Ireland is long known for its pro-Palestinian stance, but with the outbreak of Operation Protective Edge two weeks ago, some Irish politicians are becoming increasingly strident in their anti-Israel rhetoric and actions.
In the final session of the Dáil, the lower house of the Irish legislature, before the summer recess last week, Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams pulled what critics have termed a pro-Palestinian “publicity stunt.” Adams asked his fellow parliamentarians to join him in standing for a minute of silence in solidarity with “the people of Gaza and the Middle East.” He made no specific mention of the citizens of Israel.
As can be seen from a video filmed in the Dáil, members of the chamber acceded to Adam’s request. Some also held up small posters of the Palestinian flag.
“The other parties played along with varying degrees of enthusiasm, but some TDs silently fumed at the irony of a party which supported a campaign of terror and murder against the civilian population of its own country attempting to make political capital from the suffering being inflicted on the people of Gaza,” wrote Stephen Collins in The Irish Times.
“The Palestinian flag in the parliament was a disgrace. No other flag other than the Irish flag should be flown in the Irish parliament,” said Barry Williams, founder of Irish4Israel, an Irish pro-Israel grassroots group.
“Things are definitely more inflammatory right now,” he told The Times of Israel from Cork. “Politicians are trying to outdo one another in terms of being anti-Israel. This is a very pro-Palestinian country, so no one is shocked, but things are getting nastier.”
Williams pointed to the Dublin city council’s passing a motion on July 15 calling on Israel to end its attacks on Gaza and to lift its blockade along the coastal strip. The motion also included a call for the Irish government to push for an arms and trade embargo against Israel.
‘Things are getting nastier’
“Israel’s acts of barbarism are always the subject of great public and moral outrage, condemned by many democratically elected institutions, however, Israel is never held to account,” The Journal quoted Councillor Tina Veigh of the People Before Profit Alliance as saying.
Williams expects more such anti-Israel resolutions and motions to pass, since many left-wing parties gained power in recent local elections.
“Usually these kind of motions are 75 percent pro-Palestinian, with a token gesture made in support of Israel. Now there is no acknowledgement of or support for Israel,” he noted.
Another Dublin councillor from the People Before Profit Alliance took matters in to his own hands over the weekend when he climbed up and removed an Israeli flag flying at Dun Laoghaire Harbor for the European Optimist sailing championship for under-16 sailors. Forty-four flags had been flying in honor of competitors who had come from around the world. A team of three girls and four boys from Israel participated in the event.
The councillor, Hugh Lewis, posted online a photo of himself removing the flag. “After many attempts appealing to the Harbour Company they still refused to remove the flag of the apartheid regime of Israel. As a result People Before Profit have removed the flag,” he wrote in a comment beneath the photo, according to The Independent.
Lewis was quoted as saying that he thinks there should be a sporting boycott of Israel. He added that he has “nothing personal” against the Israeli teen sailors, and that what he did could be instructive for them. “When they are 17 they are going into to be drafted into the Israeli Army… Maybe this will make them understand what Israel is doing in Gaza,” he said.
An Israeli flag was burned by protestors in front of the Israeli embassy
The Israeli flag was also in sight at a “die-in” protest in solidarity with Gaza attended by several thousand people in Dublin last Saturday. While Palestinian flags were waved by the marchers, a photo published in The Journal shows that an Israeli flag was burned by some of them in front of the Israeli embassy.
The protest, organized by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, is believed to have been the largest in the Irish capital in recent years.
Williams in the meantime is keeping an eye on what has been happening in London, Paris and other European cities.
“I have great faith in the Irish police, but I am worried about anti-Israel and anti-Semitic violence spilling over into our country,” said Williams.