The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

The Beast is Back

The bombing of children in Israel
sees the return of latent anti-Semitism

Henry McDonald The Observer, 15.12.02

Anti-semitism, as Conor Cruise O'Brien once pointed out, is a light sleeper. Judging by recent events in Ireland, O'Brien is right: the beast has only been dozing.

It briefly raised its head and exposed itself in tooth and claw last month when the Pat Kenny Show discussed a suicide bomb that killed 11 schoolchildren in Israel. Despite harrowing reports of young girls and boys crying 'Mama! Mama!' from the bombed bus, no sympathy was expressed by those who took the time to call into Kenny's weekday radio show. Instead, he was met with gales of 'whataboutery' as callers ignored the slaughter on the bus, preferring to focus on the deaths of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories at the hands of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).

Even an experienced broadcaster such as Kenny was shocked at the callers' lack of compassion for Israeli children. Part of this, to be fair, is due to the Irish association with the underdog; a by-product of our own colonial past. But throughout Irish history in the 20th century there has been a deep mistrust, at times hostility, towards the Jews and later Israel. During and after the Second World War official Irish policy was to keep Jewish refugees out of the Free State. The reasoning at the Department of Foreign Affairs was that anti-Semitism was widespread and deep throughout the State.

When you raise the question of anti-Semitism with the left in Ireland you are immediately hit in the face with this counter-argument. The Palestinian struggle, they protest, is not directed at the Jewish people but rather the pro-Imperialist Zionist oppressors. Arafat's Palestinian Authority wants to create a paradise in which Arab, Jew and Christian can live as equals.

The conflict in the Occupied Territories has become a totem for the conflicting factions in the North of Ireland. On the Shankill Road the Star of David flies. The flag was placed there by supporters of the besieged loyalist Johnny Adair. The association is obvious - Protestant settlers surrounded by indigenous enemies in solidarity with the Jewish settlers on the West Bank and Gaza. Conversely, in republican areas of the North the Palestinian colours fly alongside the Tricolour and the Starry Plough.

At the heart of the apologias for Palestinian terror or Israeli oppression is a denial of the facts. A large section of the Palestinian populace back movements that are murderously anti-Semitic. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are dedicated to the total destruction of the Israeli State, and consequently its people, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. Even Egypt - the only Arab country that signed a peace treaty with Israel - is currently broadcasting a soap opera which repeats historically discredited Tsarist lies about the Jewish plot to take over the world, the notorious 'Protocols of the elders of Zion'.

Amos Elon, the Israeli writer and proponent of a Palestinian state, was deeply shocked during a tour of Arab capitals in the mid 1990s by the extent of anti-Semitic propaganda besmirching public discourse. Yet you will read none of this in the journals, websites and newspapers of the Irish far left. The Irish groupies who flock to the West Bank and Gaza in the hope of becoming the Florence Nightingales of Third World Liberation choose to ignore these indisputable facts.

None of the above by the way should exonerate the Israelis of their role in destroying the Middle East peace process. There are dark chauvinistic forces in Israel dedicated to the so-called war of civilisation. They drove a fanatic to gun down Yitzhak Rabin and a zealot to machine-gun Muslim worshippers in a Hebron mosque. Moreover, the IDF's cruel, ham-fisted approach to civil disturbances in Palestinian towns and villages has only exacerbated the conflict and fuelled the flames of Islamic fanaticism in the region.

None the less, the debate in Ireland about Israel and the Occupied Territories is coloured by an historic anti-Semitism embedded in the Irish psyche. Republicans, for instance, try to compare the IDF to SS Stormtroopers, the otherwise excellent The Blanket E-zine, using hyperbolic phrases such as 'Hitler speaks Hebrew'.

Dr Bryan Fleming will probably not thank me for saying this, but his new book, Racism and social change in the Republic of Ireland, proves that Irish anti-Semitism is easily wakened from its slumber. Fleming points out that even as late as the 1950s hatred of the Jews was not uncommon in Irish society.

He notes that republican icon Sean South, who died at the legendary Brookeborough raid in 1957, was an anti-Semite. South belonged to Maria Dulce, an organisation which spread anti-Semitic filth from pulpit and pamphlet across Ireland as the fires of Auchswitz and Belsen were burning.

Irish people are entitled to express concern over what is happening in places like the West Bank and Gaza. Much of it is heartfelt and genuine. But those who do should try to assemble all the facts. One of the irritating things about foreigners spouting on about Northern Ireland is how one-dimensional their view of our conflict often seems.


This article was submitted by the author.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.
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Index: Current Articles

15 December 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Arrests in London of Turkish Hunger Strike supporters


The Beast is Back
Henry McDonald


Christmas in the "Holy Land"
Margaret Quinn


The Theocractic Threat to Secular Freedom

Anthony McIntyre


13 December 2002


Giving Political Leadership
Liam O Ruairc


The Truth About Turkey
Mags Glennon


Belfast Socialists, Capitalism and War
Davy Carlin


Don't Join the RUC/PSNI

Sean Matthews


The Untouchables
Anthony McIntyre


Chaos Theory: Stickies and Stones Break Bones
Eamon Lynch




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