Recent Incidents Draw Renewed Attention to Ireland’s Pervasive Antisemitism Problem
A number of recent incidents have brought renewed attention to the troubling pervasiveness of antisemitism in Ireland, where Jew-hatred has permeated the center of society.
Earlier this month, Catherine Connolly — the independent deputy speaker of the lower house (Dáil Éireann) of the Irish legislature (Oireachtas) — used the term “Jewish supremacy” in reference to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, drawing condemnation from leaders of Ireland’s long-established Jewish community, which numbers in the several thousands.
This followed a disturbing incident last year in which Sinn Fein TD Réada Cronin called Israeli diplomats “monkeys” and claimed Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was a “pawn” of Jewish banks.
Also this month, Irish author Sally Rooney set off a firestorm when she announced she would not allow her latest novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You?, to be published in Hebrew due to her support of a cultural boycott of Israel.
“Rooney’s action ironically helped to spotlight the anti-Israel, and antisemitic extremism which has made Ireland an outlier in the developed world,” Jackie Goodall — executive director of the Ireland Israel Alliance (IIA) — commented.
“It is not antisemitic to criticize Israel, it is perfectly legitimate to criticize Israeli government policy,” Goodall noted. “Just as we Irish criticize our government daily, Israelis spend an inordinate amount of time criticizing their own government policy. What is antisemitic is to attempt to deny the right of the Jewish people to live collectively, securely, and at peace in their ancient homeland with the same rights as all persons who live in a democratic nation expect.”
Meanwhile, digital evidence was uncovered linking Matthew Bruton — son of former Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) John Bruton — to a far-right antisemitic hate group known as “SSPX Resistance.”
Jew-hatred has also reared its head this year in neighboring Northern Ireland, with the vandalization of ten Jewish graves in Belfast in April and antisemitic graffiti spray-painted on a Jewish-owned business in Derry in May.
A new 200-page report authored by British researcher David Collier details the extent of Ireland’s antisemitism problem. Among its findings are:
– In Ireland, anti-Jewish racism spreads within the corridors of power and, unlike in the UK or U.S., appears to be as much driven from the top down as the reverse.
– Some Irish politicians are obsessed about attacking Israel and Zionism, treating it in a manner different from the way they treat all other international issues.
– The argument that allegations of antisemitism are about stifling “criticism of Israel” is used to shield some of the most horrific anti-Jewish racism imaginable.
– Antisemitism is a key motivator in anti-Zionist activity. The people who share antisemitic ideology are often those handing out leaflets, organizing the protest and starting groups in their local areas.
– Traditional Christian antisemitism plays a significant role in compounding the problem in Ireland and Christian NGOs facilitate the spread of antisemitism there.
– In anti-Zionism, far-right and far-left merge.
Collier’s report urged Ireland to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism and “ensure that the message is carried through to every political and educational institution.”
This call for the adoption of the IHRA definition was echoed by Jewish Representative Council of Ireland Chair Maurice Cohen, and is also the goal of an advocacy campaign launched by the Union of Jewish Students of the United Kingdom and Ireland (UJS).
In a speech at the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism in mid-October, Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin highlighted a proposed Hate Crime Bill that would make “denying, or grossly trivializing, crimes of genocide, including Holocaust denial” a criminal offense, although he did not mention the IHRA definition.
“Ireland is absolutely committed to Holocaust remembrance, and to fighting the scourge of antisemitism and racism,” Martin said. “It is only through remembrance and education, that we can strive to ensure that nothing like the Holocaust can ever be allowed to happen again.”
In June, the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) hosted a webinar with Goodall, the head of the IIA. She discussed the challenges facing the Jewish and pro-Israel communities in Ireland, including biased media coverage of the Middle East conflict, and shared her insights on how to effectively fight antisemitism and advocate for Israel.
The webinar can be viewed in full below: