Dervish and boycott of Israel


Sir, – At a time when more than 1,500 Palestinians locked in Israeli prisons are on hunger strike (two for more than 70 days) in protest against detention without charge, solitary confinement, and denial of family visits, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter generates news headlines by claiming that Irish citizens peacefully calling attention to such injustices are guilty of “cultural fascism” (Home News, May 9th). Is it any wonder that so many of today’s university students are sceptical of the very idea of social justice and human rights? – Yours, etc,


College Lecturer,

Department of Government,

University College Cork.

Sir, – There is something seriously wrong with the democratic process in this country if cultural groups are prepared to boycott the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, Israel, in favour of supporting a quasi-state whose party in power has enshrined the demand in its own constitution to “drive the Jews into the sea”. Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s remarks about “cultural fascism” are very appropriate. Any form of opposition to the Jewish state (with a large Arab minority) can only be interpreted as a veiled form of anti-Semitism. Unlike the Palestinian state, Israel guarantees a vote and equal rights to all its citizens, irrespective of ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation and so forth.

Would it not be more fair-minded of these cultural groups to boycott a quasi-state where corruption is endemic, whose women are treated like second-class citizens, and whose government still openly supports acts of terrorism against the innocent? Is it reasonable to assume that these cultural groups will boycott all countries where there has been a downtrodden minority? Let’s start within the US with its Black and Red Indian citizens, then we can move onto Britain where the Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalist movements have been subject to “colonisation” from their English masters. Perhaps then France and Spain with their Basque minority? In the interests of fair play, no doubt all these cultural groups are prepared to boycott all democracies (and no doubt lose considerable revenues) that have minority issues or where there are groups struggling to achieve self-determination. – Yours, etc,


St Pappin’s Road,


Dublin 11.

Sir, – While Mary Fitzgerald’s commentary on the Dervish affair (Weekend Review, May 12th) has the virtue of a measured tone, it is a great pity that the author failed to research it more deeply, or indeed to consult directly with any of those involved in implementing the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of the Israeli state. Thus we read that “Cathy Jordan... added that she ‘wasn’t quite prepared for the extent of the venom directed at us’, presumably a reference to the torrent of messages left on Dervish’s Facebook page and other websites calling for the band to pull out”.

In fact, no venom was directed at Dervish prior to the cancellation of their tour, least of all from Palestinian rights activists. The venom followed the announcement of this cancellation, and came exclusively from Israel’s supporters. These easily verifiable truths have been turned upside down in the subsequent artificially generated controversy. Dervish’s initial statement announcing cancellation, cited by Ms Fitzgerald, made no mention whatever of intimidation.

In quoting Howard Jacobson, Ms Fitzgerald should have pointed out that he is, notoriously, a dedicated Zionist for whom Israel can do no wrong.

The quotations from various writers opposed to the boycott (a convenient position when it comes to collecting lucrative prizes sponsored by the Israeli state) should have been balanced with quotations from the many artists who support it (Ken Loach, Roger Waters, Cassandra Wilson, etc).

The author could also have mentioned the Palestinian organisation PACBI (Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel), part of the BDS National Council (BNC), which has published detailed guidelines for the conduct of a cultural boycott campaign, including reasons for the Palestinians’ forceful rejection of the idea that you can “balance” performing for the oppressor by tossing a performance in the direction of the oppressed.

Finally, or first and foremost, the author could have pointed out the ultimate justification for any civil society boycott: the failure of governments to take action against Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, even when international law and their own laws mandate such action. – Yours, etc,


Cultural Liaison Officer,

Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign,

Dame Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Ivor Shorts (May 12th) argues that criticism of Israel has more credibility if it’s preceded by criticism of wars launched by the Arab states against Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973, and rockets launched at Israel more recently.

Mr Shorts’s argument is deficient on at least two counts, historically and logically. Historically, by the time that the Arab armies attacked Israel in May 1948, Jewish guerillas had already ethnically cleansed 250,000 Palestinians, and assaulted the areas labelled as the Palestinian state to come under the UN partition plan. Everybody knows that Israel attacked Egypt, Jordan, and Syria first in 1967, arguably unnecessarily, by destroying their airforces on the ground. 1967 was a “war of choice” for Israel. Even the 1973 war, launched by Egypt and Syria, never touched pre-1967 Israeli territory, but only territory conquered by Israel in 1967.

Logically, the barbarous crime of the 45-year occupation was not erased or exculpated in anticipation by the 1948, 1967 or 1973 wars. Who started those wars is irrelevant to the occupation now. – Yours, etc,


De Vesci Court,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.