This article got bumped out of the Sunday Independent of 18 January by the disasters afflicting the Irish economy
With five friends, four of them gay men, and none of them Jewish, I stood in London’s Trafalgar Square last Sunday at a peace rally organised by the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Politically-minded gays who have no wish to be thrown off mountains or hanged for offending Allah are drawn to the free, tolerant society of Israel.
The placards, blue and white like the Israeli flag, had the legend: ‘END HAMAS TERROR! Peace for the people of Israel and Gaza.’ The rhetoric was about peace and the charity for which support was asked was for organisations caring for civilian victims in both Israel and the Gaza Strip. The only scuffle I saw was between an agitated young man with facial hair of the kind favoured by radical Muslims, who was screaming ‘racist’ at police who blocked him from hurling himself into the crowd.
After the high-minded speeches, everyone went away in an orderly fashion, unlike Saturday’s pro-Palestinian demo where incendiary speeches had worked parts of the crowd up to screaming hatred, rioting and vandalism. Inevitably, the press coverage of the white, middle-class Sunday peace rally was close to zero.
My friends and I went off for coffee and gloomily addressed the millennia-old question of why people hate the Jews. Why are vast crowds protesting about Gaza, when they have shown little interest in, for instance, the agony of the Congo, the brutality of Russia in Chechnya, the genocide in Darfur or the recent crack-down on the Tamil Tigers, and, it goes without saying, completely ignored the terrified Israelis hiding from Hamas rocket attacks?
It’s just a feature of the human condition, I’m afraid. As the (Jewish) satirist, Tom Lehrer, sang: ‘Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,/And the Catholics hate the Protestants,/And the Hindus hate the Muslims,/And everybody hates the Jews.’ Myself, I think Jews are natural scapegoats because they’re so bloody smart, hardworking and successful. Much as many Northern Irish Catholics hated their Presbyterian fellow-citizens for a work ethic that brought financial rewards, the success of Israel in making the desert bloom really riled her neighbours. And they’re an intellectually adventurous, disputatious and individualistic lot too, which really annoys totalitarians everywhere.
‘Do you think Israel will survive?’ asked someone. We concluded gloomily that probably it wouldn’t, as one or another Jew-hating country would probably nuke it out of existence. And then, of course, the Western countries who had once again failed to protect a fine people from genocide would say, ‘Oh, dear. We let it happen again.’
As an opponent of the Lisbon treaty, I was uncomfortable with some of my bed-fellows, so it’s a relief that on the issue of Israel and Gaza the Shinners and I are once again on the opposite sides of the barricades. Irish republicans have a proud pro-Nazi tradition, so it was no surprise to see Martin McGuinness and his chums demanding dialogue with Hamas terrorists who want to extirpate the Jewish state; after all, wasn’t that how they used to feel about Northern Ireland? I was, though, surprised that Aengus O Snodaigh had so forgotten his hypocrisy-training as to have exposed at the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee how visceral is his party’s anti-semitism when he said ‘Goebbels would have been proud of the twisted logic and half-truths’ of Ambassador Zion Evrony and Fine Gael’s Alan Shatter.
Yes, Michael McDowell once called Richard Bruton the Goebbels of Fine Gael, but that was just silly and he apologised profusely. I admit I’ve probably compared the odd lying propagandist for our republican fascists to their Nazi equivalents. But to use that comparison when in debate with Jews is a way of saying ‘We don’t need to give any weight to the murder of six million of you, since you’re just as bad as your persecutors.’ And so we get the disgusting comparisons between Gaza, where civilians die because terrorists are using them as human shields, and the Warsaw ghetto, into which the Nazis herded Jews to starve or await deportation to a death camp.
More shocking is that not one TD deplored the abuse of Shatter, their colleague, or Evrony, their guest. But then there are no votes in being decent to Jews or trying to understand the complexity of the Middle East and plenty in going along with ill-informed popular sentiment. And really, should one blame O Snodaigh? He was probably influenced by an ill-informed and unpleasant article by Fintan O’Toole making preposterous comparisons between the Israeli and the Nazi mentality. No, Fintan, part from a handful of lunatics, Israelis are not racist and they don’t believe in collective punishment. Sadly, our record on anti-semitism suggests we are and we do.
Ruth Dudley Edwards