The first Irish dance competition to take place in Israel has been canceled by organizers following an online campaign bashing the event as a breach of the cultural boycott of Israel.
The cultural boycott, although not officially upheld by the Irish government, has been undertaken by hundreds of individuals throughout Ireland who refuse to engage in any kind of cultural relations with Israel.
The Carey Academy of Irish Dance had organized the first Israeli Feis to take place this this August in Tel Aviv but came under fire from Irish supporters of Palestine, the Irish Palestinian Activists Collective, who began the campaign #DontDanceForIsrael to promote a boycott of the event.
The Irish Palestinian Activists Collective also started an online petition calling on those involved in the feis to cancel the competitions and to support “the appeal of the Palestinian people to Boycott, Divest and Sanction, BDS, the Apartheid state of Israel.”
The petition, established by Amanda Crawford in Dublin on behalf of the Irish Palestinian Activists Collective, had collected over 2,700 signatures.
A statement from the Carey Academy announcing the cancellation said: “Not long ago the feis [FaceBook] page started to be attacked by a radical political group called Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) led by Raymond Deane, Kevin Squires and Amanda Crawford. Threatening messages were sent not only to our teachers, but also parents and students.”
“Age, nationality, or religious beliefs do not matter to us,” it continued. “Unfortunately, there was a protest outside of our dance studio. We do not want to risk safety of anyone connected to the Carey Academy. The feis was not meant to be anything more than what it really is – a celebration of dancing, friendship and joy.
“We are sorry for any inconvenience caused to people who may have already booked tickets, but I am sure you understand the safety of our dancers is our number one priority.”
The Academy had previously stated 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.”
Irishman Eddie Whyte was one of those involved in the Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) campaign against the Feis organizers. He believes that by claiming they were not involved in the political situation in Israel, The Carey Academy “were being either extremely naïve or deliberately misleading. Irish and Norwegian people in general have tremendous feelings of solidarity towards the Palestinians.”
He claims that while posts from the BDS campaign were deleted from the Feis Facebook page, the Israeli embassy were not subject to the same censorship.
“Articles were posted aggressively ridiculing opposition to the festival. The censorship clearly did not apply to posts from the Israeli government and its embassy,” he said
“And let’s remember that the Israeli embassy in Dublin is no ordinary diplomatic mission – it is notorious for its online extremist views.
The IPSC also claims that The Carey Academy was promoting the Israeli State: “As part of the Feis, the Carey Academy were offering participants ‘a bus tour to some incredible places in Israel.'”
“The very first option is a tour of ‘Jerusalem (Old City)’ and the second is ‘A Tour of Three Religions in Jerusalem.’
"Of course the Old City of Jerusalem is in illegally annexed Israeli-occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem,” the IPSC says, “and no ‘three religions’ tour would be possible without visiting the Old City.
“Thus, we see The Carey Academy, whether wittingly or unwittingly it does not matter, reinforcing the Israeli state narrative of East Jerusalem being part of Israel,” the IPSC concludes.
The Carey Academy is also being met with further criticism from the Irish Friends of Palestine for the original statement they posted to their Facebook page announcing the cancellation, which has since been deleted.
IPSC Statement on cancellation of the Israeli Feis: A victory for Palestinian rights marred by defamatory comments http://t.co/XhRS6z57mZ— IPSC (@ipsc48) July 7, 2015
The original statement read: “What started as a cyber-bullying campaign full of extremely emotive language and badly photoshopped pictures turned into direct threats to whoever was involved or they thought was involved in the feis.
“Funny enough, though IPSC and their idol organization BDS claim they are a peaceful campaign, they felt very comfortable not only sending aggressive messages to people, saying that they want to destroy Israel or that everyone who takes part in the feis would be shot in the head, but also encouraging each other on their personal pages to pressure the organizers and dancers and give them hell.”
“It did really scare us when IPSC/BDS campaigners organized a not-so-peaceful protest outside of our dance studio – fortunately, there were no children on the premises as who knows what these people were up to – we do not want to risk safety of the dancers from any country whatsoever and contrary to whatever conspiracy theories IPSC/BDS have developed.”
A statement from the IPSC, however, claims that it was not the intention of the campaign (which they did not organize but promoted) to cancel the Feis and further asserts that the original post announcing the cancellation “makes scurrilous and defamatory remarks against human rights activists and organizations.”
“Leaving aside the near impossibility, were one even so inclined, of finding contact details for teachers, parents and students which are presumably only in the hands of organizers,” they state, “this is a completely defamatory statement. Neither the IPSC nor anyone officially associated with it sent a single threatening message to anyone.”
“It is of course important to state that IPSC neither advocates nor stands behind any violent act or violent threat made in the name of the BDS movement.”
The statement continues to explain that Israelis were welcome to take part in the Feis but as part of the cultural boycott, Ireland should not be involved in any way. “Instead we sought to encourage Irish people who had planned on attending the competition … to boycott the event in solidarity with Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and Apartheid,” they said.
“Separately, we pleaded with An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha (CLRG; The Irish Dancing Commission), as an organization which receives money from the Irish taxpayer via Conradh Na Gaeilge, to withdraw its endorsement, promotion and support for the event taking place under its auspices.”
Although Palestine is not currently recognized by the Irish government, the Irish Senate last October passed a motion calling on the government to recognize Palestine, with 31 of the house’s 60 Senators signing the motion.
In December, a similar motion was proposed in the Irish parliament (Dáil) by Sinn Féin and passed. At the time, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan stated that he would “advance matters further” as “achieving and recognizing a Palestinian State has always been the objective of the Irish Government.”
Government Ministers and Senators from all four of Ireland’s biggest political parties have supported the move, taking part in a campaign earlier this year to push for immediate recognition of the State which saw billboards and bus advertisements putting pressure on the government to take more action.
The first Israeli feis was set to take place on August 15, hosting an Irish dance championship for solo and group dancers. The championship was organized under the Israeli branch of Carey Academy run by Pavel Kolesov and Marina Frumkin that opened earlier this year following a successful opening of a branch in Russia in 2012.
The original Carey Academy was established in Birmingham, England by John Carey, the first “English” Irish dancer to join the original "Riverdance" show at just 17 years of age and a previous understudy to Michael Flatley in "Lord of the Dance."