The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Scapegoats & Swastikas

Seaghán Ó Murchú • 14 November 2004

In the Irish Independent, 12.11.2004, news of vandalism of Irish Jewish sites after the death of Yassir Arafat appeared. On the front wall of the Irish Jewish Museum on Dublin's South Circular Road, a black swastika was daubed. At the National War Memorial at Islandbridge, yellow paint was sprayed on the cross, altar, and memorials. Slogans urging 'Free Iraq', ''Traitors' and ''Burn in Hell' were written.

I know that many readers of The Blanket disagree with my own support for a two-state compromise. Palestinian solidarity committees in Dublin and Belfast receive coverage here frequently. I recall doggerel in the letters section musing how while the media cries at the incineration of Jewish youth on buses, it fails to bemoan the shooting of Palestinian children. My own contribution will not trumpet the 'whataboutery' so prevalent in Irish discourse as each side tallies its casualties. My admission that a mature reaction to the need for Israel and Palestine to reach an agreement to each let the other live does not equate with any more enthusiasm for the Sharon's Likud than the regimes of its Arab and Muslim neighbours. My acknowledgment remains a practical one. The British suggested Uganda and Hitler's cronies Madagascar, but these remain ludicrous. Nobody wanted the Jews, if Ireland's own response to the refugee crisis sixty years ago has shown. Now as then, those who rally behind a single Palestinian expanse appears to lose their voice as to where four million Jews would go. Or if they would still be around to drive out--this one more time. Perhaps the eagerness for an Endtime transcends born-again Christians?

The specious argument that Jews fared better in their Sephardic rather than their Ashkenazic diaspora depends upon the fact that both Christian and Muslim powers needed to keep them (those whom they did not 'convert' or crush in bursts of divine inspiration) intact for business manipulation, convenient targets of blame for economic downturns, and (as with the Coptic Christians in Egypt), a ready source of heavy taxation. Both the Koran and the Christian scriptures offer many more fulminations against the 'stiffnecked Jews' than they do professions of ecumenical harmony with the first 'people of the Book'. Jewish militancy, due to a definite disadvantage in pitting never more than its few million against now billions, may gain headlines but suffers from a certain historically proven underdog mentality. Those trying to take the Temple Mount were driven back by forces of that Jewish state; those vying for an Islamic theocracy have the support of not a few millenarian-deluded evangelicals and Jewish right-wingers, but over a billion believers. The condition of Palestine's people has been manipulated by not only Israel but by Arafat's cynicism and the Arab world's connivance. Darfur, the Congo, and the Hmong have all recently encountered genocide; lacking a (partially) European oppressor, they languish without an iconic gun-toter in a kafiyyeh or an Edward Said to publicise their plights. Instead, the hatred of much of the world focuses upon a scapegoat who its enemies want to lash out into the wilderness once and for all. No right of return. The Zionist entity's enemies only need to be lucky in war once, you know. If you wonder where the use of yellow, once again a chosen color when scrawled by thugs, originated as a marker of the condition of 'the Other' so fetishised by anti-Orientalists today, look not to Nuremberg but to the stars required in twelfth-century Baghdad.

In this age of fundamentalism from both religious and political extremes, we should take this time to, as Sam Harris proposes in his recent anti-religious polemic, The End of Faith (New York: Norton, 2004), remember what he suggests would put an end to all such acts perpetrated in the name of a fanaticism that harbours no room for compromise, tolerance, or diversity. He calls for an end to belief-based, unfounded rationalisations due to their very impossiblilty. Harris avers that if each of us told the truth to our children when they ask us questions, that this would eliminate hatred and cruelty committed in the name of surety, whether religiously or politically fueled.

Of course, the families of Palestinian suicide bombers cherish their own revealed truth, for their sons and daughters, husbands and wives believe in martyrdom, happy to destroy the lives of their fellow innocents, whether they follow Allah, Christ, Tanach, or a secular creed. Paradise can be found not by being killed but by killing. And, among the Israeli settlers who bring down their own terrible reign of fire as they insist on clinging to corners of a too small, too crowded land, their own smug assertions--often from those outside Israel--to claims three thousand years old ring shallow against those who watch their groves, farms, and homes bulldozed in the name of a triumphalist state. The stalemate depresses me, as does the news from Dublin. Neither side can justify its brutality, yet both sides act out of their concern for their children's future. Harris' utopian advice does not offer answers any easier to find than those within scripture--whether attributed to Marx or Moses, Mohammed or Mark.

This meditation, as I reflect upon one of the ultimate acts of desecration, that of another's ancestral burial site, revisits a perspective that many Irish republicans have lost sympathy with over the past thirty or forty years. The exceptions of future Lord Mayor of Dublin, Bob Briscoe, who aided the old IRA and then those fighting against the British for the establishment of Israel, and the Dublin and Cork Jewish families who harboured republicans during their own fight for independence against the same British a generation earlier, have given way to a more insular and stereotypical reaction--a legacy of first the Church and then anti-imperialist tendencies combined with pro-insurgent PLO alliances by many Irish--of the few Jews in Ireland as a dangerous presence.

