Irish minister livid as band cancels Israel

Justice Minister Alan Shatter

Justice Minister Alan Shatter

Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter has accused anti-Israel activists of waging a "cyber-bullying" campaign to force an Irish folk group to cancel its performances in Israel.

Mr Shatter attacked the actions of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Group after it encouraged supporters to target the website of folk group Dervish over its planned concerts. The musicians subsequently cancelled their tour.

The Israeli embassy in Dublin said the actions against Dervish had been "a campaign of cultural terror".

Dervish – who came last representing Ireland in the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest – had planned to play in Israel in June following an invitation from Israeli organisers with whom the group had previously worked.

‘This is nothing more than cyber-bullying’

The band said that when the concerts were first arranged "we were unaware there was a cultural boycott in place. We now feel that we do not wish to break this boycott.

"Our decision to withdraw from the concerts reflects our wish to neither endorse nor criticise anyone's political views in this situation."

Lead singer Cathy Jordan said the group had been unprepared for the "extent of the venom directed at us" and the "avalanche of negativity" which followed its announcement of the concerts.

Mr Shatter said: "The IPSG action in directing its members to 'target' the website of Dervish in order to intimidate the group into cancelling their planned concerts in Israel is nothing other than cyber-bullying.

"It is a great pity that the bullying tactics of the IPSG worked. If the IPSG were in any way interested in promoting peace and reconciliation in a troubled part of the world, they would recognise the value of cultural and artistic exchanges."

He said it was "extraordinary" that the IPSG campaign "occurred at a time when thousands have lost their lives in Syria… IPSG has remained silent about crimes against humanity being committed there".

Mr Shatter also claimed papers recovered from Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan had suggested Ireland was a "promising ground" for the al-Qaeda leader's followers to find support.

Israeli Ambassador to Ireland Boaz Modai said the campaign against Dervish was a "great pity.

"This boycott seeks not only to hurt Israeli artists but also Irish artists, who are being restricted access to a significant cultural market, by being subjected to a vicious campaign of cultural terrorism. This is a particular shame as culture is supposed to unite people.

"In spite of this propaganda warfare campaign, we will keep on listening to, engaging with, and loving Irish music and culture."

Last updated: 1:35pm, May 18 2012