by Felix Quigley
May 11, 2009
Rory Miller is an outstanding gain for the Irish socialist revolutionary movement. Let me explain this rather carefully.
The Irish “Left” has become a really corrupt mess of a thing!
The Irish “Left” really has nothing whatsoever to do with the great traditions of the historical socialist movement. I can best explain this in showing that they are known liars, which is seen in their refusal to publish 2 things:
1. That the Arab leader from the Palestine area of the Middle East was the worst ever Nazi criminal. This was the Arab Hajj Amin el Husseini. In the Holocaust he was the equal of Hitler, certainly easily on a par with Himmler and arguably the superior in the killing of Jews in the Nazi Holocaust to even Eichmann.
2. They have also hidden that the great socialist revolutionary Leon Trotsky advocated the Jews create their own independent state and that they use that state as a refuge from antisemitism. Trotsky was an advocate of the Israel to be.
And these are the 2 great lies that have corrupted the Irish “Left” of today.
The following work by Miller is outstanding in every regard. It covers the whole expanse of Irish Free State history and shows how the Irish have drifted into sheer antisemitism.
This analysis (I think it may be in the form of notes towards a lecture…FQ) which Rory Miller made is most revealing.
He begins with 3 reasons why the Irish may be so anti-Semitic. It is number 3 in the following which is most damning of the Irish position and echoes the disappointment with the Irish felt by Ben Brisco towards the end of hios life. Basically from a historical stand point the Jews in Ireland and elsewhere thought that they and the Irish had everything in common. In fact Jews played a big role in the Irish struggle for independence. Imagine then the disappointment of the Jews with the Irish when they the Irish betrayed the Jews and would not recognize Israel.
[Begin the rest of Miller’s analysis]
Even, prior to 1956, when Ireland was a powerless/peripheral state without a UN seat [entry vetoed in 1946 by USSR] and struggling to make a go of its new status as an independent republic the Palestine issue was a major preoccupation in Ireland.
Number of reasons–many of which are as true today as they were then
1. Irish struggle for independence from Britain lead to an innate Irish hostility towards partition as a solution to territorial conflict
[1920-Government of Ireland Act 1920-partition island]
Irish reject 1937 Royal commission on Palestine partition proposal
At league of Nations in 1937 Eamon De Valera attack partition as
”the cruelest wrong”
Capt. John Lucy writing in the Irish dept of foreign affairs monthly bulletin in 1938 noted
“England seems to be under the permanent delustion, as she is here in Ireland, that she can sell the same article to two people”
2. Importance attached to the Holy Land, and in particular, Christian Holy Places in Jerusalem
What Conor Cruise O’Brien has termed “The Vatican Factor” among
Public clerical establishment political elite.
June 1949 Foreign minister Sean MacBride told the Dail
“strongly supports the general demand that the holy places in Palestine should be suitably protected…the whole area of Jerusalem should be brought under international control”
Closely follow Vatican position on internationalization
Pope Pius XII—October 1948 encyclical on Jerusalem In Multiplicibus and April 1949 encyclical In redemptoris.
In 1961 the Israeli ambassador to London was warned by senior diplomat:
“in such matters it is a mistake to write off the Vatican position by reference to what might to a normal person seem to be realism”
3. Identification with Jews in History
The Irish have undoubtedly seen parallels between their own history of large-scale migration and suffering in response to the Famine and the Penal Laws and that of the Jews under the Russian Tzars and later under the Nazis.
Moreover, in 1936 the spiritual leader of the Irish Republic’s Jewish Community, the renowned Rabbi Isaac Herzog, left Dublin to take up the post of Chief Rabbi of Palestine, later becoming Israel’s first Chief Rabbi.
While the Jewish underground fighting the British during the pre-1948 era was modeled on the old IRA—Yitzak Shamir’s nom de guerre was, after all, “Michael”, after Michael Collins.
-Yitzhak Shamir, future Prime Minister in Brussels in 1960s–courted Irish officials–but they not interested in stories of Civil War and the battle against the British.
In the decades after Israel’s birth Irish Jews, like Rabbi Herzog’s sons Chaim (a future president of Israel) and Yaacov (a great scholar and diplomat), as well as others like Max Nurock Israel’s ambassador to Australia contributed greatly to Israeli political and diplomatic life.