Extensive evidence between swastika paraders and the Arabs who entertained the German presence during WWII, not to mention continued alliances between fascists and the Muslim Brotherhood after the war up to current far-right support for Muslim fundamentalists can be found in Martin A. Lee's The Beast Reawakens (Routledge, 1999). Irish antisemitism often merged with nativists in their shared antagonism to international financial control, and this blended in turn into fringe Irish-Ireland ultra-nationalist movements such as that joined by the father memorialised in Hugo Hamilton's 2003 memoir The Speckled People. The threat attributed to this 'alien' influence far exceeded its actual size. At their peak in the 1940s, Ireland's Jews numbered around 4,000--noted and quantified on the Nazi plans for the European reich's own one-state option; now less than a thousand remain.

The Limerick pogrom fueled by Redemptorist preachers in 1904, the invective hurled at Leopold Bloom by the Citizen in Joyce's Ulysses (based on GAA founder and noted nationalist Michael Cusack), the antisemitic stances publicly taken by nearly all entities and spokespeople for nationalists and republicans during the 'Emergency'', and the sympathy and ties--symbolic and practical--from the late 1960s embraced by republicans for Arab and Muslim extremism all document this habitual tendency to fight against suspected Jewish dominance. Those who respond with the Loyalist support for the Mogen David need not be alarmed. Their counter-reaction is very small, their factions tried to buy from Qaddafi in the 1970s too, and the impact of any Ulster influence has been cancelled in turn by strong antisemitic elements in the North that lurk among reactionaries. Unfortunately, here left and right again converge.

The vandalism against the cultural centre of the past Jewish community in Dublin, and at the memorial for those who fought in two wars that set up the conditions in which half of the Jews in the world were murdered--for those who see in the long-demonised caricature of 'the Jew' the epitome of capitalism, colonialism, and conspiracy--must please those who refuse to allow today's Jews even 1/300th of the territory controlled by Muslims today. The majority of Israel's Jews want a two-state solution. One state, it has been recently reasserted on behalf of the IRSP in The Blanket, is all the despised Zionists deserve, and the sooner demographics work to attain another Arab state in a Palestine where the name of Israel returns to the history from which 1948 revived its contested dominion, the better.

The contempt for Jewish lives comes, again, even to their few remnants in an Ireland where Ballyhaunis has nearly a thousand Muslims, where Belfast's mosque attracts the masses vs. the city's only surviving temple's couple of hundreds, and where halal (perhaps packed in Mayo) meat can be far more widely purchased than at Dublin's sole surviving kosher purveyor. True to the xenophobic fear of the Jewish presence, those who rally around its destruction must seek out whatever evidence exists, scant as it may be in Ireland. We call for a multicultural Ireland; the lessons of prejudice and persecution endured for centuries by its earliest non-Christian residents remain often ignored.

The wishes of the majority of Jews, outside and inside Israel, for a two-state system cannot be tolerated by those sure that their form of a deity tells them where to live. The few settlers in Israel capture much of the world's attention and scorn. Those who have, in the name of Hamas--which means literally 'chaos'--have obliterated thousands and who have in turn been hunted by Israeli weaponry, earn murals and schoolchildren's praise, and their surviving families rewards. Haven't Irish republicans learned from this morally bankrupt 'freedom struggle' not to condone and glorify the sacrifices of the young of another generation in another statelet? Luckily for Ireland, its own 'physical-force tradition' and the use of 'state terrorism' both played out their own wargames at least deprived of the biochemical and nuclear technologies within reach of the Mid-East's followers of scripture and manifesto.

If I am accused of contradiction as an Irish republican opposed to the GFA, this does not preclude my recognition of those advocating their own Ulster Britishism within a united Ireland. This cultural and political tolerance, contrarily, would not occur within a Palestine from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. The Jewish people would face a future within Palestine that would treat them again as a minority, as they were in Christian Europe and the Muslim empires. Subjugated, they would be forced to flee or fold. This is why a two-state answer becomes necessary, for survival of Muslims, Jews, and the region's dwindling Christian minority. Criticism of Israel should not result in calls for its own elimination.

What's left unsaid in all the carefully guarded, rhetorically sanitised eulogies for Arafat, with whom $300 million seems to have been spirited away from the Palestinian nation he claimed to cherish, is how he never gave up the aspiration that its surplus Jews would leave or be driven out of his one-state Palestine. When the swastika drips again from a Dublin wall, this only shows how ineradicable is this desire to bring back ethnic cleansing in the name of an ideology, and how committed Arafat and his cheerleaders across our fragile planet are to bringing about another Judenrein--not never, but once, again.

P.S. Read Dermot Keogh's Jews in Twentieth-Century Ireland (Cork UP: 1998) for context. Visit for information on the Irish-Jewish community. Donate to the Irish Jewish Museum, 3/4 Walworth Rd, Dublin






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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

15 November 2004

Other Articles From This Issue:

Scapegoats & Swastikas
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Death of a Leader
Anthony McIntyre

Ruairi O Bradaigh, RSF Ard-Fheis Address 2004
Ruairi O Bradaigh

Anyone But Kerry
James Davis

Rubber Boa Studies
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain

'8 years in The Belfast SWP - A fraternal parting', and Part 2 of 'The ARN, - A Movement'
Davy Carlin

11 November 2004

Palestine Greater than Arafat
Sam Bahour

Gerry Adams: Man of War and Man of Peace?
Anthony McIntyre

From IRA to OCA?
Dr. John Coulter

The Orange Order: Go Forward by Going Back
Rev. Brian Kennaway

Choosing to Ignore the Facts: Not the Fault of the Left
Tara LaFreniere

Onward Christian soldiers
Tyrone Gottlieb



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