Please don’t tell me that there’s no anti-Semitism in Ireland. There is.
A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by a producer with a show airing on Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTÉ, to shoot a few minutes of footage showing what life is like in Israel as it emerges from the lockdown.
As one of relatively few Irish people living in Israel — who also blogs a lot about life here — I’m relatively easy to find on Google.
Hence, from time to time, media people looking for an “(originally) Irish guy living in Israel” source stumble upon this Medium page and thereafter me.
So although my friends may see my recent radio and TV appearances as indications that I’m some sort of rising media star, in reality it’s just a reflection of the power of inbound marketing (something which I always advocate for in my professional life; and hey, if you’re passionate about non-business things, it works too).
As somebody who aspired to be a journalist (I won’t lie, the dream is still latent) and who now works in communications (that’s what journalists still fondly call “the dark side”), I saw sharing the story of what life is like on the ground in Israel to as wide an audience as Prime Time commands as a privilege and, in a sense, responsibility.
Prime Time commands a national audience and — as I recently posted here — the Irish are interested to know how Israel’s emergence from lockdown is going. I went to journalism school. It was a project I was happy to undertake.
Why is Ireland currently so interested in learning the details of Israel’s vaccine response?
The countries are both small and Ireland is significantly behind Israel in terms of the vaccine rollout.
So therefore, we here in Israel make a convenient case study to emulate and the Irish are looking to us, in a way, as a sort of oracle for what their future might bode. They stand to learn from our successes and failures. But to do that, many of them would need to get past their own hatred first (we’ll come back to that theme later).
Why Ireland is trying to learn Israel’s COVID vaccine playbook
Israel’s vaccine campaign has been quick and dirty. But effective.
So when RTÉ asked if I could shoot a few clips on my phone to show their audience what life is like on Israel I didn’t hesitate to say ‘no problem’.
(For anybody who wondered, if I’m interested in doing a radio/TV slot, am approached by an outlet, and have time to do them, I make it a practice never to ask about a contributor’s fee. I do them to share. I should also give the Prime Time team a shot-out here: they were amazingly professional and a pleasure to work with)
With that in mind, and much to the chagrin of my travelling companions from the day (we traveled to an Irish bar in Tel Aviv especially for the occasion), I spent a good chunk of Patrick’s Day last week looking like an aspiring YouTube influencer while shooting clips of my phone as those around me necked back pints of Guinness in Molly Bloom’s bar in Tel Aviv.
Last night, my (edited) dispatch went out on Prime Time along with those from three other contributors around the world. Those who also appeared in the segment sent in clips from Paris and South Africa. Thoroughly uncontroversial locations, for Irish eyes, compared to Israel. Tellingly, there has been no hatred leveled against their governments.
On a journalistic note: it was an innovative format from the Prime Time team which showed how citizen journalism can work hand-in-hand with professional broadcast journalism to produce interesting television.
RTÉ also edited the clip for Twitter so the clip has really been doing the rounds (if you want to watch it, click below).
The Irish Twittersphere Reacts To Israel Being Cited As A Case Study To Emulate. By And Large, They Don’t Like It.
So now a little bit about me.
I was born in Dublin and lived in Ireland (specifically Cork) until I was almost 26 at which point I “made aliyah” (translation for those unfamiliar: moved to Israel.)
As the accompanying article on RTÉ mentioned, I now live in Jerusalem. As the foregoing probably makes clear, I’m also Jewish.
What Was It Like Growing Up Jewish in Ireland?
I've written before about the trials and tribulations of making aliyah - and the ways in which I think Israel's culture…
So what happened that I went from there (Ireland) to here (Israel)?
As I grew up — and particularly after my first trip to Israel — I became progressively (but silently) more frustrated at the vitriol thrown out by Ireland when it comes to all things to do with Israel. It’s the same poisoned sense of hatred that I’ve seen hundreds of times before and which the reaction to my dispatch is providing a thoroughly unpleasant reminder of.
As I increased in my level of religious observance — inspired by the wonders of podcasting rabbis — I also began to feel increasingly out of place as a Jew in a country almost bereft of them and the religious institutions needed to live as one.
But that was a separate push factor.
As I have blogged (and more recently YouTubed) it’s not Ireland’s opposition to the policies of Israel that I take issue with (to the extent, of course, that anybody can “take issue” with anybody else’s opinions).
Opposing Israel on political grounds is the prerogative of any country or citizenry. If they don’t like us — that’s fine. But racism is never excusable.
Why do the Irish hate Israel so much (at least, that’s how it feels)?
Many have spent time pondering the question.
The Irish buy in en masse to a nexus that they see between Israel’s treatment of its neighbors and their experience with British colonialism. I think the analogy is a poor one. But they can have their view and I can have mine.
I would contend — and this is the purpose of this blog in a sense — that there is a good deal of anti-Semitism fanning the flames of that hate too. At least at the vocal margins of Irish public opinion on the matter.
Rather than the fact that Ireland by and large opposes Israel in the political realm, it’s the unrelenting ferocity of that opposition that has long made me believe that there has to be something underlying it.
I have long privately maintained this view much to the chagrin of some individuals close to me who have believed me to be a paranoid tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist who spends too much time reading Twitter feeds.