Among this group
Frustration seen re: Irish attitude to developing Diplomatic Relations with Israel
February 1949 Cabinet agree to grant Israel de facto recognition [minimum level of recognition]
One of 32 states to recognize Israel between 1 January 1949 & 11 May 1949
20 others recognize Israel prior to 31 December 1948
Main Irish objective: Avoid any action that construed as
Acceptance of Israeli control of Jerusalem
Death of Weizmann 1952-DEA advise president [O’Ceallaigh] against writing
In case it viewed as recognition of Weizmann as head of state
De Valera refuse invite to memorial service in Dublin synagogue
Policy of not sending note of congratulations on Israeli independence day
This refusal of Ireland to commit to legal recognition of Israel frustrated senior Israeli officials who not understand Irish position
In 1958 Walter Eytan, the first Director general of Israel’s foreign ministry noted that “irealnd, for some Irish reason, to this day does not recognize Israel de jure’
Shlomo Argov Israel’s ambassador to Ireland in the late 1970s and early 1980s expressed similary puzzlement
Israel constantly propose: 3 options to rise diplomatic ties
1-exchange of diplomatic missions
2-establish Israeli mission in Dublin (directly or by dual accreditation)
3-simple public statement of de jure recognition by Ireland
May 1963: grant Israel de jure recognition
Not a significant departure from ireland’s cautious stance up to this point
Exclude explicit or implicit acceptance of Israeli sovereignty over Jersualem from statement
[this decision was made at the time]
Signficiant public goodwill in Ireland towards Israel at this time
Rising Israel-Vatican ties
-in January 1964 Pope Paul VI visited Israel as part of tour of Holy Places
-Vatican “raised no objection” to upgrading ties [DEA]
-Italy, home of Vatican upgraded diplomatic relations with Israel from legation to embassy level in October 1955
Prior to this grant de jure recognition to
Egypt Syria Lebanon
On same day grant de jure recognition to 40 states including
Morocco Jordan Libya Kuwait Algeria
FOLLOWING DE JURE RECOGNTION
No rise in practical ties with Israel
–spring 1963 no message of sympathy sent on death of president Ben-Zvi
-Summer 1966 Taoiseach decline invite to dedication of forest in Israel to de valera
-refuse to appoint honorary consul or trade rep in Tel Aviv despite numerous applications
-Careful not allow Israel to use rising trade ties as back door to gaining further recognition
-Not mistake cautious rise in bilateral ties with anti-Israel attitude in intenraitonal norms
-rise in ties Israel demand similar effort vis a vis Arabs: not a priority region
1975-following EEC entry—and on eve of EU presidency – formalise diplomatic relations with Israel on a non-residential ambassadorial basis in December 1974—last to do so in EEC
In the eleven months prior to the decision on Israel, Ireland had commenced, or upgraded, diplomatic relations with
Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia (September)
Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (October)
and Egypt (December).
In January 1975 Ireland entered into non-residential diplomatic relations with Algeria and Tunisia
In February 1976 an Irish resident mission was opened in Iran. In June 1980 Ireland entered into non-residential diplomatic relations with the Republic of Iraq.
December 1993 following Oslo—exchange residential missions—last to do so in EEC
[PLO not fair much better: offered a residential mission same day as Israel in 1993]
Identification with the Palestinian cause
However, the Irish struggle for independence also infused them
with a deep identification with the Arab nationalist struggle.
terms of Irish identification with the Palestinian Arabs who were (at least in the Irish perception) forcibly partitioned.
As O’Brien explains:
A little over three hundred and fifty years ago, the Catholic natives of large regions of Ulster were displaced from their homelands, by forfeiture or purchase, and replaced by a population differing from them both in religion and education and social organisation. The natives remained in the area, mainly as tenants on the poorer land, and in unskilled industry. Today, although the material position of the Catholics has greatly improved, the relationship between Catholic and Protestant, native and settler, has lost almost nothing of its animosity.
This was reciprocated by the Arabs.
The scholar and statesman Richard Crossman has written that he realized the importance of the “Irish revolution model in modern history” during his first meeting with Egypt’s Gamal Abd-al Nasser in the early 1950s.
During this meeting Nasser told Crossman that a book he had read on how the British were expelled from Ireland “will be a textbook of our Egyptian revolution”.
