Pressure for arts boycott of Israel condemned

 

TÁNAISTE AND Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has criticised what he described as “unacceptable efforts to harass artists with a view to intimidating them from exercising their freedom of choice” in relation to engagement with Israel.

Mr Gilmore’s comments follow two recent cases in which the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) put pressure on Irish folk band Dervish and Irish novelist Gerard Donovan to cancel planned visits to Israel.

In a statement on Dervish’s decision to pull out of its Israeli tour, singer Cathy Jordan said: “Although I was aware of the concerns with our proposed visit to Israel, I wasn’t quite prepared for the extent of the venom directed at us.” She later referred to an “avalanche of negativity”.

Raymond Deane of the IPSC has denied any “venom” or “avalanche of negativity” was directed at Dervish by campaigners calling for the band to boycott Israel.

Donovan, who had been invited to the International Writers Festival in Jerusalem this week, described the IPSC’s lobbying as “outright intimidation” and said he would not be “bullied or cajoled” into responding to it. He had already cancelled his visit to Jerusalem on health grounds.

Mr Gilmore reiterated the Government’s position that it does not support cultural or other boycotts against Israel.

“While the Government is firmly opposed to campaigns which seek to impose a cultural boycott on Israel, it is the right of others to take a contrary view,” the Tánaiste said.

“Irish artists are free to decide for themselves whether or not to engage with Israel. However, I would regard as unacceptable efforts to harass artists with a view to intimidating them from exercising their freedom of choice in relation to engagement with Israel.”

Mr Gilmore made the remarks in response to a parliamentary question from Labour TD Joanna Tuffy.

He also referred to discussions held by EU foreign ministers early this week which resulted in strong statements on illegal Israeli settlements. “I have not disguised the serious concerns which Ireland has in this connection about current Israeli government policies in relation to the occupied Palestinian territories,” Mr Gilmore said. “However, in my view, political differences of this kind should not prevent us from seeking to develop Ireland’s relations with Israel in other spheres.”