14 January 2013
The year in review 2012 Part 2
by Jacqueline Mulhern (twitter handle @JacqMulhern)
For Part 1 read: Israel Haters in Ireland 2012
While the Irish Republic’s government remains one of Israel’s harshest critics in the European Union, there are Irish citizens who support the State of Israel. Most of these supporters are not Jewish, but they believe it is important to object to the anti-Israel bias that exists in certain quarters.
In the last year, there was a seismic change in Ireland regarding the public discourse on Israel. Due to the work of these pro-Israel activists, it has now become acceptable to speak in support of Israel. They volunteer their time to attend rallies, to ask pointed questions at anti-Israel lectures, and to complain to the Irish media in specific cases of hateful speech. As a result, a more balanced perspective was introduced during coverage of the November war between Hamas and Israel. In addition, several articles criticizing anti-Israel activity were published.
Israel’s Embassy in Dublin took a more pro-active approach to advocacy in 2012 than in previous years. Ambassador Boaz Modai, his wife Nurit Tinari Modai, and the embassy’s staff gave interviews and saw their letters published in Irish newspapers. While some Irish consider the embassy’s partisan approach to be outside the remit of a diplomatic mission, critics have been unable to ignore the strength of the embassy’s pro-Israel arguments.
Last year’s events include:
- Artist Nicky Larkin‘s documentary 40 Shades of Grey premiered and received wide comment in Ireland for its presentation of divergent and conflicting opinions on the Israel-Palestinian conflict in a way rarely seen in mainstream media.
- In May, a petition was circulated to express opposition to Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gimore’s proposed ban of Israeli settlement goods in the European Union. More than 3,000 signatures were collected on-line, providing a forum for Israel’s supporters in Ireland who were sometimes afraid to express their opinions publicly for fear of a backlash.
- In June, activists held a counter-protest in Cork to express their distaste for the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions movement. A small group of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) stood outside a supermarket to pressure retailers not to sell Israeli goods, and Israeli settlement produce in particular. In response, the counter-BDS group went inside various supermarkets, bought Israeli goods and thanked the managers for their support of Israel. According to an Irish4Israel spokesman, who was present, “We had a very positive reaction from store managers who appreciated our support.” These so-called “BUYcott” (as opposed to “boycott”) activists also advertised various Israeli cosmetic and electronics goods available in Ireland.
- The Facebook groups Irish4Israel and Israel in Ireland more than doubled the number of their supporters. Irish4Israel is a group of private citizens who encourage stronger ties between Israel and Ireland. Israel in Ireland is the page of the Israeli Embassy in Dublin.
- The Israeli Embassy in Dublin held several events to promote cultural ties between the two countries, including an architectural exhibit of Tel Aviv. Irish Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn spoke and officially opened the free event to the public.
- Israel supporters who had become acquainted on Facebook, met for the first time face-to-face in October in Dublin to network.
- In November, a rally was held in the centre of Dublin at the historic General Post Office on O’Connell Street. Approximately 150 Israel supporters turned up in the winter rain, waved the Israeli flag and listened to Labour Party counselor Richard Humphreys. The politician said that “This is a day when we stand in solidarity, friendship and dialogue with Israel…Israel’s right to exist must be acknowledged, as the only Jewish state in the world and the only liberal secular democracy in the Middle East,” he added. While these words would not be unusual in London or New York, to say this in Dublin, is huge.
- Trinity College’s Theological Society hosted two speakers from Israel. Journalist Yoav Limor and Israeli diplomat Ishmael Khaldi gave students a new insight into Middle Eastern affairs. In particular, Khaldi was a surprise to audience members who did not know that Israel’s Foreign Ministry employed a Bedouin Muslim.
- Sean Foley, former owner of Foley’s Bar in Dublin, put an Israeli flag on the front of the building. When he received complaints and threats to remove the flag, he refused to be intimidated, and he received numerous emails and compliments from the public in support of his decision.
- Media support in favour of Israel included: “Hamas – The Real IRA with an arsenal and a mandate to destroy” by Gerry Gregg in the Irish Herald, 21 November and Mark Dooley’s “Trocaire and its Outrageous Propaganda” in the Irish Mail, 24 October. Both articles chided Israel haters who hold the country to a higher standard of behaviour than its neighbours while ignoring attacks on Israel.
- Many letters, emails and Facebook messages were sent to Member of European Parliament Emer Costello for her advocacy of an Israeli boycott, in contravention of the ACAA trade agreement between the EU and Israel. As a result, Costello, who travelled on the Irish Ship to Gaza in 2010, moderated her public criticisms.
- Complaints were lodged against broadcaster Vincent Browne for his 23 October remarks that “Israel is the cancer in foreign affairs” among other attacks. He was forced to clarify his statements on a 25 October broadcast, although he refused to apologise.
- In December, Irish actor Rory Cowan was asked to appear on the Joe Duffy RTE radio show to explain why, as a Christian and an artist, he would support Israel. Cowan appears in the popular Irish comedy show Mrs. Brown’s Boys. An activist from Irish4Israel also spoke on the broadcast. Their views were challenged by Dr. Raymond Deane, head of the IPSC. However, Deane’s attack on Israel fell flat. Deane stated that all artists whose work appears in Israel should be boycotted, not only artistic works that originate in the Jewish state. Listeners commented on social media that the broadcast of an Irish comedy show, seen by an audience of one million in the Republic, is an unlikely obstacle to peace in the Middle East.
- Irish bloggers such as Mark Humphreys, John Connolly and Rob Harris covered these events during the year.
For any other cases of Israel advocacy in Ireland, please include them in the comments section at the bottom of this page.