Israel: Criticism is NOT Anti-Semitism


You dont have to travel far in Norn Iron to see that Nationalist-Republicans and Unionist-Loyalists take very different views on the Israel-Palestine Conflict.

Are we taking sides as a kinda knee jerk reaction? Nationalists support Glasgow Celtic…and Palestine. Unionists support Glasgow Rangers …and Israel. It has become fashionable to deplore this. But there is a logic to this. And rather more logic on the Nationalist side than Unionist side. LetsGetALongerists wont like me saying that. In their world, everything is 50-50.

The History of Celtic is a better and more noble one than the more nakedly sectarian History of Rangers. Republicanism is a better philosophy than Monarchy. Nationalism is a better philosophy than Imperialism. In making a case for “Ireland” Republicans-Nationalists should not shy away from that simple truth.

And there is a logic to Republican-Nationalist support for Palestine. A look at a map of Israel today, compared to a map of Israel in 1948 shows a history of expansion. And that will be familiar to the Irish….the expanding nature of British rule from the Dublin Pale and the Ulster Plantation to dominate Ireland. The unequal treatment of “natives” within a jurisdiction and the whole Bible-spouting genocidal tendencies of (say) Oliver Cromwell and it would seem modern Israelis.

Are those of us who live in the post-Enlightenment world not entitled to reject all that. 

It would be unfair to dismiss all unionists as living in a pre-Enlightenment world. There are two distinct strands of unionism….the logically conservative (secular) and the not so logical conservative (religious).

A secular unionist might well raise an eyebrow at a covenant between GOD and a race of people. It determines land and nationhood and rights over others. Its a nice little arrangement for the Israelis. GOD is on their side might not be an argument that secular Israelis and secular unionists actually believe. But they all believe in strengthening Israels position as the dominant force in the Middle East…and if the whole GOD thing assists the process then they will happily side with zealots.

The “religious” unionist will certainly buy into the whole Covenant thing. Unionists opposing Home Rule in 1912 signed a solemn Covenant.They love the “word”. They love the “idea”. They proclaim themselves as the lost tribe of Israel. GOD led them across the Irish Sea…in much the same way that He led the ancient Israelites across the Red Sea.

And of course there are parallels in USA. GOD led the Pilgrim Fathers across the Atlantic Ocean. GOD led them on a Manifest Destiny….which involved slavery and genocide.

Look at Ireland 1600. Look at United States 1783. Look at Israel 1948.

Secular and Religious Israelis have a common interest in the security of Israel. Secular and Religious Unionists have a common interest in the security of Norn Iron. Intelligent, modern people who really should know better should be embarassed by the connexion. But they are not.

So while we all say prayers for Peace in Gaza, the default position of Nationalists is to support Palestine and the default position of Unionists is to support Israel. But where does that leave the third Northern Tribe…the LetsGetAlongerists.

Well…lets be clear. LetsGetAlongerism is a coalition. Let me first pay tribute to a rank and file member of (I believe) the Alliance Party, who has been a consistent and strident critic of Israeli policy. Some months ago, he was arrested and detained in Israel. Yet he seems very untypical of the Alliance Party…who seem a tad embarrassed. The Alliance Party do not do Civil Rights. Members may be “progressive” but the Leadership wont identify with anything other than the blandest of hand-wringing.

Liberal Unionists….well they wont say or do much. They are not Liberals who profess to be unionist. They are Unionists who profess to be “liberal”. A component part of LetsGetAlongerism but…as useless now as they were in the 1960s.

But what about the “churchy” LetsGetAlongerists. Operating out of Schools of Theology and all those cross-community groups…all those “nice” Presbyterian ministers on the liberal sîde of that Church. …peace partnerships in North Belfast, South Belfast.

Certainly the “maverick” Catholic priests (alluded to by Professor John Brewer in a lecture last year at St Oliver Plunketts)…those priests at Clonard or Holy Cross CAN deliver the broader Catholic community. In at least two Catholic churches, there are relief committees formed.

So why are those “nice” Presbyterians shy of speaking up for Gaza. Three reasons…Politics, Religion and Hypocrisy.

Politics…where were the nice Presbyterians in the 1960s. Did they march for Civil Rights for Catholics. No … But they were active in Peace Groups in the 1970s. But shied away from difficult questions about Peace.

Religion…ah that whole Covenant thing. They see themselves as inheriting that special relationship with GOD. 

Hypocrisy…..the mentality that does not notice Orange bonfires until they notice that all those tyres an enviromental problem. And that Alliance Party posters start appearing on the bonfires.