As mentioned above the Irish anti-colonial experience also left the Irish with a deep hostility towards partition as a solution to territorial conflict, which in turn led to consistent support for the Palestinian cause.
The factors set out above influenced both
the Irish attitude to the Israel-Palestine conflict
and the Israeli and Palestinian attitude to the Irish role in that conflict
Take Conor Cruise O’Brien’s book on Zionism and Israel—The Siege
David Vital—distinguished Israeli historian say
“it is surely an Irishman’s intuitive understanding of the Jewish-israeli predicament that makes it much the best book on the subject to be written by one fortunate enough (in this case) to be an outsider”.
Review of the same book in Journal of Palestine Studies
“one might expect Dr O’Brien to take a sympathetic position vis a vis the Arabs. He does not”
The Same is true from the Irish perspective:
An Editorial in Leader 1957
“From our standpoint, the interesting thing is that both side sare prepared to listen to us. The Jews…feel that we attempted what they are trying to do, to estabihs a political entity, which will be part independent state and part nostalgic homeland for the Diaspora. They read our history in their schools, and it is said tha the Haganah was modeled on the IRA. They think we are “with them”. There is no need, on the other side, to stress the similiraity of the Arab nationalist plight to that of the Irish. They would listen to us if they listen to anyone in the role of mediator”.
This seen clearly both following Irish entry into the UN in 1956 and following Irish entry into the EEC in 1973:
Indeed, these two events have been the key dates in the evolving Irish attitude to the Palestine question
Palestine question at the UN
ENTER UN 1955-56
UK/France/Israeli invasion of Egypt late 1956
-FM Liam Cosgrave “deplored and condemned” invasion
November Sepcial Session support UNGA resolutions condemning action
But Cosgrave also note his “regret” at Egypt’s attempt to
“encompass the destruction of Israel….[Israel’s neighbours] must be ready to accept as a fact the existence of Israel and must renounce their projects for the destruction of that country”
January 1957: Irish Un delegation abstain on section of UNGA draft resolution attacking Israeli action in Suez as “a little too one sided to be of real service”
UNSC JANUARY 1962
One term temporary member of UNSC for first time
March –Israeli-syrian border clashes
Support draft resolution calling on both sides to honour 1949 Armistice agreement
Freddy Boland [Irish UN ambassador] refused to speak in debate as
“I felt it would carry us into the sphere of Arab-Israeli differences to an extent which we have so far managed to avoid in the UN”
Hesitancy to become directly embroiled in the ME at the UNSC
Adds credibility to Aiekn’s words to Israeli foreign ministry member in 1962 that
Irish position on ME was Discreet and limited to private suggestions to parties involved.
Not confuse hesitancy with
-lack of interest or a
-belief that it had no right to be involved
Belief: especially under Aiken: FM 1957-1969 that Ireland occupy a unique place in international system
RIGHT and DUTY to contribute to search for peace and harmony in world
As Aiken told Dail 1961:
“owing to the accident of history or whatever way you like to put it [Ireland has] been independent, united, neutral, in the accepted sense of the term, in the military sense of the term. It was our duty…take full advantage of that position, in order to try to promote the peace, to try to make propositions which countries tied to blocs could not make without committing their bloc”
Constant argument for irish international involvement
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at Foreign Policy Association in New York, Sept. 2000
“the first and foremost” argument in favour of Irish involvement in the international arena was the “moral dimension”.
This particularly so re: Arab-Israeli conflict
Aiken’s central—and much underestimated role in UN mediations during and following June 1967 Arab Israeli War
Key speech in 5th emergency special session, 27 June 1967
Arnold Toynbee—“historic document”
Arthurl Lass, former Indian ambassador to the UN “by far the most far reaching of all those made in the Assembly debate”.
Key Role in deliberations of Western and Latin American States over diplomatic wording of UNGA resolutions:
Aiken suggested the wording for operative paragraph 1 (a) “all the territories of Jordan, Syria and the UAR occupied as a result of recent conflict”.
This was ultimately adopted as the basis for operative paragraph 1 (a) of the final draft (which called for Israel to withdraw its forces from “all the territories occupied by it as a result of the recent conflict”.
