Sunday, May 27, 2012

The original letter to Gerard Donovan

On 14th May I posted an apology to the novelist Gerard Donovan (see blog below). Mr Donovan replied on 26th May with a lengthy and incoherent diatribe in the Irish Times.

Mr Donovan refers to the letter I had posted to him on 25th February last as his "experience at the hands of Dr Raymond Deane", as "interference" from "a man who actively intimidates an Irish writer", a "threat" and, again, "intimidation".

For the record, then, here is the full text of the letter in question that I withdrew from circulation as soon as I learned that Mr Donovan had been ill and had not travelled to Israel. I believe that no further comment is necessary, and that readers will make up their own mind as to whether this formal, polite and minimalist message conforms to Mr Donovan's rather novelistic description.

Dear Gerard Donovan -

I am pasting below an appeal from PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel - to all writers planning to participate in the International Writers' Festival to be held in Jerusalem next May.

There is nothing that I can add to this eloquent appeal, save to stress (this is often misunderstood, sometimes deliberately) that the call for a cultural boycott of Apartheid Israel is not directed against individual artists but against the Israeli state, which is deemed to be whitewashed by the participation of international artists in events subsidised by that state.

Let me also draw your attention to the Pledge signed, to date, by 216 Irish artists ( who refuse to perform, exhibit, read, etc. in the state of Israel until that state abides by international law and international humanitarian law and ends its criminal practices against the Palestinian people.

Yours sincerely – 
Dr Raymond Deane
Cultural Liaison Officer, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Thursday, May 17, 2012

On 16th May the Irish Times published my letter answering the usually reliable Mary Fitzgerald's disappointing article on cultural boycott in that paper, alongside two excellent letters by Laurence Davis and Conor McCarthy and a grotesque piece of Zionist propaganda from one David Fine. While it's gratifying that these letters of ours got published, it must be pointed out that this was the fourth letter I had sent the paper attempting to correct its misleading reporting on the issue of Dervish's cancelled tour of Israel. It is regrettable that the Irish Times chooses to wait two weeks before correcting an error, while in the meantime publishing further letters and reports compounding that error.

Here is my letter:

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,


Monday, May 14, 2012

Apologies to Gerard Donovan

The Irish novelist Gerard Donovan, who was due to appear at the Third International Writers Festival in Jerusalem this week, had in fact cancelled his participation in this event two months ago owing to serious ill health.

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign had e-mailed Mr Donovan repeatedly at his Plymouth University address and, receiving no reply, published this message as an Open Letter on 7th May. It now transpires that the address in question was no longer valid. The first Mr Donovan knew about the campaign was when contacted by the Irish Times in the wake of the Open Letter's publication.

Mr Donovan emphasised to the paper that he does not agree with the boycott, but is "completely apolitical". Perhaps at some future date it might be interesting to debate with him about the contradiction between these two positions. For the moment, however, it is more appropriate to apologise to him for any distress the Open Letter may have caused him, and I hereby do so without any reservations. I hope that he has fully recovered from his illness.

Appeal to FullSet goes unanswered

The traditional music band FullSet, which was to have accompanied Dervish on its abandoned tour of Israel, has failed to acknowledge or reply to the following appeal, posted to their website on 11th May.

Dear members of FullSet,
 I can fully understand your frustration at the cancellation of your projected Israeli tour with Dervish. However, I would point out that the names of the 219 (to date) signatories of the "Irish Artists' Pledge to Boycott Israel" include those of Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny, Christy Moore, Damien Dempsey, Sharon Shannon, KILA, Tony McMahon, Jimmy McCarthy, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, Peadar O'Riada and Liam O Maonlai. Surely the conviction of such Irish music luminaries that Israel is a state that must under no circumstances be whitewashed - given the assertion by its Foreign Ministry that it "sees no difference between culture and propaganda" - should persuade you that your tour of Israel would have been exploited by that country's regime in the most sinister manner imaginable?
However, what's done is done. The problem now is that the mainstream media and certain Irish politicians whose agenda includes full support for Israel's crimes have chosen to exploit your statement and those of Dervish cynically in order to undermine and defame human rights activists. In particular, your sentence "In the past few days both groups have been publicly berated and attacked for breaking a cultural boycott on Israel that neither group was aware of when accepting the tour"  has been manipulated in a manner to which, unfortunately, it all too easily lent itself.
 I would point out that Dervish's first statement, on the morning of 30th April, announced the tour cancellation in the following terms: "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." This decision was both a result of representations from activists - couched as requests and not threats - and of private representations from some of the great musicians in the list above. One of the first responses to the statement on Dervish's Facebook page was from myself: "I salute you for this courageous and morally correct decision. You will now be subject to massive defamation from Zionists and their fellow-travellers - you should see this as proof that you have made the correct decision, because it will reveal to you the viciousness and mendacity of Israel's apologists."
Sadly, this is precisely what happened. You claim in your statement that the venom came "from both sides", but I believe that if you take a look at Dervish's FB page you will see that this is most definitely not the case. While there are always crackpots who latch on to every campaign and who are motivated by malice, genuine Palestinian rights activists, whose numbers include many Israeli Jews who fully support the cultural boycott of their state, have no need for venom and no truck with hatred - the basis for our campaign is a belief in human equality and universal human rights.
It is therefore a serious matter that, partly because of an inaccurate report in the Irish Times of 4th May, the truth has been turned upside down and Palestinian rights activists are being defamed as "bullies" and "thugs" because, supposedly, we subjected Dervish and FullSet to a campaign of intimidation. The fact that the intimidation came AFTER the cancellation of the Israel tour and emanated PREDOMINANTLY IF NOT EXCLUSIVELY from Israel's supporters has been deliberately suppressed. Alan Shatter, our "Justice" Minister who is known for his unconditional tolerance of Israel's crimes, even sought to link us with Al Qaeda, a spurious and outrageous linkage that could even put our lives at risk. In the meantime, of course, the true bullies and thugs of the Israeli army go about their brutal business of suppressing Palestinian rights, while some 2000 Palestinian political prisoners, many of whom never received a fair trial, are slowly dying on hunger strike to the indifference of the same media that defame Irish human rights activists.
Had you toured Israel, you would have been exploited for propaganda purposes by the government of that rogue state. Now, unfortunately, you are being exploited by politicians and journalists whose agenda is as remote as it could possibly be from promoting justice and harmony among peoples. I appeal to you to issue a statement clarifying that neither you nor Dervish were the victims of a campaign of intimidation emanating from human rights activists, and dissociating yourselves from the subsequent abuse of your words by the media and by politicians.
Yours sincerely, and with sincere best wishes for your future career -

