January 28, 2009

Irish Jews speak up against the war in Gaza, are told to shut up, speak up again.

Here’s a letter exchange in the Irish Times. A group of us wrote into the paper, as Jews, to condemn the war on Gaza. A few days later the Jewish Representative Council (the Irish equivalent to the Board of Deputies, and about as representative), wrote in with the familiar refrain that we weren’t real Jews. Real Jews support war.

Today I wrote back, and as the phrase goes, look forward to their response.

On more serious note, it’s been unreported but 148 Irish academics (including some of the signatories of the below letter) wrote into the Irish Times last week calling for the EU to suspend its funding of Israeli academia. The fact it’s been unreported just shows how unexceptional such calls are nowadays.

January 22nd
Madam, – We are people in Ireland who are Jewish or of Jewish descent.

We are appalled by Israel’s slaughter in Gaza. We have seen people justifying this on the basis of Israel’s “security concerns” and attacking supporters of peace for being anti-Jewish.

In this climate we feel it important to assert that it is not anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish to oppose Israel’s action.

Nor, however, can it be part of any progressive political vision to conflate what the Israeli state has done and is doing in Gaza as being supported by Jews worldwide.

Throughout the world, Jews have opposed the invasion of Gaza.

In Israel itself, tens of thousands protested this war; they have been attacked by police and right-wing mobs and many Israelis, predominantly non-Jewish but also Jewish, have been imprisoned.

We ask people to support these Israelis.

As for Israel’s security concerns, two points need to be made. Firstly nothing, but nothing, justifies the massacre of innocent people.

Secondly, peace will only come about through justice for the Palestinian people and through negotiations between Israel and elected Palestinian representatives.

One does not need to be Jewish to know this.

We ask people not to claim to speak for us when justifying Israel’s barbarity. – Yours, etc,


January 27th
• Madam, – As the representative body of the Jewish community in Ireland, we wish to distance ourselves from the letter published in The Irish Timeson January 22nd and signed by Katrina Goldstone and others. The authors of the letter may be Jewish, but they neither speak for the Irish Jewish community nor do they take any part in Jewish communal affairs here. They represent nobody but themselves.

The overwhelming majority of the Irish Jewish community supports Israel’s right – indeed, obligation – to defend its population against Hamas, recognised by the international community as a terrorist group, which for the past eight years has rained missile, rocket, and mortar fire on a daily basis, indiscriminately, on the men, women and children living in the cities and towns of southern Israel.

As Irish citizens and members of the Jewish community we are concerned by the tone taken against Israel by some of the media in recent weeks, ignoring altogether the steps Israel has been forced to take to protect its citizens.

Clause 1 of the Hamas constitution makes its position quite clear – the destruction of the State of Israel. Hamas is sponsored by Iran, whose position has been given many times by its president: to eradicate the state of Israel from the map. And Iran is working flat out to complete its nuclear weapons capability.

We are all deeply saddened by the deaths of civilians in the conflict in Gaza, largely caused by Hamas using the population as human shields and firing at Israel from sites adjacent to schools, hospitals, mosques and the UN compound.

We are also deeply saddened by the deaths and injuries of Israeli civilians, and the widespread destruction caused over the past eight years by over 5,000 Hamas rockets, along with numerous horrific suicide bombings, all deliberately aimed at killing civilians.

Even now, during the fragile truce, tunnels through which weapons are smuggled into Gaza are being repaired and rebuilt by Hamas, whose admitted master-plan, the destruction of Israel, has not changed. – Yours, etc,

Jewish Representative Council of Ireland,

January 28th
• Madam, – Leonard Abrahamson and Stephen Molins (January 27th) are correct in saying the Jewish Representative Council does not speak for me, a co-signatory of the letter of January 22nd which they condemn. Nor do they speak for an increasing number of Jews in Ireland who have been shocked and repelled by Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Their response to our letter reads like a transcript of the talking points put out by the Israeli embassy. It is not in any way a representation of how deeply troubled many Irish Jews are by Israel’s actions. I and other signatories have been surprised and heartened at the positive responses to our letter from some of our Jewish friends and acquaintances.

Openly supporting the war on Gaza – more a massacre that has killed over a thousand people and hundreds of children – is simply shameful.

What disturbs me, as a Jew, is most certainly not the many good people who have spoken out against this war but the development in Ireland of a right-wing Christian Zionist support of Israel’s actions.

Messrs Abrahamson and Molins are silent about these people, who believe that Jews are somehow “special”; who believe that our proper place is in Israel, not Ireland; who at their extreme believe that once all the Jews go away to Israel, then the awaited apocalypse can happen. After all, these people support the war on Gaza – what’s to worry about?

By claiming to represent the Jewish community in cheerleading this war, Messrs Abrahamson and Molins wish to prevent the wide diversity of opinions among Irish Jews from being recognised. More importantly, they wish to prevent us all from taking the necessary actions to ensure that Israel never again commits such atrocities. – Yours, etc,


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