Lord Caradon, Dean Rusk, Abba Eban, U Thant: All look to Aiken
May 22: Day Nasser close Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships: Lunch with Thant
Caradon suggest that if negotiations with Latin American states broke down, then Ireland “should go it alone” and be the sole sponsor of a Western Draft resolution
Abba Eban: before the UNSC on 13 November 1967 urge UNSC to adhere to “my friend” Aiken’s call for a “speedy negotiation and [the] signing of a permanent treaty of peace”.
Irish stance between 1967-1973 was not expressed in anti-Israeli political position yet
Institute of Palestine studies characterize Irish position in UN in Summer 1967 as “strongly pro-Israeli”
December 1969: Ireland vote against UNGA resolution 2535 (XXIV) that viewed as a “call for the destruction of Israel”.
December 1970 vote against similar draft resolution “political and biased resolution”.
But some notable chanes in the yeas 1967-73:
First: Rising Irish preoccupation with the Palestinian refugee crisis
Irish policy on refugees increasingly at odds with Israel
Israel—peace settlement followed by solution to refugee crisis
Ireland—solution to refugee crisis prerequisite to rpeace settlement
Prior to EEC entry in 1973: 1 major involvement in the Israel Palestine conflict
Aid to Palestinian Arab Refugees
By April 1948
Month prior to Arab invasion of Israel
Over 100,000 Paelstinian Arabs
Urban centres Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa
Villages of Coastal plane
Flee to surrounting Arab states
By end of War: Early 1949: Refugee no.s
1949 UNGA establish UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency
Aid to refugees of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza strip
Aiken in UN speeches 1957 & 1958
Described P refugee issue as “greatest single obstacle” to a lasting peace in the Mid-East
Most ambitious humanitarian plan for refugees
–called on UN to “guarantee full compensation” for the refugees for both property lost and damages suffered as a “result of their exile”
–accept Israel not exclusively responsbiel for the tragedy but call on it to state how many refugees it was prepared to accept
—call on UN to “arrange for repatriation for the maximum possible number of those who would rather return than receive full compensation”
–US $1000 per family to resettle outside Palestine
October 1958: Ireland makes first “purely token” donation to UNRWA £1000
One of 31 nations to fund UNRWA
Donations grow notably until 1966
[see table 1]
One of 43 out of 121 UN members [around one third] to donate funds
Contribution as a percentage of GNP—ranked sixth overall in Europe
Following June 1967 War—200,000 more refugees
December 1967 Aiken SPC speech on refugees
Repeat proposal of 1958
Instruct DEA to draw up plan for UN refugee fund to be submitted to UN Sec-Gen
Plight of P. Refugees:
Dominate Irish Mid East Policy and Aid Policy
June 1967—Refugee problem not on list of DEA Mid East priorities.
[free access to Suez; limit nuclear weapons; freedom of oil; solution to Arab-Israeli conflict]
By 1969 it was one of top 3 priorities
As a member of the DEA noted in summer of 1967
“tanaiste regards the present situation in the Middle East, and especially the plight of the refugees, as a major crisis with the gravest implications for world peace and he feels that Ireland should make a generous contribution as possible, not only for humanitarian reasons but also in the interest of peace in the Middle East and the world in general”
See this in rise in UNRWA funds 1967-1973: Table 2
UNRWA aid: out of proportion to other funding
Responsibility for 3.5 million refugees[ Asia & Africa need practical assistance]
DEA figures: 1967-68: UNHCR 200,000 more refugees
See TABLES 3 & 4
FUNDS to UNRWA=US$ 133,800
FUNDS to UNHCR=UA$40,000
FUNDS to UNRWA=US$275,000
FUNDS to UNHCR=US$40,000
By 1970 DEA admit privately
UNRWA funding “reasonably adequate”.
UNHCR “ very poor”
Justified by FM Hillery on “political grounds [as way of] demonstrating practical support for P. tragedy”
Following EEC entry in 1973
Frustration over ongoing failure to resolve refugee crisis
Anger at Israeli occupation of W. Bank and Gaza
Rising western sympathy for 3rd world causes and anti-colonial ideology
Success of PLO twin policy of terror and international diplomacy
French attempt to move the EEC towards its pro-Arab position
Focus on Palestine issue by existing Six member state try to increase co-operation in foreign policy
Ireland committed to this approach.
