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October 22, 2014 / 28 Tishri, 5775
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Irish Eyes Aren’t Smiling On Israel

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The Irish and the Jewish people share a common history of both suffering cruel persecution and achieving national redemption against immeasurable odds. But today Ireland is one of Europe’s fiercest critics of Israel. The Irish government and prominent Irish NGOs frequently condemn Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, and they are pushing a boycott of the Jewish state.

Countering this trend is a small yet passionate contingent of pro-Israel Irish groups seeking to create more positive relations between these similar nations.

“On a national level…Ireland has considered a solution to the conflict in general, and a solution of the Palestinian refugee issue in particular, as one of its top foreign policy priorities in the Middle East,” said Irish-born Professor Rory Miller, who is director of the Middle East and Mediterranean Studies Program at King’s College in London and author of Ireland and the Palestine Question 1948-2004.

Irish-Jewish relations haven’t always been this sour. In the early twentieth century many Irish leaders were sympathetic to the Jews, with the Irish drawing heavily on the two peoples’ historical parallels.

But following Israel’s independence in 1948, Irish sympathies shifted. The Irish no longer viewed Israel as the underdog struggling for its national rights, but instead as a foreign occupier on someone else’s land, similar to the Irish experience with British control over Northern Ireland.

Ireland did not extend recognition to Israel until 1963 and did not establish an embassy in Tel Aviv until 1996. Furthermore, Ireland was one of the first European countries to call for a Palestinian state in 1980 and has insistently focused on the Palestinian refugee issue.

Today, despite its subordinate position within the European Union behind such larger powers as the UK, France and Germany, Ireland has played an outsized role as a voice on matters concerning Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Current Irish Foreign Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore has been one of Ireland’s most outspoken critics of Israel. Last month, Gilmore, a member of the left-wing Irish Labor Party, announced that Ireland would embark on a campaign to urge fellow EU states to label Israeli products from the West Bank as “settler” products, and to eventually encourage a boycott.

Ireland’s policies have also targeted Israel on other fronts. In early June, Israeli government officials accused the Irish government of being behind the opposition within the EU to label the military wing of Hizbullah as a terrorist organization.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Ireland’s concerns may be related to the Irish contingent of soldiers within the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the UN peacekeeping mission which patrols southern Lebanon, Hizbullah’s heartland.

Prof. Miller told JNS.org that historical animosity built up between Israel and Ireland over Ireland’s participation in UNIFIL.

“Between 1978 and 2000, over 40,000 Irish troops served in Lebanon, which represented Ireland’s largest-ever military involvement outside its borders,” Miller explained. “Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Irish government regularly clashed with Israel over the treatment of Irish UNIFIL troops.”

In addition to the Irish government being harsher on Israel than some of its EU partners, Ireland’s NGOs have been some of the most powerful anti-Israel groups in Europe.

“The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) is the leading organization engaged in the campaign for BDS in Ireland,” said Miller. “In promoting the BDS campaign the IPSC has in many ways been more successful in spreading its message than other similar groups across Europe.”

In early April, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland became the first academic union in Europe to endorse a full academic boycott of Israel.

Despite the dominance of pro-Palestinian groups in Ireland, there are several small pro-Israel Irish groups, such as Irish Christian Friends of Israel (ICFI), that have attempted to change the tone in Ireland concerning the Jewish state.

ICFI, which was founded in the early 1980s, has held several pro-Israel rallies in Ireland and has sponsored fundraising campaigns for Israel, as well as trips to the Jewish state.

“We are Christians from various different churches,” Paddy Monaghan, president of ICFI, told JNS.org.

“If Israel put more money in helping to create and mobilize pro-Israel groups, things could improve,” Monaghan said. “While there is some anti-Semitism within Ireland, especially within Muslim immigrant groups, there is a big middle ground that is open to being persuaded either way. A few years ago we put together a campaign for [former Hamas captive] Gilad Shalit that gained thousands of signatures.”

In addition to its charitable endeavors for Israel, ICFI has launched political campaigns to persuade the Irish government to back off on its support for a boycott of Israel.

“We appeal to [Eamon Gilmore] not to use the last EU Foreign Ministers Council meeting to sponsor the labeling of West Bank settlement products and the subsequent proposed ban on them,” ICFI said in a recent press statement.

Groups like ICFI face an uphill battle. In the spring, a small group called Irish4Israel, which was launched in 2010 by Barry Williams, a student at Ireland’s University College Cork, raised more than $2,000 in 10 days with the help of BlueStar, a pro-Israel advocacy based in San Francisco, to launch a poster campaign in Ireland promoting Israeli tourism. But within 24 hours of being put up, the posters were vandalized.

Despite efforts to boycott Israel, trade between Ireland and Israel has grown significantly. Israel has become one of Ireland’s fastest-growing trade partners, rising from 26th in 2010 to 14th in 2011.

Additionally, both the Irish and Israeli embassies hold a wide variety of cultural events in each other’s countries. Irish musicians and dancers regularly perform in Israel, while the Israeli embassy in Ireland holds many informational events about Israel and shared Irish-Jewish history. One of the most famous personalities in that history was Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, who was chief rabbi of Ireland’s small Jewish community before becoming Israel’s first Ashkenazi chief rabbi.

