Josef Olmert
Josef Olmert

Dublin City Council, The Palestinian flag, Ireland and the Jews

The Dublin City Council, the Capital City of the Irish Republic, will wave the Palestinian flag for a month as of 15 May, the day which the Palestinians refer to as their Nakba Day, the day which in real history books, not in fake ones, should be referred to as the day of the illegal Arab invasion to the newly-declared State of Israel. So, this council of a country which has full diplomatic relations with Israel, makes it known what they think about Israel’s very creation. In fairness, there is a legitimate question to be asked-why, on earth, do I care about what the Council of a Capital City of a not significant country in Europe has to say about our conflict with the Palestinians?. Well, I need to respond-I have a weakness to the Green Island, to Irish music, to Irish movies, to Irish history. I felt empathy to a people which fought British imperialism, the same imperialism which we fought against, though for only few years, whereas the Irish had it for centuries. So, Sympathy to Ireland seemed a natural feeling for me.

All the more so, when I became aware of the life story of three Irish people, who played a role in Jewish history.First, one of Israel’s more beloved presidents, Haim Herzog, whose father was the Eminent Chief Rabbi of Ireland, before becoming the Chief Rabbi of Israel. Another was Colonel John Henry Patterson, a former commander of the Zion Mule Corps, a battalion of Jewish volunteers, who fought on the side of Great Britain in the First World War, organized by the great leader and teacher Ze’ev Jabotinsky,as part of his effort to create a basis for a Jewish-Zionist diplomacy after the war.

Patterson remained loyal to Zionism and to Jabotinsky himself to the last day of his life. At a later stage in his career, in the 1930’s, he became friendly with and a partner of a great Irish Jew, Robert Briscoe, a member of Jewish immigrant family from Lithuania, who was an Irish nationalist leader, and as of 1927, a member of the Irish parliament. Briscoe fell to the charm of Jabotinsky, and alongside Patterson was involved in fund raising to the Irgun in the US, on behalf of Jabotinsky. In 1956, Briscoe became the Lord Mayor of Dublin. Let me reassure you, my dear readers, that under him, no City Council in Dublin, would have waved the Palestinian flag. With people like Patterson and Briscoe, how could I not be so pro-Irish?. So much so, that I glossed over the significance of an ugly event in modern Irish history.

That was the Limerick Pogrom in 1904. 150 Jews only lived in this Irish town in the turn of the century, but this was enough to arouse a blood libel, boycott of Jewish businesses and physical attack on them, which led to material damage, injuries but not fatalities. No doubt a result of incitement which had economic roots, as Limerick was a poor, wretched city at that time, and some Jews seemed to be successful, but beyond that, it reflected long-standing Catholic anti-Semitism encouraged by the Irish Church. Still, growing after the Holocaust, this bad event seemed like a minute episode for me, not one which changed my overall fascination with Ireland.

But changes started to occur , and they had to do with what happened in Ireland . As of the late 1960’s, Irish Republican Nationalists from the terroristic IRA and other similar groups , started a violent campaign to reunite Ulster with the Republic of Ireland, and in the process, they allied themselves with Palestinian terrorism and justified it on the basis of the joint struggle against ”imperialism”, equating their cause as the indigenous people of the Island with that of the PLO. Little did they care about who really are the original people of Eretz Israel, but the alliance was created and training bases run by Syria and the PLO were established in Lebanon to serve the Irish terrorists. The IRA narrative became an Irish narrative in the Republic and as of the 1970’s, dominated the Irish discourse about Israel. It was in this context, that I had my own personal encounter with the changing winds in Ireland. In 1988 I was asked to go to Dublin to discuss Israeli-Irish issues with high-level government and military officials. A cultural shock , no less than that, as after 2-3 glasses of scotch , some of my counterparts started an ugly anti-Semitic tirade , mainly focusing on the ”great” influence of the Irish Jewish community-at that time 1500 Jews only…

Ireland is not really important to Israel-and clearly we can do without them, and yet, there is a bad feeling as we watch the drift of this country into the abyss of anti Israel, pro BDS policies. My readers already know[I hope], that I am the ultimate Zionist , and Zionists are inherently optimistic people. So, here are some good news-Ryan Air, the Low-cost Irish airline started to fly to Israel, and a year ago, Colonel Patterson’s last wish was finally respected, and he was buried in independent Israel, the country which he loved so much and dreamed about its independence. The good Irish , as opposed to the haters of the Dublin City Council. Not all is bad in the green island .

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina