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Antisemitism in Ireland ‘Blatant and Obvious’ in Wake of Hamas Onslaught, Says Jewish Former Cabinet Minister Alan Shatter

A pro-Hamas demonstration in Ireland led by nationalist party Sinn Fein. Photo: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne

There is little doubt in Alan Shatter’s mind that over the last five months, his native Ireland has “evolved into the most hostile state towards Israel in the entire EU.”

A former member of parliament who served in the Irish cabinet between 2011 and 2014, first as Minister for Justice and Equality and then as Minister of Defense, Shatter is one of the best known products of Ireland’s tiny Jewish community. A lawyer by trade, he spent much of his political career helping to reform Ireland’s archaic legal system. As one of the few Jewish politicians in Ireland’s history, Shatter was invariably a reliable supporter of Israel and wider Jewish causes, helping to found the Irish Soviet Jewry Committee to assist Jews in the Soviet Union attempting to flee communist persecution for a new life in Israel during the Cold War. “We used to make phone calls from my home to Jewish refuseniks in Moscow and Leningrad,” Shatter recalled during an extensive interview with The Algemeiner on Tuesday. “My Dad would speak to them in Yiddish.”

Shatter’s family came to Ireland via the same route that brought Jews escaping the killing fields of Poland and Russia to western Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In 1912, his father’s family left the city of Lodz for London. Shatter’s father was born in the city’s East End, where many Jewish immigrants first settled. Then, in 1948, he traveled to Ireland to visit his brother, who was living in Dublin. By coincidence, a young Jewish woman from England happened to be visiting her relatives who lived in the house next door. Spotting each other over a garden fence, the two quickly fell in love, got married, and elected to stay in Dublin, where Alan was born in 1951.

Shatter has pleasant memories of growing up as a Jew in the Ireland of the 1950s and 1960s. “There was a minimal amount of antisemitism,” he recalled. “I got called a ‘dirty Jew’ by a kid in my street, but there weren’t any major issues.” Most of his friends as a teenager were drawn from the Jewish community, many of whom attended the same Church of Ireland high school as Shatter.

Shatter’s entry into Irish politics came from a “mixture of idealism and stupidity,” he remarked wryly. As one of the most promising law students at Trinity College in Dublin, he avoided student politics but became deeply involved in social justice causes. In the 1970s, he threw himself into the work of Ireland’s Free Legal Advice Centers (FLAC), eventually becoming the voluntary group’s chairman.

During that period, Shatter remembered, Ireland was largely sympathetic to Israel, which was perceived as a plucky underdog surrounded by predatory Arab states. But with the advent of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s, which brought about the intensification of the conflict between the British troops occupying the six counties and Irish Republican Army (IRA) terrorists, that view of Israel has shifted dramatically.

Shatter cited the close relationship between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the IRA, which dispatched its operatives to the Middle East for military training in Palestinian camps, as a key factor. “Their strong bond, which still exists, was reflected in these huge murals in nationalist areas expressing solidarity with the Palestinians,” he said. “These were not about peace, they were about denigrating Israel. They identified with them because they believed the IRA were fighting British colonists and the Palestinians were fighting Israeli colonists.” Central to this position was the refusal of the IRA and Sinn Fein, its political wing, to recognize that Jews are indigenous to the land of Israel. “They regard the Israelis as colonial invaders,” he said.

For much of the conflict in Northern Ireland, which came to an end in the late 1990s, Sinn Fein attracted little support in the 26 counties in the south of the island that formed the Irish Republic. The nationalist turn to elections and political engagement transformed their fortunes, however, so that now Sinn Fein “is the largest opposition party in Ireland, with 28-30 percent support, and they could form the next government,” said Shatter.

Hardline anti-Zionist positions were introduced into Irish politics by Sinn Fein as well as by smaller, far left parties who traffic in what Shatter calls the “Corbyn perspective” — the uncompromising hostility to Israel exemplified by the former leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who is also a close ally of Sinn Fein. In Shatter’s view, the positions of Sinn Fein — which he denounces as a “pseudo-fascist party masquerading as left-wing” — have spread into the rest of Irish society. “The way politics has evolved has contaminated the public perspective on Israel,” Shatter observed. “It’s trendy in the universities and in the media to be anti-Israel, and you’re almost a pariah if you’re not.”

