Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tom Carew sums up what "true friends" of the Arabs and of Israel each owe their side

For reasons that I don't pretend to understand, anti-Zionism has long been even more pervasive and intense in Ireland than in many other European countries. By "anti-Zionism", of course, I don't mean "intellectual disagreement with actual Zionism" or "criticism of Israeli policies", but systematic bias and hostility against Israel and Israelis, shading off into obsessive hatred and demonization.

Symptoms?  Well, just at random ...  The Republic of Ireland did not formally recognize Israel until 1963, refused to establish diplomatic relations until 1975, and did not send an ambassador to Israel until 1996.  In April 2013 the Teachers Union of Ireland voted to blacklist Israeli academics, and I believe it is now the only academic association in Europe that formally supports the world-wide campaign for an academic blacklist (usually referred to, misleadingly and dishonestly, as an "institutional boycott").  The tone of public discourse about Israel and the intertwined Arab-Israeli & Israeli-Palestinian conflicts is consistently and exceptionally one-sided in its hostility toward Israel.

And a few years ago there were these findings from a public opinion poll in Ireland:
The depth of anti-Israel and antisemitic feeling in Ireland has been revealed in a new study into pluralism in the country.

The report found that not only would one in five Irish people bar Israelis from becoming naturalised Irish citizens - but 11 per cent would stop all Jews taking up Irish citizenship.

The report, Pluralism and Diversity in Ireland, compiled by Father Micheál Mac Gréil, a Jesuit priest and sociologist, revealed that antisemitic sentiment was strongest in the 18 to 25 age range, with 46 per cent of the population claiming that they would not be willing to accept a Jewish person into their family.

The figure was higher than the "all ages" category, in which 40 per cent of Irish people said they would not want a Jew in their family. Only 48 per cent would accept an Israeli.

Collectively, Israelis had one of the lowest "favourable" ratings among Irish people, ranking 44th out of 51 categories including homosexuals, alcoholics and travellers.

[JW: "Travellers" are a marginalized ethno-cultural minority, originating in Ireland but now also found in Great Britain, whose wandering mode of life resembles that of traditional Gypsies.]

Fr Mac Gréil told the Irish Catholic newspaper: "There is a real danger that the public image of 'Israeli' can lead to an increase in antisemitism." [....]
As always, survey results like this have to be interpreted with caution. By all accounts, Irish Jews (there are a small number) generally feel quite comfortable and welcome in Irish society (though I suspect that expressing politically incorrect views about the Middle East can make their life less comfortable). There was even a Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin.

So it would appear that this pervasive and taken-for-granted anti-Zionist bias in Ireland doesn't necessarily translate into anti-semitism. Nevertheless, the depth and intensity of anti-Zionism in Ireland is indisputable. And the generational patterns do suggest that an atmosphere of  intense and obsessive anti-Zionism can help promote anti-semitism, in Ireland as elsewhere. That's a widespread and characteristic phenomenon in today's world.

=> There are exceptions, though the most prominent of them stand out precisely for swimming against the tide. The late Conor Cruise O'Brien was one. A present-day example is Tom Carew of Dublin, Chairman of the Ireland-Israel Friendship League, who is clearly not someone easily discouraged by a hostile environment.

Earlier today Carew shared the following thoughts as a series of Facebook posts ... which I (mostly) reproduce below, with his permission:
Why the increasing hostility to Israel in recent years in Europe ? I suspect there are 3 factors at work - not 1.

 {A} There is definitely a submerged but re-emerging Anti-semitism, now disguised as anti-zionism, as if every nation on earth were entitled to national sovereignty and self-determination in their own homeland - except the Hebrew People.

 {B} There is, obviously rampant in Ireland, but probably influential elsewhere, an uninformed, unthinking gut reaction which sees on TV an Arab teenager firing a stone at a huge IDF Merkava Mk 4 tank, and automatically jumps to the *conclusion* that *Strong is wrong* but never asks about Context or History. And similarly with shots of a slum-like *refugee camp* but with no explanation or awareness that they are inflicted by cynical Arab tyrants, or that far MORE Jews  (nearly 1m) have fled the Arab/Muslim world since 1947 than the (0.711m) Arabs who fled Israel in 1947-49 (most of whom moved elsewhere WITHIN Palestine).

 {C} There is also, since 1967, a growing suspicion that some Jews are ruthless colonialists intent on erecting their Settlements anywhere they choose in the Occupied Territories, and also intent on permanently dominating Arabs who live there as of RIGHT. And that for the past 35 years, since Begin became PM, that Settler Movement has become more and more powerful and unchallenged in Israeli politics . That perception is sadly all too well-founded, and indeed more so since the last Israeli election, and is the one morally legitimate ground for increasing hostility to the State of Israel.

The only true friends that Arabs have in Europe are those who tell them unambiguously and consistently that Israel exists as of right, will continue to thrive, and that either Boycott or direct aggression are both self-destructive for Arabs as well as morally indefensible, and that Recognition, Negotiation and Peace with their Jewish neighbor will unleash immense benefits for them also.

But equally the only true friends of Israel are those who tell them directly that Perception C above will not go away, is totally valid, and that their ABSOLUTE duty to secure their national security, whether against terrorist or state threats, does not demand or warrant either Annexing or Settling one inch of Arab land.

I was born into and grew up in an Ireland where the dangerous and inciting nonsense of the ballad *4 Green Fields* was uncritically sung - not least at closing time in bars. But in reality Ireland had only 3 Green Fields and 1 Orange Field, and not until the Belfast Agreement was that clearly recognized, and also enshrined in the amended Irish Constitution and also as a binding international treaty with UK. The future of Ulster is now entirely a matter for its own people to decide - free from force or from any threat of force, as they may choose. As part of a people who were slow learners for so long, I am now very conscious that any Arab who sings *12 Green Arab Fields* (about the former 12 Districts of British Palestine) or any Jew who sings *12 Blue Fields*, is as daft and as lethally dangerous - and equally inciting and facilitating endless war - as the Irish who thoughtlessly sang *12 Green Fields* for so long. The 10,000 Square Miles of Palestine belong to those now living there - not to the dead generations, be they Jew or Arab - and it is the RIGHT of EACH Nationality to enjoy their own sovereignty and national self-determination in THEIR OWN PART of that small land.

The Hamas line of *From the River Jordan to the Med Sea* is precisely as evil (and for the very same reason - of a focus only on land and not on the rights of living people) as the identical line when chanted by ultra-nationalist Jews. I fear and loathe each set of fanatics - both are the enemies of their own future as well as enemies of peace. [....]
Too true.

—Jeff Weintraub