The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Response to Anti-Semitism

Brian Kelly • 12 December 2004

I am perplexed by Seagan O'Murchu's elegantly written but profoundly confused contribution, Scapegoats & Swastikas, posted in last week's Blanket. He takes as his point of departure an article that appeared in the Irish Independent about a string of troubling incidents in which a Dublin synagogue and a number of local Jewish memorials were defaced with anti-semitic graffiti. Jim Cusack of the Independent speculates that the attacks are the work of a small group of right-wing neo-nazis who hanker after a "racially pure Ireland" (whatever that is), but is unable to say much more. "Nothing is known about the size of the group," he acknowledges, "and it may consist of only two or three people."

Seagan does not bother himself much about the probable source of these hate crimes. Instead he makes the remarkable leap into an expose of the legacy of "Irish anti-semitism" as it manifests itself today, in-you guessed it-the work of the Palestine solidarity campaign. An advocate of a two-state solution to the war over Palestine, O'Murchu bemoans the "whataboutery" that (he claims) characterizes the debate on "each side" of the Palestinian question, and insinuates that advocates of a single state have no answer "as to where four million Jews would go." He then widens the conspiracy even further, drawing the link between the 1904 Limerick pogrom, Joyce's fictional depiction of anti-semitism in Ulysses, and popular anti-semitism during the 'Emergency' to-wait for it-"the sympathy and ties from the late 1960s embraced by republicans for Arab and Muslim extremism," which, he asserts, "all document this habitual [Irish] tendency to fight against suspected Jewish dominance."

As a socialist who has been involved in Palestine solidarity work for more than a quarter century-mostly outside of Ireland, and alongside Jews, Arabs, and compassionate people of unwavering integrity from across the multicultural spectrum-I have to say that I find this all extremely bizarre. I hold no brief for the republican tradition in this or any other matter. But I have worked alongside many republicans in Palestine solidarity work, and I am deeply offended by O'Murchu's suggestion that their contribution in keeping the issue of Palestine before the people of this island represent a link in the long chain of a peculiarly Irish anti-semitism, or a pathological antipathy to 'Jewish dominance'. Would he argue, similarly, that the well-known "sympathy and ties" between, say, black South Africans fighting apartheid and "Arab and Muslim extremists" were evidence of a deep-seated "African anti-semitism"? Doubtful; but is just as ludicrous.

I do not mean to suggest that Ireland is somehow less prone to anti-semitism than its European neighbors: the authority wielded by the right-wing Catholic hierarchy over a large element of the Irish people for so long practically guaranteed legitimacy, even respectability, for anti-semitic ideas. But it is a long stretch from this to the secular and explicitly multicultural activism of those engaged in Palestine solidarity work.

The most striking aspect of O'Murchu's contribution is what it shares with so much recent establishment and Israeli-sponsored commentary on the "new" anti-semitism: it takes a series of incidents for which the far right is almost certainly responsible as a starting point for a bizarre attack upon the left, or at least upon those involved in building solidarity for Palestine. I do not mean to imply that O'Murchu is deliberately engaged in something sinister in posting this piece, but clearly the logic he brings to bear and the assumptions underlying the article are deeply flawed.

I am perplexed, first of all, as to why he assumes that advocates (like me) of a single secular state with equal rights for Jews, Muslims, Christians and others would be somehow more prone to anti-semitism than those (like him) who believe a two-state solution more viable. There is absolutely no relation between the two, so far as I can see: my own position is based, in part, on a belief that there is no intrinsic reason why Jews and Arabs can not live together, in peace, on the basis of full equality. The "four million" that he talks about would not have to "go" anywhere. O'Murchu has, in other words, projected onto solidarity activists a completely bogus dilemma.

Moreover (and O'Murchu may not be aware of this) I would venture to suggest that mine is a minority position among those involved in Palestine solidarity: many have lowered their sights considerably over the past decade, and like the conservative, US State Department-approved advocates of realpolitik within the Palestinian leadership, now accept the two-state policy as the only one that might, possibly, someday be entertained by Israel's benefactors in Washington. So the majority of solidarity activists hold the same (mistaken) formal position as O'Murchu.

I have responded previously on this site to a more malicious attempt to equate anti-Zionism with anti-semitism, and see no need to repeat the arguments here. I will say in closing that, as a matter of principle, anyone involved in Palestine solidarity work should be in the forefront, in Dublin and beyond, among those expressing their revulsion at the desecration of Jewish memorials and places of worship, and would go further to recommend that local solidarity committees take the lead in raising funds to restore these sites to their original condition.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

2 January 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Thing About History
Tom Luby

Do Not Be Afraid to Face the Truth
Mick Hall

Past Time to Deliver an Outcome
Davy Adams

Reclaiming Irish
Dr. John Coulter

Anthony McIntyre

Response to Anti-Semitism
Brian Kelly

23 December 2004

The Spectre of Imprisonment
Marian Price

Bad Santa
Anthony McIntyre

Blunkett's Interment Law Struck Down
Eamonn McCann

Trust Us, It's Not What It Looks Like
Brian Mór

ARN & Street Seen: End of the Year Comments from Davy Carlin
Davy Carlin



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