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Lies, smear, and two-steps — Why did organizers really cancel the Feis?

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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”

1st Israel Feis Facebook page May 17th: "Room can be booked not later then in 45 days (1st of July) before the event!!!"

1st Israel Feis Facebook page May 17th: “Room can be booked not later then 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.

Screenshot : 1st Israel Feis Facebook page on July 1st 2015.

Screenshot : 1st Israel Feis Facebook page on July 1st 2015.

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.

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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.

Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is a mom, a human rights activist, and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area and likes to garden. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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35 Responses

  1. JLewisDickerson on July 10, 2015, 9:56 pm

    RE: “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’.” ~ John Tymon via Stan Hoben


    • Cromwell, Oliver: Tyranny of 1649 –

    • Cromwell, Oliver: To Hell or to Connaught –

    • Cromwellian conquest of Ireland –

    • Sibiriak on July 10, 2015, 10:50 pm


      Btw, thanks for all the great posts and links.

      • annie on July 11, 2015, 12:08 am

        ditto what sibiriak said

  2. annie on July 11, 2015, 1:34 am

    speaking of public retraction and apology, i just thought i’d mention that if the situation had been reversed, and team israel was accused (w/no evidence) of threatening to shoot everyone in the head, the ADL would have probably weighed in by now and netanyahu as well as half the knesset and neocon chattering class would be screaming “BLOOD LIBEL”.

    • pshoben on July 11, 2015, 4:34 am

      Thanks Annie, your critical questioning of those serious accusations, (for which no proof or evidence has been presented) is something that is completely absent from Irish mainstream press reporting of this story. This, (in your apt words) “shoddy driveby journalism” deserves to be called out.

      The original Irish Independent headline and coverage was pretty much identical to the Irish Examiner you linked to, but after complaints, the Indy re-edited, adding the word ‘claimed’ throughout:

      • annie on July 11, 2015, 11:04 am

        stan, i couldn’t have written this without you. the interview was fantastic. the videos with proof the protest was peaceful. i really think they would never have canceled had the hotel (and feis registration) been robust. i think the key is in tymon’s words “We talked about the apartheid division of Ireland etc. and she was in agreement. I believe she personally agreed with me.”

        maybe the dancers just didn’t want to go, given the history of the irish and all.

      • Ellen on July 12, 2015, 1:11 pm

        Nearly identical reporting in the main stream Irish press points to the work of an outside campaign to influence reporting and perception.

        Is the Irish press under so much time pressure and so lazy that they — like so much press in the US and elsewhere — “report” any ‘ol thing outside propagandists write for them?

        Shameful….I do hope there are severe consequences for dishonest and libelous reporting.

  3. michelle on July 11, 2015, 2:32 am

    what parent wants to take their children to a place like Israel
    Israel murders children Israel starves children Israel puts children
    in prison Israel kidnaps children Israel beats children Israel harms children
    Israel is no place for children
    G-d Bless

  4. NickJOCW on July 11, 2015, 3:46 am

    Perhaps they also feel they have to protect their own people from the truth, after all football is one thing but an Israel Gaelic dance competition is pretty esoteric and if BDS is just as active there as well it somehow looks even worse.

  5. justicewillprevail on July 11, 2015, 4:31 am

    Good reporting. It is obvious that a peaceful and rational protest succeeded – as pointed out, Ireland of all places would be receptive to the arguments. But the zionists couldn’t just swallow that and slink away quietly, which would have been the sensible solution if they wanted to downplay it. No, they have to go on the attack and raise the usual hysteria based on their default victimhood position. They just can’t help it, and only succeed in raising the profile of BDS and its arguments. When in a hole, the usual advice is to stop digging. Israeli PR has called in the diggers.

    • annie on July 11, 2015, 2:14 pm

      exactly jwp

      • John Salisbury on July 12, 2015, 3:52 am

        Agree with that

        The Irish seem to have a keen sense of injustice. Really pleasing.
        Disappointed,then , that U2 recently went out of their way to dedicate a song to Shimon Peres who was in the audience at a concert.Obviously Bono has not read “The Unspoken Alliance” by Sasha Polakow Suransky. The book is a very devastating account of Peres relationship with the old Afrikaner apartheid Govt.

  6. Shmuel on July 11, 2015, 5:25 am

    Scary huh? Are they threatening?

    They used the words “free” and “Palestine” in the same sentence. Some people find that very scary. Just like some other people used to find “one man one vote” threatening.

    We’ve heard a lot about the “demonization” of Israel, but that is a pretty accurate description of what has been and continues to be done to Palestinians and anyone who supports their struggle. When Palestinians are all “terrorists”; Palestine solidarity activists all “anti-Semites”; defence of Palestinian human rights an attempt to “destroy” Israel; a non-violent protest boat against a criminal siege a “terrorist flotilla collaborating with Hamas”; and BDS all of the above — how could attempts to cancel a dance festival be anything but “violent”, “scary” and “threatening”?

    Remember the claims that Jewish students feel threatened by protests against Israel. I’m sure many do — if only because they have been taught that criticism of Israel is a form of anti-Semitism, and Palestinians and their supporters are inherently violent.

  7. bintbiba on July 11, 2015, 6:18 am

    @ Shmuel
    …..”We’ve heard a lot about the “demonization” of Israel, but that is a pretty accurate description of what has been and continues to be done to Palestinians and anyone who supports their struggle……

    – See more at:

    No number of ‘Thank you,s ‘ can be enough over the years of reading your lucid, honest ,fair and humane comments, sir !

    I hope that by constant repetition ,the words ‘Thank you ‘ can never lose either their value or their true significance .

    • Shmuel on July 11, 2015, 8:02 am

      No thank yous are necessary, dear bintbiba, although I am extremely honoured by yours (and to be honest, a little embarrassed).

