Zionists and Israel “supporters”: your anti-Irish racism is hypocritical, sickening, and shameful
Why, as somebody who supports Israel politically, I feel completely alienated from the mainstream pro-Israel movement
I am an Irish Jew.
In 1989, I was born in Dublin to a Jewish mother, thereby both ensuring both my status as a halachic Jew and guaranteeing me the ability to make aliyah (move to Israel) under the Law of Return should I choose to do so.
25 years later, in 2015, I exercised that right. Therefore, rather than penning this entry from Cork, Ireland, where I lived for most of my tenure in the Republic of Ireland, I am writing it from Jerusalem, Israel instead.
Politically, I would be considered broadly pro-Israel — certainly by Irish readers.
I am enthused by the State of Israel. It represents, for me, the reestablishment of the ancient Jewish state in its historical homeland. The most momentous development in 2,000 years of Jewish history and the logical end to the Jewish people’s long history of nomadism in the diaspora.
Nevertheless, I fail to believe that the State of Israel is sacred or above criticism — which is where the pro-Israel community and I begin to tug in opposite directions (for in the age of Trumpism and Bibism, political leanings can only be absolute).
During the course of Israel’s foundation, I accept that another people was inconvenienced, displaced, and worse by another people’s gain — whether they were a sovereign people or not matters not one iota, in my opinion (contrast and compare: “there was never such thing as a Palestinian state.”). To date, no adequate solution has been found to redress that situation. I don’t defend or condone the fact that Israel seems content to entrench a status quo in the West Bank, and elsewhere, whose conditions are often inhumane.
But as somebody who actually lives in Israel — and typically, by the way, Israel’s most virulent online supporters do not, this point I try to underscore — my focus is much more internal than political.
The most hot-button issue as a young Jewish immigrant: The cost of living here and the stark unaffordability of property, a theme expounded upon elegantly by Ricky Ben-David in the Times of Israel last week. Even if you’re a non-Jew living in Croatia, we may have more in common than you realize.
I care also about the fact that my local convenience store has decided to stop stocking a local perry cider that I thought was rather excellent. This, I believe, was a misguided decision; although maybe, as many American Zionists would tell me, that’s just the Irish drunkard in me talking. These, rather than boycotts or Iranian ayatollahs, are the concerns that animate my day to day life.
As an Irish Jew, I’m also one of the people that American Zionists and Israelis never realize they’re offending when they lash out at Ireland’s (perceived) anti-Israel obsession and decry its people as a nation of backward simpletons. We’re far too small a cohort of the Jewish world. Nobody has ever heard of us. They think we exist only in James Joyce novels.
But by extension that group of imbeciles and drunkards and buffoons would include me. I have my moments, maybe moreso after a few swigs of perry. I think that Israel by and large handles the potato poorly and that Irish chips are eminently better. But on the whole I don’t think that would be a fair characterization.
I’ve also written, before, about the fact that the oft-repeated claim that there is no anti-Semitism in Ireland is delusional. Although equally I think that’s hardly surprising. Is there any land on the planet bereft of hatred towards another people? If the responses I’ve read today were anything to go on, there are anti-Irish bigots living in the State of Israel too.
So while I’ve tried to pour some cold water on the “there’s no anti-Semitism in Ireland” line, equally, I’ve never claimed that the entire country is universally set against Israel or Jews. That would be equally false.
And moreover, how possibly could I? I lived in Ireland for 25 years. I have friends who have quietly told me that they admire and support the Jewish state and those who are opposed to its policies but whom I do not regard as likely closet anti-Semitics. Like any absolutism, the claim is both untrue and destructive. But it’s the reactive racism that seems baked into much of the pro-Israel community that concerns me more.
Please don’t tell me that there’s no anti-Semitism in Ireland. There is.
Or that Ireland “only has a problem with Israel”
What If … We Didn’t Lose Our Collective Crap At Every Perceived Slight?
This week, the “pro-Israel” community (the quotation marks are to question whether their actions actually support Israel at all, by the way) has its collective knickers in a twist about the fact that an Irish novelist, Sally Rooney, has decided not to sell translation rights to one of her books into Hebrew. Shock and horror!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m against racism. I’m also against BDS. If for no other reason than that by targeting civil society it’s typically utterly ineffective. Dialogue generally heralds, if not progress, at least understanding. By seeking to stymie that unconditionally, I fail to see what it achieves.
