Irish Antisemitism and BDS

The unspoken morality complex

Written by Lay of the Land UK correspondent

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“.

Promoting Pogrom from the Pulpit. On the evening of 11 January 1904, Father John Creagh (above) took to the pulpit during mass at the Redemptorist church in Limerick and delivered a virulent antisemitic diatribe which gave rise to a pogrom and inaugurated a two-year economic boycott of the Limerick Jewish community. This boycott compelled most Jews to leave the city.

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.

Lies and Loss in Limerick. In April 1970, Gerald Goldberg, whose family lived in Limerick in 1904  (see above), characterized it as a “near genocide perpetrated … against some 150 defenceless Jewish men, women and children”.

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.

One and Only. Mary Elmes, the Irish woman who saved Jewish children from Nazi extermination camps is the 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.

Ingrained Hate. “Suspend Israel…sanctions now” read the banners held up by these protesters at a rally called by the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) in May 2018 (Photo credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire)

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.

Who’s Calling Who Awful. Academic boycott conference in Ireland rejects anti-BDS speaker but includes prominent BDS’s Steven Salaita, who called Israel supporters “awful human beings”.  Three researchers wishing to present opposing point of view were rejected from participating.

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.

Music to their Ears. Anyway to drown out Israel, Irish celebrities and public figures gathered at Dublin’s iconic Ha’penny Bridge to launch the Irish ‘Call to Boycott Eurovision 2019 in Israel’.

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.

For the Irish – Hardly ‘Novel’. Irish bestselling author and BDS supporter Sally Rooney won’t allow latest novel to be published in Hebrew by an Israeli press because she supports a cultural boycott of Israel. In 2018, Dublin’s city council passed resolutions endorsing a boycott of Israel and calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to Ireland.  (Photo by Erik Voake/Getty Images for Hulu)

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.

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