The first ever Irish dancing competition in Israel was meant to be held this coming August. When news broke, the organizers began receiving an onslaught of pressure from supporters of the cultural wing of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, a political movement which singles out Israel, and only Israel, as a nation to be boycotted by artists.
When an artist announces plans to perform in Israel, cultural boycott campaigners bombard them with open letters, petitions, and hundreds, sometimes thousands, of messages on social media in an effort to coerce them into canceling their performance. Their messages contain a type of dishonesty intended to trigger further hostility and dampen hope for rational discourse.
Responding to this pressure, the organizers issued a principled statement: “It is not about politics,” the Carey Irish Dance Academy wrote, “it is about bringing together people of different backgrounds, teaching them to respect each other no matter of their race, religion etc and thus create understanding, not drawing more lines in the sand. Irish dance, as well as any art form should not be limited to any particular group of people but available to anyone willing to learn.”
We at Creative Community For Peace (CCFP), an organization representing prominent members of the entertainment industry devoted to promoting the arts as a means to peace and to countering the cultural boycott of Israel, commend the spirit of this statement. Art should never be beholden to politics and artists must never allow themselves to be used by those seeking to advance a political agenda.
However, once the statement was released by the Carey Academy, pressure only intensified.
“Not long ago the feis [dance competition] page started to be attacked by a radical political group called Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC),” the Carey Academy wrote on Facebook, announcing the cancellation of the event. “Threatening messages were sent not only to our teachers, but also parents and students.”
Sadly, they are not the only ones to have been threatened by boycott supporters. Malian musician Salif Keita was forced to cancel his participation in the Jerusalem Festival of Sacred Music after receiving death threats. Macy Gray nearly canceled her show in Israel when she was told her life would be in jeopardy. English rocker Eric Burdon and Paul McCartney also reported receiving violent threats but chose to perform in Israel anyway.
We thank the Carey Academy for speaking out about the threats. The truth is, the cultural boycott campaign as a whole is a radical and discriminatory political movement diametrically opposed to peace. Their goal is not an end to conflict, it’s not to see a secure Israel next to a prosperous Palestine, but rather to see an end to the existence of Israel and Jewish self-determination, or, as Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the cultural boycott campaign has said, “a Palestine next to a Palestine.”
Far more often than they should, boycott proponents succeed, hidden behind a veneer of justice and human rights, but in moments like this, their true colors shine through.
The Irish dance competition could have been a beautiful event, providing a space for the people of Ireland and Israel to learn about one another and to learn from one another. While we certainly appreciate that the safety of their dancers is their foremost concern, we hope the Carey Academy will see through the threat tactics, and reconsider their decision to cancel, and instead stand up for artistic freedom and against cultural boycotts.