The default position of LetsGetAlongerists is that everything is 50-50. They simply cannot bring themselves to see that this is simply not the case in Gaza.

Since “Slugger O’Toole” recently changed design, I cannot sign in to comment there.

Barton Creeth is the most decent person in the Norn Iron Blogging Community. His obvious decency endears him to all. Being an American guy,who has chosen to live and work among us …is something from which we all benefit.

But Barton in a Slugger article asks “why are (we) the Left so nonchalent about anti-Semitism?”

I simply think its not true. Anti-Semitism is a very real thing. Six million people died because of anti-semitism …just a decade before I was born. Europeans are sensitive to anything that looks anti-semitic and Israel is deft at playing the defamation card.

Earlier this week ITV screened a documentary on Hatton Garden, centre of the London jewellery market……the goldsmiths and the silversmiths and the pawnbrokers. The family businesses are Jewish-run. The portrait was sympathetic and light-hearted but it struck me that there were enough stereotypes and clichés to agitate the most avid anti-Semite viewer. 

Has Anti-Semitism played a part in criticising Israel. But I suggest that a person does not have to be anti-semitic to oppose killing innocent civilians on the Gaza Strip.

The Left is anti-semitic? Two words ….Karl Marx.

Two more words. ..Ed Miliband.

For yes…the current British Labour Leader and potentially the next British Prime Minister is Jewish. His “heritage” thT his father escaped Nazi Germany in 1938, has already been noted …with a certain degree of innuendo in the British media….the RIGHT WING Media.

Barton Creeth does not seem to have noticed the newly discovered fondness of right wing nut jobs for Israel. Some have a history of anti-semitism, even expressing fealty to Adolf Hitler. Seemingly Islamophobia trumps anti-Semitism.

European Socialism owes too much to European Jewry to be anti-semite. And American Socialism….well part of the reason that it never got off the ground was the way that bosses and right wing politicians played the anti-semite card. As I type this…how on earth are a group of contributors on Fux News expressing disbelief at Israeli restraint in Gaza?

Barton is probably aware that Jews make up less than 0.5% of the population of Ireland. But in the 1990s when the Dail had about 155 members…three were Jewish. This is a remarkable statistic. Even more remarkable that Ben Briscoe represented Fianna Fail, Mervyn Taylor represented Labour and Alan Shatter represented Fine Gael.

We should celebrate two things. The maturity of the Irish electorate and the commitment to public service from a small ethnic group.

Indeed Alan Shatter is still in the Dail. Earlier this year he resigned as Minister for Justice. It is widely believed that he abused his position. There was much online criticism. Was there a hint of anti-semitism? Yes there was.

But somehow I suspect online criticism was just a little muted for the same reason. Nobody wants the anti-semitic label.

But can we please be frank. In War there is no Nuance. Britain sought to defeat “Germany” but after the War, the emphasis was on “Nazi Germany”.

There are a lot of fault lines running thru Europe. When “The West” clearly backed the break up of Yugoslavia, there was more than a hint of anti-Slav, anti-Orthodox even bias. But can that disguise the fact that most logical people have labelled Serbia as the aggressor and thinks that Serbia bears the greater guilt for war crimes during that War.

Does historic anti-Russian sentiment….or even anti-Orthodox sentiment lie behind “The West” backing the Ukrainian Government against Vladimir Putin?

I despise Putin. I think he is a nasty piece of work. It is not a view formed out of anti-Russian or anti-Orthodox feeling.

Rather like it is ok to dislike “Nazi Germany” for their genocidal tendencies, it should be ok to dislike “Likud Israel” for much the same reason.

The default position of LetsGetAlongerists to pursue a belief that everybody is always 50% right and 50% wrong is of course understandable but trying to play the anti-Semite card, in Gaza, is stretching things too far.


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7 Responses to Israel: Criticism is NOT Anti-Semitism

  1. farset falsetto says:

    Well written essay. But I think there’s one aspect to anti-Semitism on the left that neither you or Barton Creeth touched upon. The knuckle dragger who broke the windies up the Somerton Road is (we can assume) upset about Gaza and the state of Israel in general. In their naive/ malicious minds they see no clear distinction between Judaism or Israelis. That’s reprehensible. What have Jews in Paris, Berlin or Belfast got to do with Israel, a country they may very well be hostile to? But there’s a real problem here that is going to be a bastard to address. Americans as a whole are staunchly Zionist. It’s one of the many dodgy ideologies that the Shermans can’t be easily weaned off. Unfortunately most Jews in the world live in America, and unsurprisingly they adhere to this creed just as enthusiastically as the gentiles. This very fact has made it hard to root out anti-Semitism in the left when most of the world’s prominent Jews are Americans and strong supporters of Israel. That’s no excuse for it though and the left need to be countering this by promoting the many Jews who aren’t Zionist. Alexei Sayle hasn’t held any punches this last week, you can have him for starters.

