Considerable opposition from the Irish community at home and abroad has forced the Birmingham-based Carey Academy of Irish Dancing to cancel the event optimistically billed as the “1st Israeli feis”.
Initially the Academy had ignored appeals to respect the cultural boycott of Israel in the hope that the protest would blow over. It was unlikely. Irish people have a natural affinity with the Palestinian struggle and allowing Irish culture to be misused to legitimize the Israeli occupation would have been simply inconceivable for many.
Yet while Irish supporters of the steadily growing Boycott, Sanction, Divest (BDS) movement are relishing yet another victory for the solidarity campaign, there are several questions on the matter that still need to be answered.
The original statement cancelling the event published by the Carey academy on their Facebook page maintained that intimidation and a real fear for the safety of children attending the dance school was the reason for their withdrawal.
Several named individuals and the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) were accused of organizing a “a not-so-peaceful protest outside of our dance studio”, issuing threats against both teachers and teenage dancers and warning that “everyone who takes part in the feis would be shot in the head.” Serious allegations indeed. Allegations that one would expect to be reported to the police and prosecutions filed.
No evidence of these dramatic allegations of shooting children in the head has been provided in spite of continued calls online for the Academy to publish them. As to the other accusation, the supposedly violent demonstration, footage is available online which shows clearly that the Carey Academy is lying. There is simply no other word for it.
The initial statement containing the outlandish allegations against respected human rights activists was later replaced by a somewhat less hysterical one, after several people, including the alleged perpetrators of the threats, demanded the Academy publish the evidence to back up the claims.
Along with many others, I am left wondering as to why an organization like the Carey Academy which claims to be non-political is acting in such a belligerent and underhand manner, using language which could easily have been taken right out of the Israeli propaganda manual. Mudslinging is an essential element in the Israeli propaganda war against the international BDS campaign.
The Ireland Palestine Activists Collective (IPAC) are following up and organizing a new picket demanding a public retraction of the allegations. The conclusion here remains to be seen.
Then there is the question as to why the commission for Irish dancing – An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha (CRLG) – and its Vice-Chairperson Seamus Ó Sé, approved, facilitated and publicised the organization of this event.
An announcement on its pages responding to criticism under the heading “Feis in Israel” states that the CRLG does not “comment on national or international political matters”. A total cop-out – and a particularly hypocritical attitude given that the organization itself was actively involved in promoting a potential breach of the international cultural boycott supported by over 500 Irish artists.
Whilst the Carey Academy has been the focus of the campaign, the CLRG and its mother organization Conradh na Gaeilge have slipped quietly under the radar so far. Surely they should be held accountable?