Take 6 Irish EU presidencies
1975: Garret Fitzgerald
-allay fears that 1975 Israel-EEC trade agreement
-gain compromise “Dublin Formual” re: Palestinians in single Arab delegation for EAD
1979: Michael O’Kennedy
-at UN, first EU rep to call for “representatives” of the Palestinains (diplomatic speak for the PLO) to “play a full part in the negotiations of a comprehensive settlement”
-Arab view of this statement
“first time that the EEC mentioned the need for the PLO to have a role in the peace process”.
1996 Dick Spring:
-intensive shuttle diplomacy Oslo peace process
-EU envoy to Mid East-post established in Dublin
Report back on opportunities for Eu politicial role
-assist Israel and PA in negotiations
-monitor violations by both sides
At start of presidency Ireland also propose EU monitoring system of settlement building in Jerusalem –later extended to W. Bank
Outside of the Presidency:
Vote with France and Italy [all rest of EC abstain or vote against]
Resolution in favour of PLO participation in plenary UNGA meetings on P. question.
Israeli respond “greatly disappointed…Ireland lend support for organization of murderers”
-Independent state in Palestine
-PLO ‘full role’ in negotiations
-withdrawal from all territoty captured in 1967
Begin: RTE radio: this tantamount to irish acceptance of PLO right “to destroy state of Israel”
Bahrain go further than March 1980 Giscard D’estaing [French president] call for P self determination
June 1980 Venice Declaration
PLO “association” self determination
From 1980s Ireland viewed as part of the EEC’s pro-Arab and pro-Palestinian bloc
Between 1978-2001—40,000 Irish troops serve on Israel-Lebanese border in Southern Lebanon [47 lose lives]
increase support for Palestinian cause in Irealnd at a public and official level:—casualties/clashes with SLA
Senator McDonald evoked the general Irish view on the issue at this time, when he admitted in 1990 that he had lost much of his previous sympathy for the Jewish state once Israel ‘commenced to use our UNIFIL volunteer soldiers as target practice’.
This tension end 2000, following Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and end of Irish UNIFIL role
Breakdown of Oslo—outbreak of violence September 2000
As Brian Cowen, Ireland’s then Minister for Foreign Affairs, put it in October 2000, the renewed fighting was ‘truly tragic’ because it occurred ‘just at the moment when the parties were closer to an agreement than they have ever been’.
Like its EU partners, Irish government has continuously expressed regret at the escalation of violence and has repeatedly condemned the ‘horrific’ killing of Israeli civilians in suicide bombings, arguing that such ‘atrocities …do nothing to advance any legitimate political agenda and must be unreservedly condemned’.
The government, again like EU partners, have linked condemnations of Palestinian violence s with criticisms of Israeli policies and actions that were viewed to have either provoked, fuelled or prolonged the Palestinian resort to terror as ‘excessive and disproportionate’.
In particular the government has condemned ‘extra-judicial killings’—what Israel terms “targeted assassination”
It has also drawn attention to settlement building—as a “cause of massive Palestinian resentment’ as well as ‘a major focus of violent incidents”.
Most notably between 2000 and his death in November 2004
Ireland was committed to supporting the role of President Arafat as “ the indispensable partner for dialogue”
While Ireland’s UN Ambassador Richard Ryan
We reject outright any intention to oblige the elected leader of the Palestinian people to re-enter exile.
Ireland opposition to any policy of excluding Arafat from the political process clearly highlighted by Cowen’s decision to meet Arafat during his visit to the region in late June 2003 even though Israel refuses to meet foreign representatives who visit Arafat on the same visit. Both the DFA and the Irish embassy in Tel Aviv downplayed the implications of the incident by calling Cowen’s visit to Arafat a ‘courtesy call’. The Israeli foreign ministry, at least privately, took a less sympathetic view of Cowen’s decision while the Israeli press described Cowen as the ‘most blunt of all’ EU leaders on the matter. Indeed, Cowen was the first high-ranking international diplomat to choose to meet with Arafat over Israeli officials since Mazen became Palestinian prime minister. Prior to his trip the Spanish foreign minister made two official visits to the region in a five-day period to avoid the Israeli boycott, while Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi refused to meet Arafat at all.