    • Ellen on July 12, 2015, 1:12 pm

      Ditto! Thank you Shmuel.

  8. Palikari on July 11, 2015, 7:59 am

    Threats and abuse is all BDSers got.

    • diasp0ra on July 13, 2015, 9:39 am

      Did you even read the article? There is literally 0 proof for any of the allegations.

  9. bintbiba on July 11, 2015, 8:12 am

    ….no words, Shmuel !!
    just gentle thoughts in your direction

  10. just on July 11, 2015, 3:41 pm

    What an outstanding article! Thanks Annie and Stan!

    And thanks to bintbiba and Shmuel for making me smile with gratitude.

    ‘Palikari’~ thanks for your predictably untrue and boorish comment.

  11. on July 11, 2015, 8:49 pm

    As an Irish citizen I would say that it is highly unlikely that any Irish person would go to Israel for a Feis. This incident is clearly an example of BDS in action of which I am very proud. In Ireland there is almost unanimous support for the long- suffering Palestinians and a heart-felt loathing for everything Israeli. The reason is that the Irish see themselves as having been victims of the British in the same way that the Palestinians are currently victims of the Israelis and their irrational supporters who are mostly Jewish. This identification has resulted in tremendous hostility against everything Israeli. All these Irish people are Nationalists and sympathize with the Nationalism of the Palestinians which has been suppressed by Israel in unspeakable and violent ways. There is a small number of Protestants in Northern Ireland who are British and the enemies of the Irish Nationalist majority. Some of these Protestants tend to support Israel mainly because it is the opposite and antagonistic viewpoint to the Irish Nationalists. The average Irishman is much better read than an American and thinks that Israel is a rogue state and a pariah that wants to be treated like Denmark. Therefore, anything Israeli makes him angry. When I wear my BDS t-shirts in Ireland I uniformly receive warm compliments and praise.

    • catalan on July 11, 2015, 8:55 pm

      “The average Irishman is much better read than an American – ”
      And of course you have a source to support that claim, a properly performed statistical study?

      • echinococcus on July 12, 2015, 4:10 pm

        The so-called Catalan will now ask for proof that the earth isn’t flat. Can’t just use google.

    • ckg on July 11, 2015, 10:29 pm

      Interesting. In contrast I think many U.S. sympathizers of Palestinians are deeply skeptical of nationalism in any form, which is partly why you may find so many one-state advocates on this site. This division no doubt reflects the different kinds of injustice that Irish and Americans have observed.

    • begley on July 12, 2015, 7:16 am

      In 2013 Ireland was ranked 17th out of 24 countries for literacy, 16th for numeracy and 18th for problem solving in the OECD Survey of Adult Skills, the PIAAC.

      1 in 5 Irish adults are functionally illiterate, and 1 in 4 Irish adults lack basic numeracy. These figures are well above European and OCED norms.

      PS. I have worked in Adult Education in Ireland.

      • annie on July 12, 2015, 10:42 am

        your point begley? and what to make of this:

        Levels of literacy and numeracy here compare poorly with other OECD countries, something that should leave people feeling disappointed.
        It is just not good enough to be considered “average” and sometimes “below average” in these areas. There is no consolation in the fact that we are joined in this ranking by the US, Poland, Finland and others who land in the bands considered average.
        The Republic has considered itself a country with a long literary tradition and highly literate population.
        This, however, was found to be incorrect on the basis of the OECD study. It is not that we are scraping the bottom in terms of literacy, we were ranked 17th out of 24 participating countries and are comfortably in this average band along with Northern Ireland, Germany, Austria and Flanders, in Belgium, among others.
        The survey involved 6,000 subjects who took reading and comprehension tests. The population-based survey was carried out here by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) which published the findings with the OECD data.
        We are below average in terms of numeracy, placing us at 19th of 24. Again we must be dissatisfied, despite sharing this slot with France and performing better than the US, Italy and Spain.

      • Mooser on July 12, 2015, 1:26 pm

        “PS. I have worked in Adult Education in Ireland.”

        I once shot an elephant in my pajamas!

      • RoHa on July 12, 2015, 8:08 pm

        How did the elephant get in your pajamas?

      • just on July 12, 2015, 8:50 pm


        The normal way, I’d reckon.

        One leg at a time.

      • annie on July 12, 2015, 9:08 pm

        How did the elephant get in your pajamas?

        how did the trunk fit in your trunks?

      • Mooser on July 13, 2015, 2:36 pm

        “How did the elephant get in your pajamas?”

        I’ll never know. Of course, he was gray, and carried a trunk, but that’s irrelevant, I guess.

      • eGuard on July 13, 2015, 7:01 pm

        an elephant in my pyjamas

        Was it in there with you, like sometimes a bug is in mine? Or did he sort of took the pyjamas all for himselves? (Was it a he?)

    • socialconscience on July 13, 2015, 9:05 am

      unverified…..please be careful not to generalise so much

      Not all irish people are nationalists

      Not all catholics yearn to be irish and not all protestants wish to be british

      And we’re certainly not all enemies

      In northern ireland Integration of both the catholic/nationalist and protestant/unionist
      communities has improved greatly in the past 10years.

      This has lead to more understanding and less fear and hatred between nationalism and unionism

      A chance i fear the Palestinians, particulatrly of the occupied territories, have not been given…

      Segregation breeds sectarianism

      You segregate us in the minds of others when you refer to the stereotype of catholic and protestant enemies

      I agree with your assertion that northern irish unionists take the side of israel simply as it is antagonistic to irish nationalists and secondly as it has been the party line of the british government

  12. annie on July 13, 2015, 2:49 pm

    check this out: “the CLRG office have received correspondence from various organizations and individuals both for/against this feis taking place but none of this correspondence was of a threatening nature”

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