Rooney’s play here was also transparently stupid: probably 100 Israelis would have been interested in buying the translated version of her book (sorry, Sally, but you’re just not that famous here). But the Jewish world have enabled her to do precisely what she intended in, as usual, a spectacular fashion: Turn a molehill into a mountain, thereby probably driving up her sales. Clever us Jews, eh?
This is because the refusal to sell a novel for translation to Israel — while racist and potentially inconvenient to a minuscule pool of readers who can probably read it in English anyway— was deemed an insult so grave that it called for nothing less than an international freak-out in response to it. That’s kind of how the Jewish and pro-Israel world operates.
For Israel and the Jewish diaspora, the move, it seems, must be countered with the same energy invested in combating the nuclear ambitions of the Iranian state.
We must waste no time and energy in telling the novelist that she is being very, very bold by doing what she has done. (Note: one Israeli statesman, Diaspora Minister Nachman Shai, literally went that far, hectoring Rooney for what he termed her “certificate of bad behavior.”) Letters to the editor and angry tweets must be churned out in their tens of thousands all echoing the same same of outrage, dismay and shock at the decision. We could never even dream about just letting this one go.
And so, as my opinion is probably very clear here, I’d like to suggest another approach.
Israel, as I have mentioned, represents the realization of Jewish self-sovereignty. At least that’s how it’s perceived in Zionist terms.
For the first time in two millennia, we have an army defending our borders.
The country is widely understood to be defended by a nuclear deterrent. It would be worth, therefore, asking whether our unmitigated rage might need some sort of triage system.
After all, being permanently angry and the on the hunt for boogie-men isn’t mentally healthy. A good army knows when to conserve its ammunition. The Jewish world sometimes, it seems, doesn’t.
So perhaps we could… you know … take a tiny step back and remember the very real problems facing the property market in Israel? Or just get on with enjoying the weekend and the sunny weather and all that? Because that’s actually a far more enormous threat to Israel’s future than the fact that we won’t be able to read this novel which, in a few years, the world will likely have entirely forgotten about.
Israeli housing prices have nearly doubled in a decade, with no signs of slowing
It's Saturday night on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv and a group of protesters is again gearing up for a rally…
Other actors are proportionate and worthwhile targets for our indignation and rage and action too, by the way.
Iran threatens to blow us up and obliterate the State and therefore it is worthy of unrelenting attention and diplomatic effort. I’m glad that that appears to be the case.
But we can probably all find better reading alternatives to a book about a fling between a couple living between Rome and Dublin, which I understand is Beautiful World’s plot-line. Even Kupat Rashit sounds better to me (the plot-line of that Israeli TV series, by the way, is the dysfunctional nature of a typical Israeli supermarket and a cranky old miser who permanently wants a discount on cottage cheese. I’m not sure if there are English subtitles yet, but I highly recommend it). Or .. I don't know … watch my videos about Linux on YouTube. There are alternatives out there. I promise.
Moreover, it’s about time that we questioned whether the kind of reactionary vitriol we’re used to instituting is constructive towards our broader remit in the world (for us Jews, that is).
The response mounted by the Jewish world in reaction to things like Rooney’s book is massive, coordinated, and international.
There’s no global Jewish cabal, that I promise too (if there is, I must have misplaced my membership card). But we do seem to have some pretty good internal systems for coordinating these moments of mass hysteria and vengeful Whack-a-Mole. I have a theory. It probably doesn’t win us any friends or draw anybody any closer to supporting Israel.
The other development to come out of the Jewish world this week, at least the part of it that intersects with Ireland, was a 200 page report — which appears to consist mostly of armchair research into the online posts of fringe political elements. In entirely predictable fashion, this has been seized upon in the Jewish world as evidence of Ireland’s unwavering anti-Semitism.
It’s not. It’s proof that among Ireland’s political class and supporters of the Palestinians cause anti-Semites are to be found lurking. That’s kinda unsurprising really. Racism, really, is in every land. But the corollary of that is not that every person is a racist.
