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 -