But if Israel hopes to once again have Irish eyes smile upon the Jewish state, reaching out to the Irish may require more than state-to-state relations.

“The Arab people and their supporters tend to understand Irish culture better,” said Monaghan. “[The Israelis] often assume that Western people will understand [them] without establishing relationships. But…Israel needs to take the time explain the rightness of its case on a personal level.”

(JNS)

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17 Responses to “Irish Eyes Aren’t Smiling On Israel”

  1. Charlie Hall says:

    Rav Herzog z'tz'l is turning over in his grave.

  2. Charlie Hall says:

    And Ireland has absolutely no history of anti-Semitism!

  3. Eli Neuberger says:

    didn't the IRA host Plo training camps?

  4. Charlie Hall says:

    I don't think they were camps per say but they absolutely trained Palestinian bombers. The designs of some Palestinian bombs were identical to some IRA bombs.

  5. The Irish don't seem to understand that Jews came from Judea and the Arabs from Arabia.

  6. Frankly Israel I wouldn't take Ireland seriously. Their government is corrupt, selling out Irish oil and gas to Shell, this would have provided long term economic growth and jobs. Ahern, last PM took bribes as well others. Anglo Irish Bank must be the biggest scandal in Europe. The Irish building societies tried to play the markets and made losses. Tax incentives provided to a glut of property to be built. The housing market is and was over inflated, there is a glut of over 1 million new empty properties and offices all over Ireland deteriorating all over the nation. Some Sheik from Saudi has just provided funds to build a huge complex for the 60,000 muslims in Ireland out of a population of 4.5 million. Most of the younger generation with the exception of a few thousand have left for Australia, the States and the UK. Medical staff are being laid off, the government is paying 3 years half salary for doctors to take time out and work abroad or retrain. My son-in-law is a Doctor who leaves for Italy in October and for the UK as an RMO in private practice. The Irish still carp about the English and I assure you antisemitism is rife in this country. I personally know the gentleman who raised the money and I hope he will make Aliyha. During WWII Ireland was neutral and ostracized any Irishmen (protestants) who wanted to fight with Europe against the Germans. There are many Germans here from the War, in 2006 I found a copy of Mine Kampf original edition signed by Hitler in a Galway Book shop. The rest of Europe see them as a joke, Disiduous trees were to planted with an EU grant, all that was planted was pine, the EU are suing. The EU funded huge amounts of road building and infrastructure which Ireland now has difficulty paying back, undoubtedly this money found it's way into private hands and banks to fund the collapsed property boom. Corporation tax is 12.5% no one seems to investing, general level of education is low and religious oriented or Irish language oriented. Israel is simply a pimple with little education for international politics or the Middle East crises.

  7. the irish are fabissiner jew haters inculcated with hatred from its churches, it's catholic schools and the priest down the street. they are unrecoverable anti semites who still admire the nazis and now love muslims. forget them.

  8. Scott Ward says:

    i agree with you, Viv. I am of irish ancestry and this shame me.

  9. One more comment on Ireland, Israel. The National broadcasting station of Ireland RTE stated on Monday evenings news Israel had again attacked Gaza, not mentioning that Israel had been struck by seven rockets from Gaza and Israel was forced to retaliate. Ireland needs a real shake out, a government made up right thinking mature adults unlike Cameron of the UK equally as bad. I have been forced to live here, I regret, because the price of British property became prohibitive. The so called Celtic Tiger was on it's way down when I moved here, and before this my experience in high power investment banking showed me there was no such thing as a Celtic Tiger, merely a load of blarney!

  10. Yes he is, I can't even easily get to synagogue here in Ireland. The nearest is two hours away, most Jewish people have left.

  11. This is correct Loren, have a holiday a brief one and you'll see the level of ignorance and sentimentality!

  12. If I were you Scott I'd keep quiet about it. There were many Catholic girls who managed to persuade a good Jewish man to drag them out of the dump of Ireland.

  13. Absolutely Judith, the Priests turned out to be Pedophiles, as no doubt you've read in the press. Magdaleine Laundries is another Catholic scandal. Pagan festivals are still celebrated here under the guise of Catholic Saints.

  14. Phoque Hiu says:

    it's been written, all nations will rise against israel…

  15. the second most powerful man in ireland is an orthodox jew called alan shatter. he controls the army the police and the judiciary and the mayor of dublin for years was jewish. the ira bye the way destroyed the nazis in ireland in the 30s as they literally attacked them on the streets of dublin whenever they appeared.

  16. now be careful about not taking ireland seriously. on the face of it they have little say in international politics but scratch a little and you will find out that in the political field they do. nearly every american president since kennedy has been of irish origin including the present one obama.

  17. now as for the irish being jew haters being taught this in irish catholic schools. this is also crud. if this was the case then why did jewish parents push to get their children into irish catholic schools. I mean pedo priests did exist but the vast majority were not pedos. that's like accusing the jews of being responsible for economic meltdowns. maybe there are a few in high financial positions who are responsible for this nonsense but certainly not all jews.

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The Irish and the Jewish people share a common history of both suffering cruel persecution and achieving national redemption against immeasurable odds. But today Ireland is one of Europe’s fiercest critics of Israel. The Irish government and prominent Irish NGOs frequently condemn Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, and they are pushing a boycott of the Jewish state.

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