card Israeli Apartheid campaign scores in France and Ireland

Pitch invasions by French protesters and a “Love Football, Hate Apartheid” action in Ireland last week expressed growing outrage at  UEFA’s decision to let Israel host the Under 21 football final in 2013.

Photo: Agence-France Presse

European football’s governing body has yet to reply to an appeal from Palestinian football clubs in June not to reward Israel for its persistent infringements of Palestinian rights. This is despite a deluge of protest messages to UEFA president Michel Platini and a direct challenge from prominent Europeans published in a UK national newspaper.

French protesters invaded the pitch five times when Israel’s national women’s team played at Troyes on October 26. Irish campaigners used leaflets and banners to get their message across at another women’s European Cup qualifier at Tallaght stadium on October 22.

Photo: Irish PSC

Martin O’Quigley of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign said: “Some say that sport and politics should not mix, however we say that sport and racism should never mix.”

He drew a comparison with the sporting boycott against South Africa, which was one of the most effective tools employed in ostracising that state and revealing to the world its Apartheid regime and disregard for human rights.

O’Quigley said that while Israeli teams can travel and play freely,  Israeli authorities regularly refuse visas to Palestinian female and male footballers alike.

According to Stephane Mahon, an organiser for the French campaigning group EuroPalestine, five girls and boys wearing green boycott Israel T-shirts or carrying Palestinian flags ran onto the pitch during the second half of the France-Israel match at Troyes. The last young woman suffered a cracked rib while being roughly handled by ground staff.

This is not shown on the video because the camera operator and other activists were ejected from the ground while the protest was going on.

Go to the BDS website for information on how to support the Red Card campaign.