“That’s just a few angry people on Twitter,” they charge. But how many angry Twitter does it take before we can admit that perhaps the vociferous anti-Semitic fringe of Ireland’s beef with Israel isn’t as fringe as we’d like it to believe?
I seem to be slowly in going self-confidence over the years helped in measure by having become a frequent poster here on Medium.
So now once and for all I’ll say: on this issue at least, I (still) think I’m right. And you’re wrong.
There is anti-Semitism in Ireland. And it may be a lot more substantial than you believe.
(I should add here that I briefly worked in PR and have managed that function for companies in my professional life. When it comes to media monitoring — I have things pretty pat down. If something is being said in reaction to a piece I wrote on Google, Twitter, or Facebook — if I’m sufficiently motivated to do so, I can probably track it down.)
Thus I was not surprised — but still surprised — to see the ferocity of the reaction on Twitter, and elsewhere on social networks, to my two minute dispatch showing how Israel is emerging from the pandemic.
The piece on Prime Time began with the show’s presenter asking how the lockdown emergence is happening in other countries.
As Israel went first — and it’s Israel rather than South Africa or France — it’s borne the brunt of the reaction.
And here’s what the Irish Twittersphere had to say in response.
(Lest they be deleted, tweets are screenshotted rather than embedded)
Antisemitism in the Wild: Israel’s Green Pass is like the Jude star used to send Jews to concentration camps
I probably wouldn’t have been exercised enough to write this blog post had a worryingly non-trivial amount of Irish internet users not put forth the repugnant notion that Israel’s vaccination app — the Green Pass, which I showcased in my video — is akin to the yellow badge which a certain German authoritarian regime used to mark out Jews for slaughter in concentration camps.
This comparison is both disgusting and — frankly — anti-Semitic.
Both the Prime Time clip and an article I sent comment for a few weeks ago — in the Irish Independent, one of the country’s leading newspapers — received this reaction on Twitter.
Have a look for yourselves.
By the way: these don’t appear to be sockpuppets or Irish-Americans, who are sometimes derided in Ireland for trying a little too hard to be Irish.
Rather they appear to be real Irish people living in Ireland.
Have the shady Israelis been up to their usual monkey business to “get their hands” on vaccines?
G-d forbid we [the Irish] should follow the example of Israel. If that happens, all is lost (BTW, Israel is “hoarding” vaccines too)
Israel didn’t manage its amazing vaccine rollout through ingenuity or because it was primed to cut a great doses-for-data deal with Pfizer.
Rather it did so because it was “hoarding” vaccines from the Palestinians, upon whose land we are living (I guess that must mean all of it).
In response to a piece in the Irish Independent about Israel’s vaccine rollout, we got this:
Is the Israeli government paying an Irish newspaper to spread news about its vaccine rollout?
More Reaction From Ireland
What Underlies The Obsessive Irish Hatred Towards Israel?
If there were ever a deserved application for the phrase “don’t cut of your nose to spite the face” it would seem to be the Irish reaction to Israel’s vaccine drive, which — in many objective respects — provides it with a logical role model for how their own vaccine rollout could be managed.
Comparisons between Israel and a certain German regime are generally done solely to be hateful.
I would side with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) that — in the absence of massive proof to the contrary — any such comparisons are essentially automatically anti-Semitic. There is almost never a reason to compare the actions of the State of Israel to a German one that sought the complete destruction of the Jewish people.
The odious comparisons being leveled on Twitter between Israel’s Green Pass vaccination app — which attests to one’s vaccination status — and the Jew badges which were forced upon Jews during the Holocaust — to mark them out for slaughter — fall squarely into that category.
There is no reason to compare and a smartphone application in Israel designed to save lives with a badge in Germany designed to send people to their demise except to be gratuitously offensive.
I was dismayed and even slightly surprised to see them being leveled by a good number of Irish internet users.
With the foregoing out of the way, let me end this by sharing another thought on anti-Semitism in Ireland.
Many Irish Jews — I, of course, am not one of them — have long attempted to toe a party line that supports the notion that there is very little anti-Semitism in Ireland. “Jews have always felt welcome in Ireland,” many will affirm.
If I were to share these screenshots with certain contacts of mine (or those from any other time Israel is mentioned somewhat favorably in the Irish media) the reaction would likely have been an eye-roll and some argument along the lines of “there are always angry people on Twitter.”
For many in Ireland the prevailing narrative that Israel is evil incarnate must not be challenged.
Any attempts to challenge it — however trivial (see: my Prime Time report) — must be battered into silence. Hence the outsized reaction. And so I ask: what might underlie such a combative and uncompromising attitude?
During an era when many of us are living so much of our lives on the internet, how much longer can be continue to find excuses for what appears to be a manifestation of a latent anti-Semitic undertone that runs through at least a proportion of Irish society?
To the extent that there has not been much institutional anti-Semitism, or physical attacks upon Jews, those supporting the lie that there is no anti-Semitism in Ireland are correct, at least in the most part.
But there is a form of anti-Semitism in Ireland that is more insidious and pervasive.
It hides under the cover of opposition to Israel that is almost unparalleled among the world’s nations in its ferocity and the degree of its vitriol.
Why would a small island nation far removed from the Middle East feel so strongly about it that a good number of its citizens seem to express racism towards its citizens?
So it’s really too bad that many Irish seem eager to cut off their own noses.
They’d probably say that ours are too big anyway.
But at least our faces are vaccinated.