That we can be so quick to look past critical thinking to back that just because is concerning.
But more than that is the unmistakably anti-Irish racism that permeates the reaction to it.
Tip-Off: If The Irish Wanted To Compile Their Own Dossier On Jewish Racism, They Probably Could. In Like, A Day
If somebody in Ireland wanted to emulate Collier’s dossier about Irish anti-Semitism, you know what, they wouldn’t have to look very far. At all.
Right now, in fact, they could probably get through the work required in a day.
For as long as I’ve been observing, with disappointment, Irish expressions of anti-Semitism online, I’ve been noticing pro-Israel voices feel the need to throw some racism back over the fence — labelling the Irish a nation of potato-eating simpletons.
For us to remark about one dynamic without accepting the other is, as ever, to be baldly hypocritical.
A few minutes on Twitter — and elsewhere on the internet — yields only a very partial selection of the typical hyperbolic thinking, supremacism, and reverse-hate that seems highly prevalent among the “pro-Israel” ranks.
Sadly, being an Irish potato-head drunkard and all that, I’m vaguely tipsy after my one beer.
But I did manage to dig through Twitter and the Jerusalem Post talkbacks and unearth a few. These aren’t the most savory or extreme by any measure. But they’re good representations of the kind of dynamic I’m talking about.
And you know what: if I had enough time to dedicate to compiling the “evidence” I could probably compile my own 200 page manifesto. I could even charge that all Jews and Israelis hate Ireland. And just like the charge leveled in the other direction, it would be completely false. Utterly so, in fact.
Enough With The Reverse Hatred, Please
The pro-Israel community — at least in parts — is a curious beast. One that at times I find thoroughly dislikeable for its insistence on adhering to a singular black-and-white interpretation Israel; one that can countenance no thought that the country can be anything less than perfect.
That’s why I have trouble even using the label “pro-Israel” as an identifier. It suggests, to me, that I must be an unwavering supporter of everything Israel does. If a journalist writes about the state of the housing crisis here, I must question her motives and query whether it might, in fact, have been fake news (I don’t make this up by the way; I saw such discourse on Facebook this week). Alternatives like “I generally support Israel politically” are far clunkier but, to me, feel more accurate. My support is not unconditional.
Elements of the pro-Israel community seem positively obsessed to the point of paranoia with highlighting every perceived slight and bias against the Jewish State or the Jewish people. My belief has long that this has long been a massively distracting force. While sometimes important, it also blinds us to many problems facing us here in Israel.
More than that, the movement also harbors within its ranks plenty of open racists who will gladly through racism back in the other direction whenever they think it’s warranted.
As a Jew, I feel the need to interdict some of my religion’s teachings just to make the point that the entire religion isn’t represented by these angry folk on Twitter. Judaism forbids both racism and revenge. It’s not Jewish to slur epithets towards an Irish person about them being a drunkard or a buffoon. It’s “pro-Israel” only as a vocal and repugnant element perceive it to be. Above all, it’s not constructive.
Undoubtedly, nobody thinks, or cares, about the tiny minority of Irish Jews in the world like me — who read comments about the Irish being drunkards, potato-heads, or stupendous idiots and can’t help but feel rage and offence ourselves. But that’s just how it goes. When you’re a bigot, you never know really who’s going to be reading your posts. We’re the very insignificant collateral damage of this indignant reverse racism.
If it’s any consolation to the Irish let me at least give you my take on it.
I reckon that most of those alleging that everybody in Ireland hates Israel haven’t actually been to Ireland. They probably never made it to Israel either. They mightn’t have got beyond their country or state. For all I know, they could be a teenager typing from their mother’s basement.
But I do know that their stance is suffused with toxicity.
There are ways to support Israel. Although most probably don’t involve doing so from behind a computer, which is the notion of the “online war” that official Israel has perplexingly been very eager to encourage.
Israel — and the Jewish people — can become okay with being disliked by some. We can’t badger or argue with everybody into getting on our side. Especially not with insults.
— Clarification: it is not alleged here that most, or all, Jews, Zionists and Israel supporters are anti-Irish nor racists. Simply that there is a vocal element that are and that they are shameless hypocrites.
— Comments are being disabled on this one because … Israel.