Novelist condemns 'intimidation' by group promoting boycott of Israel

AN IRISH novelist who was targeted by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign has described an open letter written to him as…

AN IRISH novelist who was targeted by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign has described an open letter written to him as “outright intimidation” and said he would not be “bullied or cajoled” into responding to it.

Gerard Donovan was the subject of the letter written by IPSC cultural liaison officer Dr Raymond Deane urging him not to attend the International Writers Festival that is happening in Israel this week.

Dr Deane posted on the internet that attempts to contact the novelist had been unsuccessful, which was why he was resorting to an open letter requesting the novelist to abide by a cultural boycott of Israel.

In response, Mr Donovan accused Dr Deane of having “some nerve” in sending him an open letter. “I live on a farm with three dogs.”


Mr Donovan said he was completely unaware of the campaign as he lives in a cabin in the woods in New York state and is recovering from cancer and a series of leg operations.

He questioned the campaign’s attempts to contact him as he was easily accessible by email through his publishers, Faber. “I get letters and emails from complete strangers all the time, but I received nothing from them. They are suggesting I was contacted and I ignored them, but I received no contact whatsoever from these people.”

Mr Donovan described the campaign group as “idiots” as he had cancelled his planned visit to Jerusalem two months ago, but solely on health grounds.

He said his literary agency had arranged for him to read in Jerusalem as his third novel, Julius Winsome, was first translated into Hebrew before being translated into other languages.

He added: “If I had been well, I would have gone to Jerusalem. It is the job of the novelist to write things people don’t want to read and to go places where other people don’t want to go.

“Nobody tells me where I can or cannot read my work. I’m not going to allow myself to be drawn into any political controversy for any people’s ends, I don’t care how many other writers they line up, it is completely irrelevant to me. They can brand me anything they want. I’m apolitical. Good people live everywhere. I’ll stick to my writing.”

The folk band Dervish called off their tour of Israel following pressure from the lobby group.

Dr Deane denied that comments on the band’s website about them being subjected to a campaign of “venom” and an “avalanche of negativity” was directed at his organisation. Instead, he said the comments were really directed at supporters of Israel who had targeted the band after they pulled out of the tour.

Dr Deane apologised to the author last night for “any distress this misunderstanding may have caused him” and had been unaware the writer was not going to the festival. He said it was “regrettable” that four emails he had sent to the University of Plymouth, where Mr Donovan was a writer in residence, did not reach him.

However, Dr Deane maintained that going to Israel was not an apolitical act as the person would be “exploited by the regime there”.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times