Irish artist Robert Ballagh said he will not be travelling to Israel with Riverdance, and plans to donate any royalties due to him for the show’s performances there to the fund for an Irish boat that is taking part in an flotilla of vessels that hopes to break the “illegal and inhuman blockade” of Gaza.
Mr Ballagh said his decision was inspired by a meeting with Nelson Mandela, who told him the sporting and cultural boycott of South Africa was “an essential weapon in the struggle against apartheid”.
“I, along with many other Irish creative and performing artists, signed a cultural boycott pledge not to visit Israel. This was a positive response to the call by Palestinian filmmakers, artists and cultural organisations for a cultural boycott of Israel.
“I believe that this non-violent cultural boycott will contribute to the struggle for justice for the Palestinian people,” added Mr Ballagh.
Meanwhile, in an open letter from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, cultural boycott officer Raymond Deane described the show’s plans to visit three Israeli cities as “a disgraceful gesture” that will poison the memory of Riverdance.
“Would Riverdance have toured South Africa during the dark years of apartheid there? If not, then how can its creators and performers justify touring the rogue Israeli state that has devised its own form of apartheid that, in many respects, is worse than that once practiced in South Africa?”
Mr Deane called for the show’s tour of Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem to be cancelled.
“Israel’s Foreign Ministry has explicitly stated that it “sees no difference between culture and propaganda”. Artists who visit Israel are not merely spurning with contempt the boycott call from the oppressed Palestinians, but they are normalising the abnormal regime that causes such suffering,” he added.