Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has criticized what he described as “unacceptable efforts to harass artists with a view to intimidating them from exercising their freedom of choice” in relation to engagement with Israel, The Irish Times reported.
Gilmore’s remarks follow two recent incidents in which the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) exerted pressure on Irish folk band Dervish and Irish novelist Gerard Donovan to cancel their planned trips to Israel.
“Although I was aware of the concerns with our proposed visit to Israel, I wasn’t quite prepared for the extent of the venom directed at us,” said singer Cathy Jordan in a statement on Dervish’s decision to cancel its Israeli tour. She later referred to “an avalanche of negativity” surrounding the originally planned visit.
Raymond Deane of the IPSC has denied that any such “avalanche of negativity” or “venom” was directed at Dervish by activists calling for the band to boycott Israel.
Gerard Donovan, who had been invited to the International Writers Festival in Jerusalem this week, described the IPSC’s lobbying as “outright intimidation” and said he would not be “bullied or cajoled” into responding to the group’s denunciations.
The novelist had already cancelled his visit to Jerusalem on health grounds.
Foreign Minister Gilmore reiterated the government’s position that it does not support cultural or other boycotts against Israel. “While the Government is firmly opposed to campaigns which seek to impose a cultural boycott on Israel, it is the right of others to take a contrary view,” he said.
“Irish artists are free to decide for themselves whether or not to engage with Israel. However, I would regard as unacceptable efforts to harass artists with a view to intimidating them from exercising their freedom of choice in relation to engagement with Israel,” Gilmore continued.
He also referred to discussions held by EU foreign ministers early this week, which resulted in strong condemnations of the so-called “Israeli settlements.”
“I have not disguised the serious concerns which Ireland has in this connection about current Israeli government policies in relation to the occupied Palestinian territories,” Gilmore said. “However, in my view, political differences of this kind should not prevent us from seeking to develop Ireland’s relations with Israel in other spheres.”