This whole affair clearly underlines the ongoing Irish commitment to the Palestinian cause (it coincided with the founding of a new cross party lobby group ‘Friends of Palestine in the Oireachtas’ that can claim fifty Dáil deputies and senators as members). But it also highlights the extent that Irish policy makers continue to view Arafat as “Mr Palestine”–the embodiment of the Palestinian struggle and the father of Palestinian hopes. In 1993, during his celebratory trip to Dublin following the signing of the Oslo peace accords, Brian Lenihan reminded Arafat of the ‘genuine warmth in Ireland for you and your cause’. A decade later, with the optimism of 1993 long-gone, the Oslo process is in ruins, terror at an all-time high, and a majority of Israelis, the American administration and significant sectors of the Palestinian population having lost faith in Arafat’s capacity, or desire, to lead the Palestinians to their inevitable state, Cowen was describing Arafat as ‘the symbol of the hope of self-determination of the Palestinian people’ and praising him for his ‘outstanding work…tenacity and persistence’.
Arafat always appreciated Irish support.
On his first visit to Dublin in 1993 he: thanked his hosts for the fact that
‘during our long march we have had real friends in Ireland who have given us unlimited support in difficult days when many others would not even listen to us…they have supported us on many occasions and on many levels’.
On a visit to Dublin in October 2001 Arafat noted that Ireland had always been a ‘good friend’ of the Palestinians told a press conference that the Palestinians and the Irish have a ‘historical and very important relationship together, more than friends, and we are proud of it and we are in need of it’.
He repeated this again in a March 2002 interview with the Irish Times in which he noted that ‘we are proud that the relations of our two peoples are very strong and very old and we are proud of it’.
Arafat not only praised Irish support but looked for it to help in a number of ways
–To use its membership of the UNSC-2001-2002
–TO use its close ties with the US administration—
As early as his visit to Dublin in 1993 Arafat had called on Ireland to use its special relationship with the United States to promote the Palestinian cause and throughout the 1990’s the Palestinian leadership continually urged Ireland to use its influence in Washington, strengthened by the role of the President Clinton in the Northern Ireland peace process, to promote the Palestinian case.
With the onset of Oslo deadlock, Arafat repeated this call in a message to Taoiseach Ahern prior to Clinton’s visit to Ireland in May 1998. While during their October 2001 meeting the Palestinian leader again urged the Irish premier to raise the matter of Palestinian rights in his upcoming meeting with with President George W. Bush in Washington the following month.
This belief in close ties between Dublin and Washington fostered, in part by cooperation on the Northern Ireland peace process)
Indeed—following breakdown in Oslo—Ireland took advantage of its role in Norhtern Ireland to involve itself in Mid East
For example, in his meeting with Shimon Peres in early September 2001 Cowen drew on the Irish case, as part of his attempt to convince the Israeli foreign minister to meet Arafat.
Or as the Irish Times put it Cowen’s message to Peres that ‘political dialogue is an indispensable ingredient of peacemaking carries greater conviction by virtue of his own experience in the Northern Ireland peace process’.
This point was reiterated by Taoiseach Ahern at the height of the second intifada in April 2002 when he told an audience at the annual Easter Rising commemorations in Dublin that ‘the protagonists in the Middle East should study more closely the Irish experience’; and by Cowen the following month when he emphasised that: ‘Ireland’s own experience of conflict resolution has shown clearly that progress can be achieved only when those parties committed to peace refuse to allow the peace process to be made hostage to the latest atrocity carried out by men of violence’.
The Irish government’s experience of facilitating peace in Northern Ireland was acknowledged by various Middle Eastern figures from Netanyahu and Barak to Arafat and Egypt’s former foreign minister Ahmed Maher who explained that though ‘a small country…as a country that has itself been engaged in a peace process, I think they have a deep knowledge of how to handle these difficult moments’.
In January 2004 Irleand took over the EU presidency for 6 months:
The gov expressed Ireland’s ‘deep and sympathetic interest’ in contributing to a solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict
Diplomatic niceties apart, there was little optimism in Jerusalem that Ireland would use the platform provided by its Presidency to help rebuild the EU’s deteriorating relationship with Israel.
Ireland’s December 2003 decision to abandon its efforts to put forward a UN draft resolution condemning anti-Semitism after it failed to gain unanimous support for the proposal, was an immediate cause of this Israeli anxiety.
As Yoav Biran, Director General of the Israeli foreign ministry explained during a visit to Dublin in the same month, the real concerns related to the fact that over an extended period Israel believed that ‘some positions’ adopted by Ireland on the Israel-Palestine conflict could be construed as ‘lacking the kind of balance and understanding of the terrible human difficulties of Israel that one would expect’.
