Political antisemitism in Ireland has sunk to ever greater depths

Ambassador Kariv is greeted by a guard of honour on his arrival in Ireland (via Jewish News)
Ambassador Kariv is greeted by a guard of honour on his arrival in Ireland (via Jewish News)

As British Jews rallied against terrorism in London this weekend, standing up against the frightening increase in antisemitic attacks, it was a very different scene just across the Irish Sea.

Dozens of major demonstrations were held in the Republic demanding an end to the Jewish state. In Dublin, thousands of protestors massed across the city in a march stretching 2.3 kilometres, converging on the Israeli embassy where crowds chanted: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Crowds were addressed by a broad spectrum of Irish parliamentarians, including Boyd Barret, a vocal socialist critic of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, who again repeated the falsehood that Israel practices South African apartheid without challenge.

Leaders at the protests demanded the reintroduction of a BDS bill which passed the previous Dáil, but that the Taoiseach Micheál Martin insists is illegal under EU law. But that has not stopped demands from Irish politicians for ever more vicious attacks on the rights of Jews to live peacefully in Israel.

Not content with trying to legislate BDS, a new motion to expel the Israeli ambassador from Ireland is expected to be voted on this week in the Dáil.

Despite the move being littered with falsehoods and Hamas talking points, the resolution has cross-party support in the Irish parliament, not just from the socialist fringe but from the Greens, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. While the Irish foreign ministry has rejected the move, anti-Israel activists are aggressively lobbying TD’s, and the coalition government of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens may allow for a free vote on expelling the Israeli ambassador to Dublin.

Ambassador Ophir Kariv was forcefully condemned for even being interviewed on the national broadcaster RTÉ during the recent Hamas attacks on Israel. Kariv’s impassioned pleas for peace and coexistence have fallen on deaf ears among the Irish political establishment. While in London, alliances of anti-racists, pro-peace supporters and ordinary Jewish people can take to the streets to defend the right of the Jewish people to live in the face of so much hate, in Ireland, there are few people left who can bravely wave an Israeli flag.

The Irish Jewish community has always been dwarfed by the UK, but these days it’s dwindled to less than 3,000 people in a population of over 5 million, mostly concentrated in Dublin. Yet the Jewish presence in Ireland has actually increased by as much as 30% in recent years thanks to the influx of Israelis who have come to work in the tech capital of Europe.

Many global companies have their head offices in the Republic of Ireland, from Facebook to Google, Apple to Amazon. This tech backbone has repeatedly saved Ireland from economic collapse. Hebrew speakers are in great demand all across Ireland, as head offices need to communicate with their R&D offices and supply chains in that other tech capital of the world: Israel.

The irony is spotted by few. Despite the shared heritage of the Irish republican and Zionist movement’s anti-colonial struggles against British imperialism, Ireland has a long and staggering history of ingrained antisemitism. From the outsized role of the Catholic Church in past decades to downright ignorance about Israel and Jewish people, there are few places left in Ireland for balanced discussion or promoting peace. According to Jewish filmmaker Tuvia Tenenbom, antisemitism in Ireland “is all over, it is frightening … I have never encountered it before. There is no argument, it is just considered a fact of life.”

Naturally young Jewish people born in Ireland struggle to see a future in the country, and are often pushed towards Israel because of the antisemitism they experienced. It’s a familiar story for young Jews across the British Isles.

Instead of caring about lives in the Middle East or promoting models of peace building and community dialogue found in Northern Ireland, the Republic is gravitating towards support for terrorism and targeting civilians as a legitimate means to achieve a political end. It’s somewhat unsurprising given the resurgence of Sinn Féin, the IRA’s political wing, as a major force in Irish politics. In 2020, the party scored an electoral breakthrough, garnering the most first preference votes and emerging as the second largest party in the Dáil, just one seat behind Fianna Fáil.

The IRA have a long and often proud history of deep, symbiotic links with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. Former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams met and praised Hamas. Throughout the Irish and Palestinian terror campaigns of the 70s, 80s and 90s, these organisations swapped men, money and know-how to kill not only British and Israeli soldiers, but ordinary men, women and children in the UK and Israel.

Since Sinn Féin have been in the national spotlight, their parliamentarians have posted messages saying that Israel had taken “Nazism to a new level” and retweeted a post saying that Hitler was a pawn of a Rothschild-owned bank, remarks dismissed as “off the cuff.” In Northern Ireland, the party continues to block adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, while in Europe, Irish left wing MEPs attack Jewish student movements in their push for European-wide BDS. It’s a strange state of affairs when the only thing stopping the Taoiseach from implementing nationwide BDS is the European Union.

In Ireland, we can see a new model for political antisemitism gaining ground. Happy to rely on Israeli technology, investment and tech, politicians roundly attack Israel’s right to defend itself or even exist. Governing parties are so offended by the mere sight of the Israeli ambassador on a TV interview they threaten expulsion. While in Britain, the United States and certain places in Europe, people are still able and willing to take to the streets to point out this hypocrisy, but on the streets of Dublin, there’s no one left to do so.


About the Author
Nick Henderson-Mayo is a former Scottish political activist who left Labour under Corbyn, and then the UK because of antisemitism. He now lives in Jerusalem with his husband.
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