Rambling ...

I'm an Irish Girl, A Dubliner, with the 'Gift of the Gab' ... I like to talk & to tell you things. In Celtic times news, views and comment were carried from place to place by wandering Seanachaí ~ Storytellers ~ who relied on their host's hospitality and appreciation. I will need that from you too, as I venture to share Politics, Poetry, Laughter, Love, Life & everything in-between ... from Bog to Blog!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Two Women, Ireland & Israel .....

Two Irish women have received mention in the news with regard to Israel in recent days. Both Irish. Both Women. That is where the similarity ends.

Mairead Maguire, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate & misnamed 'peace activist', will appear in a Tel Aviv Court this morning, fighting a Deportation order against her. She was refused entry into Israel on Tuesday where she arrived as part of a women's peace delegation, due to her deportation following her activities in June aboard the 'Rachel Corrie', which had set sail from the east coast of Ireland in an attempt to breach the Gaza blockade.

This was a perfectly legal & legitimate action on Israel's part ..... Israeli law states anyone is debarred from re-entering the country for a period of 10 years following deportation. This is not an unreasonable or unusual law in any sense & Mairead knew this before she travelled. Why did she board a flight knowing she did not posses an entry visa for Israel? And, today why is Mairead seeking special treatment ??? Because she sees this as an opportunity to garner publicity for her position & to demonise Israel in public perception internationally.

Cliona Campbell returned to Ireland following two months of volunteer work with the IDF .... "Yet when I returned home to Ireland after two months of packing kitbags and painting warehouses on Israeli army bases, I was, for all purposes, the devil incarnate. As punishment for making public my volunteering in Israel, I was met by an onslaught of savage attacks and condemnation from my fellow countrymen. They called for the confiscation of my passport, claiming that I had already revoked my Irish identity the minute I volunteered for Israel. As far as they were concerned, I was a “baby killer”, a “terrorist” and a traitor to Ireland. Many Irish people openly voiced their disappointment that I had not been raped and shot by the Israeli soldiers of whom I had worked alongside."

Why this difference in reception for the two ladies?? What accounts for such double standards in a modern democratic European country?? Why are so many Irish activists supporting the Palestinian cause? And why are so many of the Irish human rights activists so biased and anti-Israel behind a mask of human rights activity? Why was the Rachel Corrie, an Irish-owned ship part of the Gaza Flotilla in an attempt to challenge a sovereign state and member of the United Nations, Israel, and trying to break a legal blockade of Gaza??

The ill-tempered diplomatic spat between the Irish and Israeli governments that accompanied the ' Rachel Corrie''s journey to Gaza is just the latest episode in the countries' long history of antagonistic relations. Tensions recently escalated again with the Irish expulsion of an Israeli diplomat amid Irish anger over Israel's alleged use of eight forged Irish passports in the recent murder of a Hamas official in Dubai.

The Palestinian issue has long occupied a place in the Irish consciousness far greater than geographic, economic, or political considerations appear to merit. Perceived parallels with the Irish national experience, however, have inspired an emotional connection with Palestine that has inspired Irish activism in the region up to the present day. In February 1980, Ireland became the first EEC member to call publicly for the inclusion of the PLO in the political process at a time when Arafat’s group not only refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist ~ that would come grudgingly in 1988 ~ but was engaged in a relentless campaign of terror against Israeli and Jewish targets across the globe.

At first, in the 1920s and 1930s, Irish sympathies lay squarely with the Zionists and drew heavily on the presumed parallels between historic Irish and Jewish suffering, as well as the shared traumatic experience of large-scale migration in the 19th century.

Drawing a parallel with their own history of occupation, the Irish also championed the Zionist struggle for self-determination against the British. A correspondent to The Bell, a leading Irish magazine, raged over current events in Mandate Palestine in March 1945: "Never let it be forgotten that the Irish people ... have experienced all that the Jewish people in Palestine are suffering from the trained 'thugs' 'gunning tarzans' and British 'terrorists' that the Mandatory power have imposed upon the country."

After the formation of Israel in 1948 some in Ireland were strongly on side with the new state, seeing a parallel with their own recent struggle against Britain. At first Zionism seemed quite an attractive philosophy. We’d been doing something like it ourselves in Ireland … Each country had ambitions to revive its national language, Hebrew and Gaelic. Though Israel succeeded and we in Ireland failed.

The Jewish underground fighting the British during the pre-1948 era was modelled on the old IRA ~ Yitzhak Shamir’s nom de guerre was, after all, ‘Michael,’ after Michael Collins. In the decades after Israel’s birth Irish Jews, like Rabbi Herzog’s sons Chaim (a future president of Israel) and Yaacov (a great scholar and diplomat), as well as others like Max Nurock of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Geoffrey Wigoder (editor of the Encyclopedia Judaica) contributed greatly to Israeli political, diplomatic, and intellectual life.

But Irish nationalist perceptions toward Israel soon shifted. The country's own anti-British rebellion led to a traumatic civil war that left six northern counties of the island under the British crown. Once the Zionist movement accepted the partition of Palestine, the Irish began to draw unflattering parallels between Israeli policies and their own divided existence. To many, the Jewish state now looked less like a besieged religious-national community struggling valiantly for its natural rights and more like a colony illegitimately established by British force of arms and intent on imposing itself on an indigenous population.

The renowned Irish novelist Sean O'Faolain, writing in November 1947 as the United Nations debated a partition plan for Mandate Palestine, expressed this sentiment when he rejected the comparison between the Irish and Zionist struggles: "if we could imagine that Ireland was being transformed by Britain into a national home for the Jews, I can hardly doubt which side you would be found."

Many of the Irish activists supporting the Palestinian cause are leftist “revolutionaries” influenced by the Irish revolutionary propaganda and long history of fighting a revolutionary war against what they consider the British occupation of Ireland (in the past) and Northern Ireland. And when the Irish succeeded in removing the British 'yoke of oppression' out they came to identify themselves with the Palestinians as underdogs. It’s a fact that the Provisional Irish Revolutionary Army (IRA) supported the Palestinian cause and received weapons and training from the PLO as early as the 1970′s,  as well as Muammar Qaddafi in Libya & in other terrorist states.

A concept which is constantly re-iterated by anti-Israel lobbyists in Ireland is that the Palestinians are the Middle Eastern equivalent of the Irish in their ‘struggle to achieve independence from foreign occupation’. Despite the Good Friday Agreement having come into force over a decade ago, the Troubles still remain a highly emotive subject among today’s Irish citizens. This has been exploited by those who propagate the armed ‘resistance’ of Hamas as they compare it to the IRA’s employment of violence against the British.  Overwhelmingly pro-Palestinian Sinn Fein, led by Gerry Adams, is a Marxist party. Its military wing, the IRA, trained with the PLO & are among the most voiciferous supporters of the 'palestinian plight', directly linking their 'struggle' to that of the Irish republicans. 

Not even the successful Zionist military struggle against the British in the late 1940s did much to alter the view that Israel was "a little loyal Jewish Ulster,"   in the words of Sir Ronald Storrs, the first British governor of Jerusalem. Like Ulster, the northern province of Ireland under British control that was seen as a bulwark against Irish nationalism, Israel appeared designed to hold back the tide of Arab nationalism.

The Israelis are seen almost as evil, as Unionism was, but the Unionists were never evil, they were just terribly bad at public relations. They said, "We’re a democratic state under attack; you should support us."    But their narrative was bad ~ they weren’t media friendly … Today the Israelis have the best story in the world to tell, but they tell it terribly badly. They need to get so much better at Media relations .... being in the highest moral position doesn't guarantee that everyone will see it that way & issue support!!

