Stereotypes of Jews & Women Benefit No One and Damage Pro-Israel Advocacy
by Jacqueline Mulhern
Heard any good Irish jokes lately? How about the one where an Irish journalist writes a column insulting Jews and women, then issues an apology insulting Jews and women?If only it were a joke. Unfortunately, it’s true. In July, Kevin Myers wrote a column for the Sunday Times Ireland entitled “Sorry Ladies, Equal Pay Has To Be Earned…” Not only did Myers deny that women sometimes earn less for doing the same work as men, but he also summoned stereotypes about Jews and money. This rant claimed that Vanessa Feltz and Claudia Winkelman got their high salaries due to a Jewish bloodline talent for money.
The Sunday Times Ireland, an Irish edition of the Sunday Times UK. pulled the article from their website and fired Myers less than two days after it was published. Myers then appeared on the Irish state network RTE to issue an apology. However, he reiterated his claim that Jews make good money because they are Jews and that Jews are gifted and talented just because they are Jewish. He strongly denied any anti-Semitic intent, but his philosemitism sadly fell into tired, Jewish stereotypes. He remained stubborn on the pay gap issue.
Once Myers issued an apology, the controversy should have been over, but it gained momentum both in social media and traditional media outlets. It felt like a car crash: something not to be encouraged but also something impossible to ignore. Left-wing, anti-Israel pundits generally agreed that Myers should have lost his job a long time ago. Oddly, right-wing “pro-Israel” types went on the warpath to defend their boy. Kevin Myers is not anti-Semitic, his supporters say, he is one of the few pro-Israel journalists in the Irish Republic, he should be coddled like an etrog during Sukkot and get his job back. He’s pro-Israel, they screamed, you can’t oppose him. Vanessa Feltz, who condemned Myers, doesn’t get it. There is no problem with women, there is no anti-Semitism in Ireland–everybody go back to sleep.
While physical persecution of Jews is rare in Ireland, attacks on the state of Israel are not. Vincent Browne, host of his own political chatfest on Ireland’s tv3, called Israel “the cancer in foreign affairs” a few years ago but he didn’t lose his job following many complaints to his employer and to the industry regulator Broadcast Authority of Ireland. Was Myers treated unfairly because he is right-wing in a largely left-wing industry? His fans say yes, blaming his editors and a so-called “twitter mob” for his career demise. For the sake of promoting a “pro-Israel” journalist who is a “long-time friend” of Ireland’s Jewish community, his fans are willing to ignore his ugly views on women and minorities. That is a huge mistake.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East that guarantees freedom for all religious and ethnic groups regardless of sexual orientation. Unlike Ireland, where same-sex marriage is legal in the Republic (but not in Northern Ireland), Israel does not have same-sex marriage†. However, Israel is the only country in the region with a Pride Week in several cities and an active feminist movement. Giving Myers or anyone else in the pro-Israel camp a free pass to denigrate women and minorities is not only morally wrong, it also undermines the status of Israel as the Middle East’s only democracy. No “pro-Israel” man or woman has been able to explain the contradiction of supporting Israel and attacking Jewish women because they are Jewish women.
It is possible for the Myers fanbase to applaud his past support of Israel and condemn his attacks on women and minorities. That they have chosen to ignore the obvious failings of his work has caused a major blow to Israel advocacy. Freedom for one oppressed group cannot come at the expense of other oppressed groups. Anyone who doesn’t understand that isn’t ready to be an advocate for Israel.
- Kevin Myers, the Nature of Anti-Semitism and the Media’s schadenfreude, Rob Harris, Crethi Plethi, 17 August 2017
† Editors Note: In line with other states that have inherited the Ottoman millet or confessional community system Israeli marriages can be performed only under the auspices of the religious community to which couples belong, and no religious intermarriages can be performed legally in Israel. As none of the recognised religions accept same-sex marriage it can not be performed legally.
There is, however, a very useful escape clause. Civil, interfaith and same-sex marriages entered into abroad are recognised by the state. Couples who either want to avoid a religious wedding or who are forbidden it, can marry overseas and return. Cyprus, being close, was traditionally the preferred location.