The present coalition government in Dublin does not share these positions, but neither does it disavow them, Shatter said. While Sinn Fein and left-wing parties like People Before Profit and the Social Democrats regularly push for boycotts of Israel and the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador, the government demurs, yet always cites practical considerations rather than moral principles to articulate its own stance. “They’ll say that we’re restrained by our EU membership on the matter of boycotts, so it’s unlawful to do so unilaterally, but not that doing so is wrong,” he said. Similar logic explains the continuing presence of an Israeli Embassy in Dublin.

Since the Hamas pogrom in southern Israel on Oct. 7, during which more than 1,200 people were murdered and over 200 seized as hostages amid atrocities that included mass rape, the mood in Ireland towards Israel has darkened even further. The Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), which has mobilized tens of thousands of demonstrators who protest against Israel every week, is vocally pushing for a comprehensive boycott while targeting influential Irish citizens deemed insufficiently pro-Palestinian. Shatter cited the example of the Irish soccer star Robbie Keane, who now coaches Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israeli league, as the recipient of constant criticism and hostile abuse.

In tandem with the loathing of Israel is a reluctance to even name, let alone criticize, Israel’s regional adversaries like Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and their backers in the Iranian regime, Shatter said. The government “never criticizes Iran or Hamas, even when they condemn Oct. 7,” he remarked. “When calling for hostages to be released, they don’t mention Iran or Hamas or Hezbollah. Ireland, which likes to pretend to be neutral, has evolved into the most hostile state towards Israel in the EU.”

Shatter pointed out that several leading Irish politicians, including Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, have traveled to the US this week in advance of this weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations bearing a strongly anti-Israel message. Speaking in Boston on Monday night, Varadkar delivered an emotionally-charged address, condemning Israel for allegedly imposing “collective punishment” on the Palestinians in Hamas-ruled Gaza and pointing to the humanitarian cost of the conflict. “The life of a child is the greatest gift of all,” he said. “Childhood should be a blessing. Today in Gaza, for so many it is a death sentence and a curse.”

Varadkar went on to say that “Ireland will continue to call for an immediate ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages, and a massive and sustained increase in humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. We will also continue to call and to work for a meaningful political pathway leading to self-determination for the Palestinian people. A fully fledged nation for their own people in the land of their forefathers.”

Americans are now hearing a message that is regularly broadcast in Ireland, Shatter said. Government representatives “don’t mention the tunnels, the rockets, the human shields, the relationship between any ceasefire and the release of the hostages. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Iran are never singled out. The Israeli Ambassador is nearly always subjected to hostile interviews, in contrast to the Palestinian representative.”

Shatter’s own media profile, once extensive, has been diminished as a direct consequence. “I’ve been practically canceled by the radio and TV stations where I used to appear regularly,” he said. “And because the Irish media is united in criticism, when they interview people from the government, they never ask about Iranian meddling.”

Antisemitism in Ireland has become “blatant and obvious,” Shatter said. There is little sympathy for the right of the Jews to national self-determination, despite the fact that “Sinn Fein fights for exactly this for the Irish,” he noted. A storied writer who has published several books, Shatter’s latest manuscript — provocatively titled “So You Have a Problem With Jews?” — remains unpublished, with one imprint informing him that he was being turned down because “there’s no interest” in Ireland on the topic of antisemitism.

Yet antisemitism is an unmistakable presence in Ireland’s current political discourse. “There’s no insight within the political establishment of the impact of Oct. 7 on the Jewish community in Ireland, and on me personally,” he said. “They don’t care about the impact on the community of this vicious anti-Israel rhetoric or the thousands of demonstrators marching against Israel.” Even so, Shatter has not given up the lonely life of an Israel advocate in Ireland, despite being subjected to endless opprobrium on social media for his efforts. “I’m subjected to a continuous stream of vile abuse and commentary,” he said. “I see that as an illustration of what is happening now in Ireland.”

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Israel’s ambassador to Canada says his country faces critical decisions after a night of Iranian missile attacks—and urges Canada to list the IRGC as a terrorist group

Israel is at a crucial juncture after Iran fired more than 350 ballistic and cruise missiles at the Jewish state overnight on April 13, according to Israel’s ambassador to Canada. “We are facing one of the most critical moments in the history of the State of Israel when a country like Iran starts an attack […]

The post Israel’s ambassador to Canada says his country faces critical decisions after a night of Iranian missile attacks—and urges Canada to list the IRGC as a terrorist group appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Nicaragua’s Charade at the ICJ

General view of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands December 11, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

JNS.orgThe solemnly named International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague has become an arena for the world’s despots and authoritarians to strut and grandstand, projecting their own abuses—torture, censorship, genocide—onto the world’s democracies.