    • Its true that no American President can really criticise Israel.
      But I think thats as much to do with the Military Lobby, the Media (right wing) and the Christian Right as it is to do with a Jewish Lobby.
      The real strength of pro-Israel sentiment is not in New York which is Democrat….it is in Texas and such places.

  2. farset falsetto says:

    Well it’s a pity that the current US president who is on his last term and has a bit of leeway to switch things up is just as beholden to the Israeli lobby as any other member of the democrats. I’m not sure about the military lobby. I certainly don’t expect those shower of hoors to have any morals but I would expect at least some of them to realise that uzis, citrus fruit & the (Israeli built) computer components for the world’s supply of PC’s do not necessarily make for a sound investment when considering the amount of cash & political/ security capital they spend on Israel every year. I’m glad you brought up the US Media as being right wing as so many Americans seem to be deluded into thinking it has a ‘liberal agenda’, this is despite the fact that the Dems get just as much airtime as the GOP, and the Democrats are about as left wing as the lovechild of Tony Blair & Maggie Thatcher. I have to say I’ve never understood the whole evangelical Christian attachment to Zionism. Surely the basic Christian morals of, well- practising good morals- means that a few passages of the Old Testament can’t really override present day behaviour that is contrary to the general spirit of Christian niceness. I’m no bible thumper so the Christian right can correct me if I’m wrong but surely chopping down olive trees and bulldozing ‘unrecognised villages’ isn’t really what God had in mind when he told Moses to write down the ten commandments. As for the idea that Jews in the Holyland is a prerequisite for the second coming, whence they can be cast into eternal hell once their role has been performed. Well, I find that very distasteful to say the least.

    • The Bible will always be interpreted in the way people want.
      The Bible is a Protestant thing more than a Catholic thing. And in my experience Catholics value the New Testament more than the Old.
      The fundamentalists seem to value the Old Testament more than the New. And certainly their blind faith in Creationism does little for their credibility.
      But as I have said the people with the real credibility problem are the liberals in Protestant Churches who are really the only people who seem to find something in BOTH Testaments.
      They just cant find the formula to denounce Israel.
      The same might be said for Democrat politicians. Yes they could lose New York but really all American Presidents have over-extended USA in Middle East.
      Israel could have been ditched with a lot less fuss when the Cold War ended.
      And I was thinking earlier….if the Israeli nuclear plant was hit by a weapon fired from (say) a nuclear Pakistan …how would (any) American administration feel.
      Would they feel just a bit relieved?

      And the really uncomfortable thing is, how would the Western Europe feel. A look at those pictures from Gaza might make some people say “Karma”.

  3. Kenneth Alfes says:

    To be fair to Lord Kilklooney, he has condemned Israel quite unequivocally.

  4. wolfe tone says:

    The continued animosity aimed at Putin has left me scratching my head. Perhaps he is a ‘nasty piece of work’ but he is in good company with other world politicians like obama,cameron,clinton etc. In fact if you look at the state of Libya since the great and the good brought the so called dictator down, gadaffi, it is a shameful disgrace how we still laud our western leaders.
    It seems that because Putin wouldnt play ball and allow NATO to do the same to Syria that he is now public enemy number one. We can dress it up all we want but if Russia was responsible for the trail of destruction that NATO has left numerous countries in its wake, then the criticism of Putin would be merited. Alas excuses are made for this destruction and ignored.
    You could even suggest NATO has given tacit approval to Israels antics over the years despite Turkey being a member of this terror gang.
    As far as i can see the Russian people support Putin because he has dragged Russia up from the basket case it was when the soviet union collapsed. He has brought some pride back to that nation after the embarassing Yeltsin era(curiously the west liked russia at that time).
    I really dont care for Putin either but when other world leaders are labelling him as another hitler i find their protestations laughable as these thugs can be as ruthless,cruel and matter of fact when issuing death on people too.
    If people want to halt Israels murderous activities they would be best pointing the finger at the US and telling them to accept some responsibility.
    Hypocrisy is rife and indeed the world isnt black and white thats for sure.

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