The "Vatican factor," as the writer and politician Conor Cruise O'Brien liked to call the Catholic Church's influence over Irish social and political life, also affected Irish perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And, we know what an Anti-Semetic organisation the Catholic Church remains to this day!!

In October 1948, Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical, 'In Multiplicibus Curis', endorsing an "international character" to Jerusalem and its vicinity. From that time, the Irish government adopted the Vatican's concern for the status of Jerusalem's holy places and mirrored its call for international supervision of the city. What to do about Palestine was the subject of regular discussions between high-ranking Irish and Vatican officials. Over dinner in Dublin in 1961, Con Cremin, a senior official in the Irish foreign ministry, advised his dinner guest, Israel's ambassador to Britain, Arthur Lourie, that the issue of the holy places "was a relevant factor" affecting Ireland's ties to Israel. "It is a mistake to write off the Vatican position," Cremin continued, "by reference to what might to the normal person seem to be realism."

As a result, Ireland only extended de jure recognition to Israel in 1963, 15 years after its declaration of independence. By the late 1960s, Ireland was increasingly preoccupied with the fate of the Palestinian Arab refugees, whose numbers had swelled following the Six Day War in June 1967.  Speaking in 1969 in the Dail, the lower house of the Irish parliament, Irish Foreign Minister Frank Aiken described the settlement of this problem as the "main and most pressing objective" of Ireland's Middle East policy. By the time Aiken left office later that year, Irish policy was set in stone: ~ There could be no peace without the repatriation of the maximum possible number of Palestinian refugees and full compensation, not merely resettlement, for the remainder.

After Ireland joined the European Union in 1973, successive governments in Dublin have taken the lead in championing the Palestinian cause within Europe. In February 1980, Ireland was the first EU member to call for the establishment of a Palestinian state. It was also the last to allow Israel to open a residential embassy, in December 1993. Israel has responded to this cold shoulder with anger and bewilderment. Speaking on Irish radio in 1980, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin described Irish policy as tantamount to acceptance of the PLO's "right to destroy the Jewish state."

Clashes between Irish U.N. peacekeeping troops in Lebanon and the Israeli army and its proxy Christian militias between 1978 and 2000 made relations worse. From 1978 to 2000, Ireland’s largest-ever military involvement outside its borders was in Lebanon.  One has to keep in mind that Ireland is a neutral country with a small army. Over forty thousand Irish troops served in Lebanon, which represented a massive commitment. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Irish regularly called in the Israeli Ambassadors to threaten them over the treatment of Irish UNIFIL troops.  Forty-five Irish soldiers died while serving the United Nations in Lebanon, and the Irish government blamed Israel directly or indirectly for at least 15 of those deaths, including the April 1980 kidnapping and execution of privates Thomas Barrett and Derek Smallhorne by the South Lebanon Army, a Christian militia.  One Irish politician evoked the general anger when he admitted that he had lost much of his previous sympathy when Israel "commenced to use our volunteer soldiers as target practice."

Throughout the Oslo Accords era and the post-Oslo era, Irish governments continued to provide the Palestinian cause with valuable, if not unlimited, support. Speaking before the Foreign Policy Association in New York City in September 2000, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern explained that the "moral dimension" of international affairs was the "first and foremost" reason for Irish involvement. As citizens of a small, neutral country on the margins of Europe, the Irish public's primary interest in foreign affairs relates to international law, human rights, anti-imperialism, and a proud history of engagement with the United Nations. This worldview, combined with a healthy appetite for the freedom-fighter slogans and anti-colonial language that left previous generations weak at the knees, explains the ongoing attachment to the Palestinian "underdogs."

The Irish fixation with Palestine continued even after the optimism of the Oslo era was long past. In June 2003, Brian Cowen,  then Ireland's foreign minister, now it's Prime minister, visited Yasar Arafat during the height of the Second Intifada ~ and even after Israel refused to host foreign dignitaries who met the Palestinian leader while visiting the region. Cowen's visit came at a time when terror was at an all-time high and when the U.S. government, a majority of Israelis, and significant sectors of the Palestinian population had lost faith in Arafat's capacity to lead the Palestinians to statehood. But Cowen spoke for many in Ireland when he described Arafat as "the symbol of the hope of self-determination of the Palestinian people" and praised him for his "outstanding work ... tenacity, and persistence."

Irish NGOs continue to work actively to translate public support for 'Palestinian rights' into action. Ireland can claim one of the most organized and effective chapters of the international Palestine Solidarity Campaign. In 2004, it submitted a petition to the government signed by 12,000 members of the public and 52 members of parliament, members of the European Parliament, senators, and independent politicians calling for a boycott of Israel. Since then, it has undertaken a number of high-profile campaigns to isolate and delegitimize Israel, including an attempt to get Aer Lingus, an airline partially owned by the government, to cancel flights to the Eretz Israel. It has been supported by the Irish Anti-War Movement, an umbrella body for activist groups that organized a rowdy picket at the Israeli Embassy in Dublin during the flotilla crisis. These demonstrations flew the Hamas & palestinian flags high as they chanted outside the Israeli embassy!

The Irish government, which is committed to following Europe's agreed-upon Palestine policy and keen on expanding trade and research and development links with Israel's high-tech sector, will never break ranks with its EU partners and endorse an economic, academic, or cultural boycott of Israel. But there is almost total unanimity across all political parties that Israel is to blame for the ongoing failure to find peace. And the Academic hierarchy all agree. Not even the partisan political climate that has existed since the economic meltdown of 2008 has dented consensus on this point.

Israel's appointment of Lord David Trimble, a former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and recipient of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize, as one of the foreign observers into the flotilla affair has little chance of shifting public opinion on this issue. Despite earning the admiration of many in the Irish nationalist community for his role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, he comes from a Unionist tradition, which calls for Northern Ireland to retain its political ties to Great Britain, which has always been viewed as pro-Israeli.

Many Unionists identify with Israel as an isolated community, surrounded by hostile forces and lacking international support. Their pro-Israeli sentiments also are a reaction to Irish Republican support for the Palestinian cause. In the 1980s, a mural in a nationalist area of Belfast depicted armed Irish Republican Army (IRA) and PLO members under the slogan: "IRA-PLO one struggle." Despite peace, these cleavages still run deep ..... In response to the Second Intifada, northern Protestant areas flew the Israeli flag, and Catholic areas raised the Palestinian national colours.

Up to the present day, Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, which has elected representatives in the Irish and British parliaments and shares power in Northern Ireland, has continued to be a virulent critic of Israel. In 2006, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, the party's international affairs and human rights spokesperson in the Dublin parliament, described Israel as "one of the most abhorrent and despicable regimes on the planet."    This May, he was one of three Irish politicians prevented by authorities from leaving Cyprus to join the Gaza-bound flotilla.

The Irish tendency to view the outside world in terms of local obsessions is still with us. The powerful political narrative connecting Ireland to Israel and Palestine continues to inspire its people, and their government, to action.    In civil society there is a groundswell of nonofficial opinion that sympathizes with the idea of a boycott of Israel. The Irish branch of the International Solidarity Movement, an anti-Israeli organization, is among the most active in the world. In 2004 they handed a petition to the foreign minister with twelve thousand Irish signatures, 275 of elected officials across Europe and fifty of elected officials or public figures in Ireland calling for an economic boycott.  As Ireland has a population of three and a half million, this is far from insignificant.   There are other anti-Israeli NGOs such as Christian Aid and the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign. These have relatively more support among the population than in other European countries. One might define it as an unthinking, visceral sort of attachment to Palestinian suffering!!

