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.”
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