Shatter accuses Palestine group of cyberbullying
Justice Minister hits out after 'avalanche of venom' forces band to cancel tour of Israel
Justice Minister Alan Shatter has launched a blistering attack on the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Group (IPSG), accusing them of "cyberbullying" folk group Dervish who were forced to pull out of a planned concert in Israel after a concerted campaign.
The band cancelled the tour planned for June, citing an "avalanche of negativity" and "venom" directed towards them on social media websites. Dervish singer Cathy Jordan said the band members were not politically minded and were only due to go on the three-date tour at the invitation of an Israeli friend and musician called Avshalom.
Ms Jordan wrote on the band's Facebook page: "In hindsight, it was very naive of me to think our motives would not be misunderstood and misrepresented."
The group said they have opted out of the tour because they were unaware there was a cultural boycott in place when they agreed to the performances. In fact, there is no official boycott of Israel and artists are free to play in the country if they wish.
Now Mr Shatter, who is Jewish, has delivered a broadside against the band's critics.
"The Irish Palestinian Solidarity Group's action in directing its members to 'target' the website of the musical group Dervish in order to intimidate the group into cancelling their planned concerts in Israel is nothing other than cyberbullying.
"The invitation to Dervish to perform in Israel came from a fellow musician who worked to bridge divides between people through music for much of his life and the objective of the concerts was 'to promote love between two divided communities'.
"It is absolutely understandable that the group, in the face of an 'avalanche of negativity' and 'venom' on social media websites took the decision to cancel their concerts -- but 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 and the contribution such events make to fostering understanding and tolerance. But, unfortunately, IPSG's interest is not in peace and reconciliation," Mr Shatter said. He added that the IPSG's appeal to human rights rings hollow.
"It ignores the constitutional rights of Irish citizens and those who live in this State to get on with their lives, to travel and to perform around the world free from bullying, intimidation and discrimination.
It is particularly extraordinary that the orchestrated campaign targeted at Dervish occurred at a time when thousands have lost their lives in Syria and the IPSG have remained silent about the crimes against humanity being committed there," Mr Shatter added.
Dr Raymond Deane, of the IPSG, denied that there had been "negativity and venom" directed at Dervish by ISPG members..
"Rather it is the other way around. All you have to do is look at the remarks made by zionists after Dervish made the laudable decision to pull out of the tour.
"We have congratulated them on their decision."