A Letter To My Irish Friends About Antisemitism

Daniel Rosehill
5 min readFeb 13, 2024

To the friends I still have left in Ireland:

Irish member of parliament Richard Boyd Barrett today (again) called for the destruction of Israel in Ireland’s parliament, accusing Israel of being led by “bloodthirsty” generals. Screenshot: YouTube.

You may have seen me tweeting some things about Ireland lately that struck you as quite negative.

As a Jewish Israeli (by choice) we probably have extremely different opinions about Israel’s conflict with its neighbors. I understand that they may arouse suspicions of reciprocal hatred. More usually, they are couched in concern.

Having grown up there, I understand only too well that Israel enjoys very little “support” in Ireland; that many people in Ireland see parallels between its experience of British colonialism and what you perceive Israel to be doing to the Palestinians.

Just as you disagree with the actions of my state, I disagree with much of the criticism that your one levels at my country. But let’s put all that aside for the moment. This piece is about something else.

Antisemitism is an awfully uncomfortable subject — no less so for Jews than for those of other religions.

But what I’ve been witnessing taking place in Ireland since October 7th worries me. Hence I’ve thrust myself into the ranks of those trying to urge action against it by highlighting it (trust me, it’s not a lot of fun).

You are justified in asking why — having left Ireland — I still care about this.

For one, ties of affinity are not ruptured in a moment. More pertinently, those of us with Jewish family members in Ireland also feel worried for their safety. We feel their concern and their pain as they relay it to us. Try to understand.

The list of times during which the Irish public discourse about Israel has veered into the realm of antisemitism are too long to list.

The loathing of my state across all sections of Irish society can perhaps best be described as “institutional.” But what we might call mainstream bone fides criticism has been peaking into frank antisemitism at a rate that seems rather alarming.

But today — to pick one example — we saw a member of your parliament address the chamber charging that Israel is an “uncivilised state, an apartheid state, and a barbaric state.”

The member of parliament added that a “culture of impunity” has given “Netanyahu and his crazed bloodthirsty ministers” the ability to continue with a genocide.”

But it’s the non-reaction to these words that, as usual, I found unsettling.

The “problem” I have with antisemitism in your society is not that it exists (although many seem bizarrely intent on refuting even this).

I have never charged — to the best of my knowledge — that “Ireland” is antisemitic.

How can an entire country be described that way? There are friends of Israel in Ireland. I’d like to think that those I befriended there didn’t secretly hate me for being Jewish.

The reported incidence of antisemitism in Ireland is reportedly low (although such findings are based upon the inherent limitations of longstanding. questionnaire-based research.)

I am aware, too, that we’re sadly seeing antisemitism surge globally.

That the trend in Ireland is only part of a much more significant global picture.

In countries with larger Jewish populations, we are (predictably) seeing more incidents of religion-based hatred that target Jews.

But none of these things are why I find antisemitism in Ireland so worrying.

None of these things have motivated me to write about it and highlight it as I have done.

I find antisemitism in Ireland so worrying because of how universally it seems to be tolerated. Because of how dogmatic many are in denying that it even exists.

And also because of how seldomly it gets called out even — especially — in the highest ranks of Ireland’s society. Because of how rarely it gets attacked. Prosecuted. Condemned.

Because of how readily those who do so get accused of deflecting legitimate criticism of Israel. Of gaslighting. Of being to blame for the hatred that they have engendered. Of highlighting “fringe” opinions (does being fringe somehow make their hate speech justified!?)

This dynamic I believe is longstanding.

But it continues to this very day.

And it’s the deafening silence — more than the rhetoric itself — that has become impossible to ignore.

Every day that it does, the acceptability of antisemitism in the public sphere in Ireland becomes more and more entrenched.

Today when a member of your parliament described Israelis as “bloodthirsty,” “uncivilised” and demanded the replacement of the world’s only Jewish state with a one state solution called Palestine (really) nobody batted an eyelid. Nobody said a word.

Your Prime Minister — who a few days ago offered encouraging words for the BDS campaign — answered the remarks as if they were an invitation to afternoon tea and crumpets . And not the odious hate-filled words targeting Jews that they were.

Much as nobody said a word when cries rang out at your Palestine rallies to “globalise the intifada.”

Or when week after week a performing musician delights crowds with renditions of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” — a chant widely regarded as encouraging the expulsion of Jews from Israel.

Or when BDS activists take to supermarkets around the country labelling Israeli products as “contaminated with Zionism.”

If you think that those limiting their projections of visible hate onto (merely) “Zionists” and Israelis somehow makes it defensible, then I’m afraid you’re completely wrong.

For the vast majority of Jews, Israel is our homeland, our nation state — Zionism a self-determination movement inseparable from our religious identity.

So when those in your society call to obliterate that — or describe us all as bloodthirsty savages — it raises eyebrows throughout and beyond our religious community. Even deciding that “Zionism” is good fodder for an insult…. it’s downright offensive.

Remain critical of Israel all you want.

We’re a little busy right now for pub arguments.

But honest criticism that doesn’t smack of frank hatred is usually well-received.

However please consider doing something about the rise of ugly antisemitism in your society. Even if you’re not Jewish.

Consider reporting hate speech as hate speech.

Consider telling somebody calling for the destruction of our homeland that it’s wrong and repugnant to wish a return to statelessness upon us, to wish to put Jews back into the same defenceless position as they were in before the Holocaust (only this time, in Boyd Barrett’s wet dream, with the architects of October 7th as our statemasters) .

Affirming support against racism does not even require being supportive of the policies of Israel. Just not cheerleading for our obliteration.

With thanks to those who listened.

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Daniel Rosehill

Daytime: writing for other people. Nighttime: writing for me. Or the other way round. Enjoys: Linux, tech, beer, random things. https://www.danielrosehill.com