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
Dr Raymond Deane