Now that the event has been cancelled, you’d think the drama surrounding the Irish campaign to encourage participants to boycott the first 1st Israel Feis, or Gaelic dance competition, would be over and that everything would die down, hush up, and go away. But that won’t happen, because of the way it was cancelled: organizers accused Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) activists of “attacking” them with threatening actions and behavior, and the press parroted those accusations in announcing the cancellation. So activists who organized the #DontDance4Israel/#Don’tShameOurName campaign are not ready to put it in the past, and why should they?
“Israel debut feis cancelled over threat” says the headline in the Irish Examiner, a Irish national daily. It further reports that “an Irish group… forced the cancellation“. This cancellation announcement on July 7th, along with other accusations made against BDS activists involved in this Irish initiated campaign against 1st Israel Feis, cited a street protest outside the Carey Academy of Irish dance in Birmingham, England which took place on July 6th. And several videos chronicling that protest have now been uploaded on Youtube.
The protest took place in a back alley leading to the dance studio, and with the exception of one person, it was carried out by local English members of Football Against Apartheid (not IPSC).
Scary huh? Are they threatening? To date, has any evidence ever been presented of any threats or any “forced” cancellation?
But organizers of the feis cancelled the event the next day, citing in part this allegedly “not-so-peaceful protest,” claiming that they didn’t want to “risk the safety” of their dancers. As if the Football Against Apartheid activists in Birmingham, led to their decision to cancel the event.
Why did the organizers really cancel the Feis? No evidence has ever been presented of any threats (no screenshots or videos, no testimonies by dance teachers, students or parents, no emails presented, simply …. nothing), so what reason would the organizers have to cancel the event — and demonize the activists in their cancellation notice?
I wonder if the boycott didn’t have an effect on participation. Back in May, the final date to book a room at the feis official hotel, according to 1st Israel Feis Facebook page, was “not later than in 45 days (1st of July) before the event”
Then July 1st rolled around, and rooms were still available and the exclusive price for participants in the feis got shoved back to July 5th. Two days later, the event was canceled.
If the hotel wasn’t filling up, perhaps that reflects the popularity of the event. Perhaps few dancers in the international Irish dancing community want to travel to
Sun City Tel Aviv and break the boycott. Maybe just maybe– the non violent #Don’tDance4Israel campaign worked just the way it was supposed to.
Either way, doesn’t the press have any responsibility, when reporting “Threats prompt cancellation of first Irish dance competition in Israel“ to check out those claims, or just cite them? We expect this kind of shoddy driveby journalism from pro Israel propaganda outfits. Others, not so much. When claims of death threats get tossed around, as they did in the original publication of the cancellation, the press shouldn’t cover it up either.
It’s an understatement to say the 15 or so activists at that protest were surprised to have their non-violent action characterized as threatening by any person or in any way and videos of the event demonstrates why.
Stan Hoben spoke with John Tymon, one of the organizers of the Football Against Apartheid Birmingham England protest, who described the scene to him in his own words. Tymon:
Earlier in the day, when we were picking a few musicians up at the end of the BLOCK THE FACTORY demonstration at Shenstone on Monday, we specifically invited the police there to join us. The police officer’s name is Andrew Perry. He was really friendly and we joked and laughed as I sat in the driver’s seat of the minibus at the Church in the village.
We followed another car full of people and a car load followed us. When we arrived at 67 Warren Road the police were already waiting for us. They welcomed us and we joked and laughed again. They had a large Police Minibus parked on the road side and a “panda car” at the top of the drive. There were 3 officers who welcomed us. They watched as we tried to gain access but failed, whilst I phoned Carey Academy and left a voice message.
We then considered where to demonstrate whilst the police officers were amongst us. We considered that we would not be seen at the Carey Dance Academy gates which were at the end of a 100 meter lane and considered a recce at the roadside adjacent to the entrance to the 100 meter lane.
We walked quietly down and a woman about 35 with dark hair asked what was happening. We had a lovely friendly chat with her. She told us that John Carey was on a tour of the USA. She did not know the O’Se couple, insisting that John Carey is in sole charge of the academy. I told her my name (John Tymon) and asked her who she was and she told me.
We asked her to contact John Carey for us and I gave her a “Football Against Apartheid” flyer with my name and email and mobile number and she agreed to pass the details on to John Carey. I explained that we wanted to negotiate with John and ask him not to play with apartheid. I explained to her about the massacre of 551 children last year, the tradition of Irish people to oppose oppression and ethnic cleansing – referring to the Cromwellian declaration to the Irish people to “go to hell or to Connaught”. We talked about the apartheid division of Ireland etc. and she was in agreement. I believe she personally agreed with me.
We impressed on the woman that we did not want to interfere with his dancing business and all we wanted was an early declaration that he will not be going to Israel as planned on 15 August. There were police officers nearby. They were probably listening to the conversation. There was nothing secret about it. We said that we didn’t want to be coming back to demonstrate again or demonstrate at Carey events, but we have made a commitment to carry on the campaign in a very peaceful way until 15 August if necessary. When she parted and went off we exchanged pleasantries.
As she walked away, one of the police officers called to her and they walked approximately 7-10 meters away and chatted quietly. I assume that the officer was making enquiries about the conversation, which I assumed he had been listening to.
We then decided to go back to the gates of the Carey Academy and set up our banners for a wee quiet demonstration (a neighbour was on night duty and asked us politely to let him sleep, so we decided collectively to be quiet). The police joked as we set up our banners. They got out of their car and watched as we erected our banners on the Carey gates and walls and the joking and exchanges of friendly banter continued with the police. We made our video and packed our gear and headed back to London.
We were about 15 people altogether, including Deborah, her husband and wheelchair user teenage son from Manchester. We have a few unplanned video shots of our activity and I have brought these together into one place and given access to everyone involved.
Does John Tymon’s report from the protest, attended by 3 police officers, describe a situation in which the safety of dancers might be put in jeopardy? It was an ordinary non-violent non- threatening protest by typical, local (UK) BDS peace activists.
The Ireland Palestine Activists Collective (IPAC) are demanding a public retraction of the allegations. They deserve more than that: an apology.
Stan Hoben contributed to this report.