The anti-democratic crusade waged in the name of human rights has impacted Israel more than any other state. The Jewish state is subjected to insulting and, frankly, frivolous lawsuits every time it tries to discharge its basic duty of protecting its citizens—whether that was the security fence constructed along the West Bank border more than a decade ago or the war against Hamas in Gaza right now.

Since the onset of the latest war in the Gaza Strip, triggered by the monstrous Hamas pogrom of Oct. 7, Israel has been the focus of a baseless charge of genocide brought about by South Africa, which largely failed in its bid to make the accusation stick. Many observers pointed out that South Africa’s worsening domestic record—marked by corruption, horrific xenophobia towards migrants from other countries in southern Africa and an inability to deliver basic services like electricity and clean water to those who need them most—hardly qualifies its African National Congress (ANC)-led government to sit in judgment over Israel. Yet Pretoria has continued undeterred, at the same time that it welcomes Hamas leaders for state visits and treats its Jewish community—and anyone else who dares utter understanding for Israel—with unvarnished antisemitism.

Now the baton has passed to Nicaragua, which last week sent its lawyers to the ICJ to charge Germany with aiding and abetting Israel’s supposed “genocide.” The bitter irony is that it is Nicaragua’s far-left leadership, aligned with the dictatorships in Venezuela and Cuba, that should be in the dock.

Daniel Ortega has been in power in Nicaragua since 2007, and he’s not going anywhere—at least, not voluntarily. Some readers will remember Ortega’s name from the Sandinista revolution that overthrew the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and the Iran-Contra scandal that followed during the subsequent decade. But you don’t have to dig deep into that history to get a sense of the kind of regime that he runs. As Freedom House—an NGO that monitors the state of liberty around the world—explains it, the latest period of Ortega’s rule has been “a period of democratic deterioration marked by the consolidation of all branches of government under his party’s control, the limitation of fundamental freedoms and unchecked corruption in government.”

In the last year alone, the Nicaraguan regime has expelled more than 200 opposition leaders into exile in the United States. It has passed new legislation to strip those deemed “traitors to the homeland” of their citizenship. It has turned the police into an arm of the executive, trampling over the separation of powers that democracies hold so dear. In many ways, this new wave of repression is an outgrowth of the regime’s brutal clampdown on anti-government protests in 2018. Abroad, meanwhile, its authoritarian domestic policy is matched by unflinching support for Russia in its invasion of Ukraine and a close bond with the Iranian regime, North Korea and other rogue states.

This, in short, is the character of the regime that has brought charges of “genocide” against Israel by targeting Germany’s supply of arms to the Jewish state—as if a serial sex offender was to opportunistically cry out, “rape!”

Why is Nicaragua embarking on this path at the ICJ? Some insight was provided by a German journalist who specializes in Latin American affairs, Toni Keppeler, during an interview last week with Swiss radio. Noting that Nicaragua is quite isolated among the world’s states, Keppeler suggested that the ICJ lawsuit was seen by Ortega as a means of boosting his international image. And Germany, he added, was a much safer bet than the United States, which supplies far more weapons to Israel, because America can punish Nicaragua in ways that Germany couldn’t or wouldn’t. He also noted that Ortega wants to be embraced by left-wing groups around the world. And so the Nicaraguan caudillo figures, not unreasonably, that bandwagoning on the Palestinian cause they are obsessed with is the way he will achieve that.

But there is another, more sinister reason behind Nicaragua’s action. Ultimately, these cases against Israel at the ICJ are aimed at shifting public perceptions of Israel and its history, and in particular, the influence of the Holocaust upon support for Israel in the democratic world. One of the reasons why Germany supports Israel is simply because it was the country that initiated the mass slaughter of Jews during World War II. Since 1945, democratic Germany has been guided by entirely different principles, elevating its backing for Israel into a staatsrason—“reason of state.” Indeed, as I noted recently, one of the several questions about Jews and Israel on the newly reformulated naturalization test for prospective immigrants to Germany asks, “What is the basis of Germany’s special responsibility to Israel?” with the correct answer being “The crimes of national socialism.”

That is how it should be, but for the international left, such a stance is intolerable. In their jaundiced eyes, Germany has atoned for the Holocaust by backing the nakba—the Arabic word for “catastrophe” used by many Palestinians to describe the creation of modern-day Israel in 1948. Germany’s position irritatingly reminds the world that Jews were once victims of nightmarish genocide themselves—hardly the sort of fact you’d want to highlight if your purpose is to turn them into victims once again. And so, Nicaragua’s lawyers (including, disgracefully, a German citizen named Daniel Muller) have trooped into the ICJ to argue that supporting the Jewish state is the wrong way to express solidarity with Jews.

