Irish artists' call to boycott Israel meets with mockery

Irish government says it is "firmly opposed to any proposals for an academic or cultural boycott against Israel."

boycott Israel 88 (photo credit: )
boycott Israel 88
(photo credit: )
The Irish government has condemned an attempt by an artists' organization to boycott Israeli cultural events and institutions. Aosdana, Ireland's state-sponsored academy of creative artists, voted last week on a motion to "back the call from Palestinian filmmakers, artists and cultural workers to end all cooperation with Israeli state-sponsored cultural events and institutions." The proposal - put to a motion by composer Raymond Deane, founder of the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, and seconded by playwright Margaretta D'Arcy - was defeated in the organization's general assembly. However, a second motion, sponsored by D'Arcy and seconded by Deane, was passed calling for Irish artists and institutions to "reflect deeply" before working with Israeli cultural institutions. D'Arcy wrote last week in The Irish Times that she was convinced that a cultural boycott was necessary, "if only as an act of solidarity with those in Israel who seek to remove the inequality, discrimination and segregation of their society." The Irish government responded to the Aosdana motion by saying it was "firmly opposed to any proposals for an academic or cultural boycott against Israel." John O'Donoghue, minister for arts, sport and tourism, said he was happy the motion had been voted down. "The only way forward is through an inclusive approach of dialogue with and between Israelis and Palestinians. The government is working directly with the parties, and with our partners in the EU, for the revival of a credible peace process with the clear objective of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he said. Prior to the vote by Aosdana members, journalist Ian O'Doherty mocked the motion in the Evening Herald newspaper, saying that Israelis were hardly likely to feel threatened by the "stern lecturing of a bunch of state-subsidized artists who mostly reside in well-deserved obscurity." "In fairness to Aosdana," O'Doherty wrote, "the call for a boycott seem to have been led by a hardcore group." "The fact that Israel is the least segregated society in the region, and that Israeli Arabs enjoy more freedom than their counterparts in other, Arab-run, countries is something that tends to be conveniently forgotten," O'Doherty said. An Aosdana member who did not wish to be named, said: "The move is being largely derided here, being seen as a bunch of dial-a-cause artists taking sides in a complex foreign situation they know little about." "What is more concerning is that by being elected to Aosdana as an artist, you get an annual salary from the state," the member explained. "As it is state-funded, it is surprising that [Aosdana] took this stance, given that political matters are not their remit." Israel's embassy in Dublin released a statement condemning the motion as "wrong, unjust, biased and based on misunderstanding and misinformation." Ambassador Zion Evrony said, "It appears that a very small number of Aosdana members... have misled others and imposed their views on the whole organization." D'Arcy, for her part, wrote an open letter to the ambassador attacking his views: "Mr. Ambassador, who the hell do you think you are, interfering with Irish artists, prescribing what we may or may not reflect upon?" she fumed. "I wonder that the Irish government does not immediately break off diplomatic relations with Israel for your absurd violation of those articles in the UN Charter of Human Rights that guarantee free expression," D'Arcy declared.