[Eddie Whyte is originally from Belfast. He now lives and works in Norway]
An event billed as the first ever Irish Feis in Israel is scheduled for August the 15th in Tel Aviv. It is being organized by the Carey Irish Dance Academy based in Birmingham, England under the auspices of the governing body for Irish dance An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha (CRLG).
Palestinians in the occupied West Bank earlier this week appealed for the event to be cancelled in line with the international boycott of Israel whilst an international protesthas taken off on social media under the hashtag #DontDance4Israel.
This time last year our television screens were flooded with images of dead and dying Palestinians – the overwhelming majority were civilians, and many were children. It was live on international television – the Israeli military was openly waging war on a trapped civilian population in Gaza, targeting apartment blocks, health clinics, schools, hospitals and UN buildings.
The callousness and brutality of the Israeli war machine’s attack on what is often called the world’s largest prison camp was the fourth in eight years and was undoubtedly the most vicious. It was rightly condemned by people all around the world.
The UN Secretary General, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross and The International War Crimes Tribunal all accused Israel of varying degrees of violations of international law, war crimes and attempted genocide. In a new UN report Justice Mary McGowan Davis confirmed the validity of the allegations at a press briefing in Geneva earlier this week.
Whilst the bulk of the condemnation was reserved for Israel, the Palestinian government also received a critical sideswipe – presumably for the sake of balance. The figures speak for themselves – 2,251 Palestinians were killed, including 1,462 civilians. On the other side, 73 Israelis died – 67 soldiers and 6 civilians.
One year later and Palestine is no longer the top news item on our TV screens, but the Israeli occupation remains in place. Palestinians are still living in a state of siege and Israel seems more determined than ever to continue its colonization policy by expanding the illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land. The world stands idly by.
A statement on the Facebook page for the Carey feis event reacting to criticism from both home and abroad defends their event and claims that “Running a feis in Israel does not mean we support or are involved with the Israeli government or any extremist groups in any way shape or form…We are dancing for peace and friendship, not for politics.”
The statement is either extremely naïve or deliberately misleading. It flies in the face of the Irish people’s many years of solidarity with Palestinians and Palestine. Either way, it is a total cop-out. The grassroots international boycott campaign (BDS) against Israel is not just a political issue it is very much a moral one. The BDS campaign has its roots in the non-violent traditions of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and our own Irish civil rights movement. Like most movements for civil rights it was started by the people on the receiving end of the oppression – in this case the Palestinians themselves.
In a statement issued this week, Jewish Voice for Just Peace (Ireland) called on the Careys and the CRLG to withdraw from the event which they describe as a propaganda tool for the Israeli state.
The Palestinians see the BDS campaign as a non-violent alternative challenging the oppression which confronts them on a daily basis. The campaign is receiving increasing support and it is having a real impact. According to UNCTAD – the UN’s trade and development agency – foreign investment in Israel was almost halved in 2014 – a fact attributed by many to last summer’s assault on Gaza and the growing impact of divestment and boycotts whether they be economical, academic, cultural or political.
Boycotts of individual companies or states that ignore humane or moral standards of behavior have a strong tradition in Ireland. The Irish invented the boycott and we know that boycott campaigns work. It was an international boycott campaign that helped force the South African government to the negotiating table and led to the abolition of apartheid.
The Careys and An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha (CRLG) should rethink their involvement in this amoral support for the Israeli regime. They would be better off adding their names to the long list of prominent Irish artists like Christy Moore, Donal Lunny, Andy Irvine, Damien Dempsey, Liam Ó Maonlaí, Sharon Shannon, and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill who support the campaign to end Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
The CRLG claims to foster and promote Irish culture worldwide. Breaching the international cultural boycott of Israel is most definitely not the way to do that.
You can sign the petition urging the Carey Academy not to dance in Israel here -#DontDance4Israel.