The goal here, make no mistake, is to separate the Holocaust from Israel and to argue that the one entity in the world capable of preventing another Holocaust is actually sowing its seeds! It’s topsy-turvy logic, but if it works effectively as propaganda, generating meme after meme on social media, why worry about that?

Hence we arrive at a situation where the 15 ICJ judges debate a phantom genocide while turning a blind eye to genuine examples of this phenomenon, along with other related crimes. “The government of Nicaragua is perpetrating widespread violations and abuses that may amount to crimes against humanity,” the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect Project noted in a briefing back in February, but you won’t hear a peep about that in the ICJ’s corridors. Ditto for Turkey’s racist treatment of its Kurdish minority, and indeed, for the myriad other examples of government-sponsored cruelty on every continent.

This is yet another demonstration of antisemitism, insofar as antisemitism applies to standards for Jews that no other nation has to contend with. That is the ugly reality behind these fanciful appeals to “international law” that plague Israel. Germany is now receiving a glimpse of what that feels like but only because of its relationship with Israel—otherwise, this case would never have been brought to court.

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Misplaced Moral Outrage on Civilian Casualties

Former US President Barack Obama. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.“Israel has taken more steps to avoid harming civilians than any other military in history. … Steps that Israel has taken to prevent casualties [are] historic in comparison to all these other wars.” — John Spencer, chairman of urban warfare studies, West Point, Feb. 17, 2024

“[Immediately after taking office] Obama authorized two Central Intelligence Agency drone strikes in northwest Pakistan, which, combined, killed an estimated one militant and 10 civilians, including between four and five children.” — Obama’s Embrace of Drone Strikes Will Be a Lasting Legacy,” New York Times, Jan. 12, 2016

In recent years, we have investigated civilian harm from U.S. air strikes … in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, and found that thousands of civilians have been killed or seriously injured … with little accountability.” — Amnesty International at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Council hearing, Feb. 9, 2022

The recent accidental deaths of seven foreign aid workers with World Central Kitchen in the Gaza Strip have sparked an eruption of anti-Israel vitriol that highlights the vicious Judeophobic prejudice that is sweeping much of the globe today. This is something that defies all and any tenets of morality and reason. Indeed, by any conceivable criterion of human decency, there is no conflict in recent history in which the gulf between good and evil, wanton barbarism and humanitarian restraint, has been so clearly delineated as that between the protagonists in the ongoing war in Gaza.

Painstaking Israeli restraint

The tragedy of collateral damage has been a lamentable aspect of warfare ever since nation-states began to displace dynastic monarchies as the dominant structural element in the international system and perhaps even before that.

Rarely if ever has one of the belligerent parties—let alone the victim of a brutal unprovoked attack on its civilians—demonstrated such painstaking care to avoid harm befalling enemy civilians as Israel. This is reflected in the unequivocal declaration of the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp: “I have fought in combat zones around the world including Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Macedonia and Iraq. I was also present throughout the conflict in Gaza in 2014. Based on my experience and on my observations, the Israel Defense Forces … does more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”

In Gaza, the vulnerability of non-combatants is greatly exacerbated by the malicious actions of their leaders, who cynically exploit them by deliberately placing them in harm’s way and coercively preventing them from seeking safe havens. Thus, as a Wall Street Journal piece underscores, “Israel seeks to minimize civilian casualties, while Hamas seeks to maximize civilian casualties and use them as a propaganda tool.”

Israel setting ‘gold standard’ for avoiding civilian casualties

The chairman of urban warfare studies at West Point, John Spencer, described Israel’s achievements in avoiding collateral damage as “unprecedented,” particularly given the complex combat conditions in Gaza above and below ground. According to Spencer, Israel is setting the “gold standard” for avoiding civilian casualties.

Likewise, Kemp praised the IDF for its record of avoiding civilian casualties during its operations in Gaza and pointed out that the average combatant-to-civilian death ratio in Gaza is about 1:1.5, while according to the United Nations, the average combatant-to-civilian death ratio in urban warfare in general is 1:9—six times higher.

The issue of civilian casualties in Gaza is hugely complicated by Hamas’s heinous practice of exploiting medical facilities as a cover for its terror activities. This includes the copiously documented abuse of ambulances for the transportation of terror-related personnel and materiel.