A point of real concern is the growing numbers of Muslims now living in Ireland, with or without it's citizenship.  Since much of Irish Muslims’ funding comes from Saudi Arabia, Wahhabi extremism must be creeping in. The Saudis have subsidized a major mosque and community centre in Dublin. The idea is that once the facility is there, more people will use it. And their numbers are increasing at an alarming pace.  The Irish government and many others are worried that the country may become a stepping stone for Muslim radicals to mainland Europe. The Irish hope there will not be any major attempts to destabilize Ireland because it is not an important country. Yet it may become a transit base for radicals and terrorists. Once one is in Ireland, one can travel elsewhere in the EU freely.

The Irish discussion of radical Muslims focuses on money laundering as well as forging documents for use by extremists across Europe. Although until recently the Irish security services were preoccupied with events in Northern Ireland, there has been an attempt to refocus resources to this new threat. As yet, though, the capability needed to deal with the Muslim threat is underdeveloped.

One major fault of much of the Irish population is a sincere belief that their experience of colonial rule and their policy of neutrality makes them morally superior to other countries. Racism is on the rise and is focused on Muslimsas well as Jews.  The Jewish community in Ireland numbers around a thousand. There are also about six hundred Israelis. The Jewish community has a policy of not sticking its neck out. Rarely will it come out on behalf of Israel. Individual members of the community do write to the newspapers or express unhappiness with the situation whereby Israel gets bad press and an unfair hearing in parliament.

Violent anti-Semitism is rare in Ireland. In 2005 the main synagogue in Dublin was daubed with swastikas. When that happened the police assigned patrols and plainclothes policemen to investigate the matter. It turned out the graffiti were the work of a loner who believed that Jews caused all the problems of the world.  Like everywhere else, there are also neo-Nazis in Ireland, but they are marginal. Much more of a threat to the Jewish community is the continuous defaming and demonizing of Israel. People start to think the Israelis are like Nazis while the Jews in Ireland support them. In this way you create an environment where Jews become guilty by default. If one does not oppose such a Nazi regime, one must be a fascist as well.

However, the real problems for the Jews in Ireland come far more from the Left than from the extreme Right. Probably, in the coming years, the Palestinian issue will not be used as a foreign policy issue but rather to push the Muslim agenda in Ireland.


  1. Thank you. A very interesting article indeed.

    You write: "Today the Israelis have the best story in the world to tell, but they tell it terribly badly."

    True, but Israel cannot hope to compete with oil money. Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal (2nd largest shareholder in Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate which owns the Guardian newspaper to name but one) wrote a cheque to Harvard University. This cheque amounted to Israel's PR budget total for 20 years ($20 million dollars).

    But the Irish support of Palestinians is as bizarre as that of the Greek's (considering Cyprus). Likewise, Ireland shares a past with Islam in the form of slavery.

  2. Petah Tikva District Court rejected Maguire's appeal on Friday & issued that she be deported from Eretz Israel within 48 hours.

    However, Mairead Maguire's lawyers petitioned the Supreme Court against the State's decision to deny her entry to Israel, so she remains incarcerated there.

    Wonder if she will honour & uphold the laws of Israel this time???

  3. To the Caped one .... Wow, a hole in my knowledge. I've ordered the book you mention from Amazon. I'll let you know what I think. Thank you!!

  4. Have you read this? Foreign Affairs: For the love of the Irish?

    BTW Maguire's case is being conducted by Israel NGO Adalah, an organisation that aims to “promote and defend the rights of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.” It is, no surprise, sponsored by the New Israel Fund.

    MM is now an honorary Palestinian Arab resident of Israel?

    David Guy

  5. Interesting. Thanks, David.

    Ireland's behaviour remains a source of puzzlement for me!!

  6. I hadn't seen anything about Cliona before this.
    But then found this.

    While there's the usual anti-Israeli comments it's good to see there are others in Ireland who take a different attitude and I hope the Israeli people get to see that too.

  7. Thanks Amanda .... they have done. Cliona is a friend of mine & I have seen her posts on her FB page & have seen it picked up by the Israeli media. You know, thinking about it she should really have a blog .... aspiring journalist as she is!!!!

    And thanks for your comments.