Raymond Deane

Friday, May 11, 2012

Zoe Lawlor blogs about the Dervish affair

Excellent article on the Dervish affair by Zoe Lawlor, from her blog:

Zoe Lawlor blogs on the Dervish issue

An excellent article on the Dervish issue by Zoe Lawlor, from her blog:

Another recommended blog

Here is another blog worth reading, by former IPSC Chairperson David Landy:

Letter to Seanad Éireann (Irish Senate) concerning defamation by Senator Paschal Mooney

To  members of Seanad Éireann:
On 9th May, the Seanad received some incorrect information from Senator Paschal Mooney. I am not suggesting that Senator Mooney spoke in bad faith, but that he based his information - without checking the facts - on a misleading report that appeared in The Irish Times on 4th May.
Concerning the traditional music group Dervish's cancellation of its projected tour of Israel, Senator Mooney claimed that "It came about as a result of intimidation and bullying on social networks by a group in this country which, for its own misguided reasons, believes that a cultural boycott will somehow enhance and improve the plight of the Palestinian people."
The "group" in question is the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, and the "misguided reasons" are the repeated calls from Palestinian civil society since July 2005 for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli state until it abides by international law. This belated campaign is a direct consequence of the failure of Western and other governments to impose any meaningful pressure on the Israeli state to end its abuse of Palestinian human rights and its violations of international law and international humanitarian law.
On learning that Dervish planned a tour of Israel next June, the IPSC - as is normal practice - issued an Open Letter to the group appealing to it to abide by the cultural boycott. We furthermore asked our members and sympathisers to make similar appeals to the group on its website, and on social media sites such as Twitter and, in particular, Facebook. Simultaneously, I personally approached a number of musicians who have signed the IPSC's "pledge to boycott Israel" and asked them to intercede directly with the group. Although I cannot name names, such private intercession took place and was fruitful.
The result was a statement from Dervish on the morning of 4th April in which the group stated that "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."
In this statement there was NO reference to "intimidation or bullying", nor could there have been, because it is not the policy of the IPSC to engage in such tactics. The fourth message responding to Dervish's statement on Facebook was from myself: "I salute you for this courageous and morally correct decision. You will now be subject to massive defamation from Zionists and their fellow-travellers - you should see this as proof that you have made the correct decision, because it will reveal to you the viciousness and mendacity of Israel's apologists."
This prediction, unfortunately, proved all too accurate. The "avalanche of nagativity" and "venom" to which Dervish's lead singer Cathy Jordan subsequently referred emanated exclusively from supporters of Israel, and included such vile accusations as "Dervish supports the killing of Israeli children". The IPSC and other Palestinian rights activists (including several Israeli Jews) confined themselves to congratulating Dervish in the spirit of my message quoted above.
It is regrettable that the Irish Times report, whether inadvertently or deliberately, gave the impression that the abuse preceded the cancellation, and that it emanated from Palestinian rights activists rather than from Zionists. It is equally regrettable that Senator Mooney has chosen to repeat these allegations before Seanad Éireann without first checking his facts.
I wish to request that the members of the Seanad should be apprised of the true facts concerning this issue, and that Senator Mooney's slander against the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign be withdrawn
Sincerely -
Dr Raymond Deane

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dervish cancels Israel tour - FullSet follows suit

Statements from the two bands:

Statement from Dervish:

(30 April) Dervish wish to announce they will not be taking part in the Irish music concert series in Israel this June.

Our original decision to participate in the concerts was, like all our tours and appearances, completely non-political.

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. 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.

Our decision to withdraw from the concerts reflects our wish to neither endorse nor criticise anyone's political views in this situation.

Dervish are a grouping of like musical minds, we are not a political party.

Our motivation as a band has always been and will continue to be our love of music.

Statement from FullSet:

With a heavy heart FullSet would like to announce that we are cancelling our June tour in Israel which was originally billed as Dervish & ourselves.

In the past few days both groups have been publicly berated and attacked for breaking a cultural boycott on Israel that neither group was aware of when accepting the tour. 

Avshalom Farjun, a respected Israeli musician who organized the tour, did so without any politcal motives or agenda. He is a kind and honourable person who has acted with gratiousness and understanding throughout this situation. 

We are musicians. We love music. We do not discriminate against any person nor push our individual political ideas onto anyone. We were going to Israel to play for human beings, regardless of their beliefs, political views, religion or ethnic background.

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. 

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.

We won’t be going this time and we’d like to apologise to anyone who was intending to come to our concert and hope in the future we get the opportunity to play for you no matter where in the world it may be.

We encourage everyone to please stop arguing over this tour. 
It’s finished. Time to move on.

Our warmest wishes to everyone,

FullSet -