The unspoken morality complex
By Fionn Grunspan
Ireland’s antisemitism is growing in public notoriety, from the attempted passage of a BDS law to author Sally Rooney boycotting the Hebrew language. Ireland has always been extremely divided towards Jews, with two thoughts, two minds and two hearts; but one grows stronger.
Modern Irish antisemitism began with The Limerick Pogrom, also known as The Limerick Boycott (1904-1906), when the local Jewish community was subjected to local boycotts and violent attacks, forcing local Jews to flee Limerick. The Limerick Pogrom would prove pivotal as Jews were denounced as a ‘disgrace’ to Ireland’s identity and morality as sermonised by local leader and pogrom leader Father John Creagh. A spreader of antisemitic conspiracy theories, including that of ritual murder, he said that the Jews had come to Limerick:
“to fasten themselves on us like leeches and to draw our blood“.
The belief that Jewish people and culture remain a stain on Irish identity and morality, remain pervasive with modern Irish antisemites. Pro-Nazi elements, within Irish society rose to prominence, with Oliver J Flanagan in his maiden speech on becoming a member of the Dáil (Irish Parliament) in 1943 stating:
“rout the Jews out of this country… where the bees are there is honey, and where the Jews are there is money.”
Flanagan, would go on to become a government Minster for Agriculture in 1954, and rose to Minster of Defence in 1976. Antisemitism, would continue to build within Ireland as the legacy of Irish indifference to the suffering of Jews even grew following WWII and the horrors of the Holocaust.
Those in Ireland who had wished to resist the Nazis would quietly without any fanfare travel abroad to enlist such as Marie Elmes, an Irish aid worker who saved the lives of at least 200 Jewish children during the Holocaust, by hiding them in the boot of her car. At great risk to herself and even imprisoned by the Gestapo for six moth on suspicion of aiding Jews, in 2015, she became the first and only Irish person honoured as Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel.
For the over 5000 Irish Soldiers serving the Irish Military Forces during WWII, their circumstances were such that they enlisted in secret and on returning home were treated as outcasts – formally stripped of their previous ranks and medals.
Irish antisemitism would rapidly worsen, turning from largely extreme ‘cold indifference’ with bouts of violence to open antisemitic hostility in the form of Israelophobia. As Ireland during the 1950s and 1960s became consumed by the ethnic conflict in Northern Ireland, southern or the Republic of Ireland looked for allies, finding it with antisemitic regimes.
It should therefore come as little surprise that the Iranian regime – that supports the destruction of Israel and sponsors terror groups that calls for the destruction of Jews – also proved to be a strong supporter and close ally to Ireland.
Irish antisemitism increased throughout the decades, culminating in other formative moments in the 2000s, with the disseminating of antisemitic literature and the support of the rising BDS movement. In 2006, a local scandal erupted within Ireland of the selling of the notorious antisemitic libel of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Tesco supermarkets, which were only removed after the denouncement by local Muslim Clerics and Imams. This began an intense discussion on Israel coupled with finding traction with the antisemitic philosophy of the BDS movement.
Founded in 2005, the BDS movement calling for the boycott and destruction of Israel as outlined by its cofounder Omar Barghouti – “Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, would ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine” -gained rapid popularity throughout Ireland in the late 2000s and early 2010s, spreading rapidly throughout Irish academia, the political establishment, and civil society. Ireland in direct contravention of its EU Membership, continues to try and pass a law called “The Occupied Territories Bill” to ban products; made in Jewish areas in the contested areas of East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria / West Bank. The Law is being championed by nationalistic religious and ethnic elements alike.
Irish author Sally Rooney, boycotts the Hebrew language by refusing to have her book published in Hebrew, citing the need to support BDS:
“The Hebrew-language translation rights to my new novel are still available, and if I can find a way to sell these rights that is compliant with the BDS movement’s institutional boycott guidelines, I will be very pleased and proud to do so”.
Rooney’s actions are a recurring antisemitic legacy within Ireland.
The unspoken Irish morality complex of boycotting Jews – from the early twentieth century of its own citizens to the present of proposing to boycott Jews today in Israel – will continue to pervade Irish society until it is fully challenged.
Ireland today is repeating its age-old habit of boycotting Jews to self-promote its sense of misguided morality where Jews are seen as immoral. They fail to acknowledge their own immorality.
A long time coming, Ireland needs to finally address its years of antisemitism and repair its relations with its small and beleaguered Irish-Jewish community.
About the writer:
Fionn Grunspan is a sign language translator previously working for a number of charities. Since being a community teacher and activist within his Jewish community from his mid-twenties, Grunspan today, through his “Clubhouse Page”, promotes news and information about the Jewish world, focusing on Israel. For reasons of personal safety and security, the writer declined to have his photograph appear.
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