In February 2004 Israel dismissed as ‘tepid’ the contents of a statement issued by the Irish presidency, on behalf of the EU, condemning a suicide bombing that killed eight Israeli civilians. In particular, Israel took offence at the statement’s demand that the PA should take action ‘to the extent possible’ to halt terror, and argued that the EU should demand more from the PA than that.
The following May the Israeli foreign ministry was even more outspoken in its repudiation of a statement by Cowen that Israeli forces had shown a ‘reckless disregard for human life’ in operations in Rafah in the Gaza strip that resulted in a number of Palestinian fatalities. Israeli officials took special exception to what it viewed to be Cowen’s equation of the actions of the IDF with the cold-blooded murder of an Israeli woman and her four children earlier in the month. One senior Israeli diplomat went as far as to tell the press that since acceding to the EU presidency Ireland had taken the most radical anti-Israel position in the EU.
It is true that Cowen’s statement could have been worded more carefully. It is also true that the Rafah tragedy had caused considerable anger in Ireland. In early May it was reported that 52 TDs, MEPs, senators and independent politicians signed a petition in favour of sanctions against Israel, which was submitted by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), to the Department of Foreign Affairs; while in the wake of events in Rafah a number of senators expressed their support for economic sanctions against Israel.
It is incorrect to label Ireland as the most radical anti-Israel state in the EU at that time, given the far more outspoken attacks on Israel emanating from countries like France, Belgium and Sweden. .
But the Irish government was guilty of failing to use its presidency to admonish the PA leadership, in particular Arafat, for ignoring, and in many cases causing, the chronic corruption and instability that plagued the PA by this time.
By mid-February reports from the PA were noting the rising anger over the ‘political bankruptcy’ of the Arafat regime and the growing discontent even within Arafat’s Fatah organisation
In late May 2004, over one hundred Palestinian policemen, in a desperate attempt to draw attention to the failings of the PA leadership that it served, briefly occupied a security base run by members of Force 17, Arafat’s personal bodyguard. Before surrendering they warned that unless something was done about corruption thousands of fellow officers would be forced to mutiny.
The following month, Egypt gave Arafat an ultimatum to implement reforms. The Mubarak government was joined in calling for reforms and in holding Arafat personally responsible for the chaos inside the PA, by King Abdallah of Jordan and a number of Palestinian officials and personalities. ,
In July 2004, Dr Khalil Shikaki, head of the Ramallah-based Centre for Policy and Survey Research blamed the crisis of governance on the refusal of the Arafat-controlled Palestinian National Security Council to take measures ‘to maintain public order’.
However, during both its presidency and since that time Ireland has been far more reticent. there has been little serious domestic debate on, never mind criticism of, Arafat’s failure to facilitate democracy, tackle corruption or develop the PA into a viable entity.
This remained the case even following the publication of a report by the Palestinian Legislative Council—the Palestinian parliament—that concluded that Arafat and the PA’s failure to live up to the responsibilities of leadership was a significant contributing factor to the growing anarchy and disillusionment of the Palestinian people.
Even when in August 2004 Arafat, bowing to growing external and domestic pressure, grudgingly admitted that he had made ‘unacceptable mistakes’, the Irish government refused to take a public stand on the matter.
Indeed, by the autumn of 2004, even the UN, an institution that has championed Palestinian rights since the 1970s, had acknowledged that any security reforms that had been reluctantly implemented by the PA in response to pressure from the Quartet had been ‘slow and mostly cosmetic’.
Though providing further evidence of the deep attachment in Ireland to Arafat, the Irish decision to remain silent, while so many other nations, international organizations and Palestinian officials publicly criticize Arafat and his lieutenants is ill-advised.
This refusal to acknowledge that Arafat is directly responsible for the crisis or that, as Ahmad Dudin a former senior Fatah official in Hebron put it, the PA ‘has always been a one-man operation…that is the problem’, threatens to tarnish Ireland’s reputation among a younger generation of Palestinian leaders.
Yet it is they, in the post Arafat era, who offer the best chance of leading the Palestinian people to a viable, sovereign state alongside Israel, a central objective of Ireland’s Middle East policy for over three decades.