Israeli moderation is underscored by comparison to non-combatant fatalities in other military encounters involving democracies at war. In World War II, nearly 600,000 European civilians were killed by Allied aerial bombardment of German cities that were reduced to rubble and ashes. Moreover, cities in other countries in Nazi-occupied Europe were bombarded—including their non-combatant civilian residents. One of the most grisly and tragic of these events occurred in Copenhagen in March 1945, when the RAF was sent to bomb the Gestapo headquarters in the city. It inadvertently hit a nearby school, killing 123 Danish civilians, including 87 schoolchildren.

Then there were the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—neither of which was ever designated as a military target—of whom between 100,000 to 200,000 were incinerated and irradiated by the U.S. atomic bombings in early August 1945.

“There is always a cost to defeat an evil.”

Half a century later, after hundreds of thousands were killed by American bombing in the Vietnam War, NATO launched a war against Serbia. The NATO campaign consisted of high altitude—and hence far from accurate—bombing raids that regularly hit civilian targets. These targets included residential neighborhoods, old-age homes, hospitals, open-air markets, columns of fleeing refugees, civilian buses, trains on bridges and even a foreign embassy.

When then-NATO spokesman Jamie Shea was pressed on the issue of the significant numbers of civilian casualties, he responded, “There is always a cost to defeat an evil. It never comes free, unfortunately. But the cost of failure to defeat a great evil is far higher.” This is exactly how Israelis feel about the war against Hamas.

These were not the only post-World War II instances of pervasive human suffering caused by large-scale U.S.-led military operations.

More babies died in Iraq than in Hiroshima

After Saddam Hussein’s 1991 takeover of Kuwait, the United States and its allies imposed sanctions on Iraq and dispatched forces to repel the invasion. Even after Hussein was evicted from Kuwait, sanctions and military operations continued. These measures resulted in tremendous suffering for the civilian population. The scale of it can be gauged by a 1996 60 Minutes interview with the late Madeleine Albright, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and secretary of state under Bill Clinton. Albright was quizzed by the interviewer Leslie Stahl about the ravages the U.S.-led measures wrought on the Iraqi population.

Stahl asked,We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright responded, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price—we think the price is worth it.”

Of course, it should be underscored that—unlike Israel’s post-Oct. 7 response to a massacre of its citizens on its sovereign territory—at this (pre-9/11) time, neither the U.S. homeland nor any U.S. resident had been harmed by the Iraqi regime.

‘A tremendous human toll … ’

In 2001, in response to the 9/11 attacks in which almost 3,000 people died, a U.S.-led military coalition (in which the U.K. played a prominent role) invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban government and uproot Al-Qaeda. The Oct. 7 massacre was—in proportion to Israel’s population—almost 35 times the toll of the 9/11 atrocity; the equivalent of almost 50,000 U.S. fatalities.

Although reliable figures regarding the toll the war inflicted on the civilian population of Afghanistan and neighboring countries are not easy to obtain, an estimate published by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs states, “The U.S. post-9/11 wars … have taken a tremendous human toll on those countries.” It presents a 2021 assessment that almost 47,000 Afghani civilians were killed, but adds a proviso that “several times … more have been killed as a reverberating effect of the wars,” including through “water loss, sewage and other infrastructural issues, and war-related disease.”

Thousands of civilians hit ‘with little accountability’

U.S. strikes in which indisputably civilian targets were hit are a matter of record. During the 20-year war in Afghanistan, several weddings, parties and processions were struck by drones—inflicting hundreds of fatalities, including women and children. Such strikes took place not only in Afghanistan but in other countries, including neighboring Pakistan and more distant Iraq, Yemen, Libya and even Somalia.

Summing up the consequences of the U.S. strikes, Amnesty International USA stated: “In recent years, we have investigated civilian harm from U.S. air strikes and U.S.-led Coalition airstrikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Somalia, and found that thousands of civilians have been killed or seriously injured by U.S. air strikes (both using drones and manned aircraft) with little accountability.”

Finally. the 2003 invasion of Iraq by a U.S.-led coalition—launched on the dubious or at least unsubstantiated allegations that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was producing weapons of mass destruction—wrought untold misery on millions of Iraqi civilians and a death toll upwards of 300,000 non-combatants.

Closing caveat

The current vogue of berating Israel is both unfounded and unfair. Lending this abuse support or sympathy will only serve to fan the flames of today’s smoldering embers of hatred that will eventually engulf those who propagate it.

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