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The Irish Times | March 29, 2007

Call to 'reflect' on Israeli links

Aosdna's general assembly yesterday passed a motion that encourages "Irish artists and cultural institutions to reflect deeply" before engaging in co-operation with state-sponsored Israeli cultural events and institutions.

It followed an earlier rejection of a motion calling for an end to such co-operation.

The embassy of Israel last night said that it "regrets the decision taken by Aosdna to single out Israel". The decision was preceded by a lengthy and occasionally heated debate.

A first motion, that of non-co-operation, was proposed by composer Raymond Deane. "We are not asking you to fight and die," he told the gathering. "We are just asking you to do nothing and to do it constructively."

The artist Samuel Walsh, however, claimed the motion was "naive", arguing that it could be "used for nefarious purposes by certain groups in Europe in their evil purposes".

Playwright and artist Gerard Mannix Flynn also spoke, saying that Aosdna members had to ask themselves if the organisation has a right to call for such a move. He said its reputation was on the line, and artists "have to find better language than boycott".

Chairman Anthony Cronin continually insisted that arguments should remain within the cultural and not the political sphere.

When put to a vote, the motion was defeated, with 19 members in favour and 31 against. Twenty-six chose to abstain.

A shorter debate followed on the second motion, proposed by writer Margaretta D'Arcy, which encouraged artists to "reflect deeply" before co-operating with Israeli state events and institutions. Despite some earlier heated exchanges with Ms D'Arcy, Mr Cronin suggested some moderation to the motion's language, after which it was passed by a sizeable majority.

In response, Zion Evrony, ambassador of Israel, stated: "We strongly believe that this decision is fundamentally wrong, unjust, biased and based on misunderstanding and misinformation of current events in the Middle East."

His statement added: "It appears that a small number of Aosdna members, holding extremely biased views against Israel, have misled others and imposed their views on the whole organisation."

The motion passed by Aosdna reads: "Mindful of the 4th August 2006 call from Palestinian filmmakers, artists and cultural workers to end all co-operation with state-sponsored Israeli cultural events and institutions, Aosdna wishes to encourage Irish artists and cultural institutions to reflect deeply before engaging in any such co-operation, always bearing in mind the undeniable courage of those Israeli artists, writers and intellectuals who oppose their own government's illegal policies towards the Palestinians."

Posted on 30-03-2007

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