August 12, 2010

Irish artists sign cultural boycott pledge - your turn now


I’ve just come back from. Temple Bar. Usually a reserve in central Dublin where we herd tourists, this lunchtime it was taken over by Irish artists who support Palestine. Meeting House Square, a cultural nexus in the city centre, was donated by the managers of Temple Bar Properties as the site where the Irish artists’ boycott of Israel was launched.

So far, over 150 Irish artists – writers, musicians, directors, actors, and actual well…artists – have signed the pledge to respect the boycott of Israel called by Palestinian civil society. Actual pledge and full list of signatories as of yesterday here. Over a dozen have added their names since

In terms of names, we seem to have just about everyone in the Irish traditional music world – Christy Moore, Kila band members, Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny and more. We also have, or rather Palestine also has the writer Seamus Deane, singer Damien Dempsey, actress Sinead Cusack, artist Bobby Ballagh and director Bob Quinn among others. And that’s just with the launch. We expect many more to sign over the coming weeks and months.

Palestine solidarity work isn’t usually noted for the joyfulness of the actions we organise. But this was a truly joyful event for everyone who turned up. About twenty of the signatories participated in the launch (photos to follow) with several of them performing, including Kila member, Eoin Dillon doing a duet with Lebanese-born jazz musician, Sami Moukkadem. The composer Raymond Deane, whose brainchild it was and who did so much work on encouraging folks to sign, was the compere for the launch. He quoted the PACBI endorsement of the event that noted that Israel uses visiting artists for propaganda just as apartheid South Africa did, and these artists have simply said they will not be used to bolster up an apartheid state.

The idea behind the pledge was that we were a bit tired chasing after artists who have already agreed to play Israel and trying to get them to change their minds. Thinking about it, this is the hardest category of artists to affect. It’s much easier to take pre-emptive action by asking artists to sign the pledge. By creating a solid bank of ethical artists we are building something that will have an effect on all artists who are offered money to break the boycott and play apartheid

So folks, it’s up to you now to do something similar in your countries. We expect more Irish artists will sign this pledge, but if we simply take the figure of 150 and the relative population sizes, the equivalent is about 2,000 British artists or 10,000 American ones. Ar aghaidh libh!

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