Ever since my column, “That unwitting indecency,” saw light two weeks ago, I’ve needed to occasionally consult the mirror to make sure I hadn’t morphed into a hideous monster that feeds on Irish tots.
The column recounted my encounter in Cahersiveen, a tiny Irish township, with pupils hoisting “Save Palestine” placards and soliciting funds for supposedly oppressed Palestinians – all on a school-day morning, as part of an organized school event. Their familiarity with Israel’s ongoing struggle to avoid annihilation can safely be judged as less than minimal.
That column created quite a stir throughout the Emerald Isle and generated discussions on national radio, as well as blaring newspaper headlines, like “Principal hits back at writer who said pupils anti-Jewish” (Irish Independent), “Kerry school denies anti-Semitism” (The Irish Times) and “School ‘shocked’ by anti- Semitic claims” (The Kerryman).
Apart from two later follow-ups which I initiated, the news reporting was astoundingly uniform. Everywhere the principal of Cahersiveen’s single secondary school was quoted at length and in full. He contended that the motif of my piece was to accuse his school of anti- Semitism. That it wasn’t so didn’t matter. Shooting the messenger proved expedient.
Simplistic one-sided news accounts of what was presented as my attack on virtually the entire Irish nation, bordered on the hysterical. The Kerryman ran the story – without my comment – on its front page under ludicrously dramatic banner headlines.
Cerebrally, we understand that arguments can be skewed, that they can be taken out of context to avoid dwelling on the real issue, that attention can be diverted to trivial tangents, that our intentions can be twisted out of all proportion by normally honorable people, perhaps to safeguard their apparent interests.
But then the talkbacks – overwhelmingly from Ireland and overwhelmingly pugnacious – started streaming in fast and furious. They were emailed in droves to The Jerusalem Post website, to my own website, to Irish papers and even to online forums like Politics.ie.
I highly doubt that most responders ever bothered reading my original. Had they done so, they would have noticed that that I referred to Cahersiveen’s residents as “essentially very decent folks.”
The point I was making, and from which my headline derived, was that “there’s sadly no remedy for that unwitting indecency of essentially very decent folks. Its parades as high-minded but is irrational.”
My tone wasn’t malicious, it was pained. My message was aimed at Israelis, not Irishmen. I argued that “our image has exasperatingly little to do with who we are,” which is why it’s time to quit our self-flagellating ways.
For most talkbackers, though, my perspective was irrelevant. Their preferred tactic was to posture as upright critics of Israel who are nastily maligned as anti- Semitic. It’s what I discussed in my January 30 editorial on Gerald Scarfe’s recent Sunday Times cartoon. I wrote: “Most anti-Semites nowadays are remarkably practiced in accompanying their invective with instant disclaimers – by now an expected part of the pattern.
“It’s politically incorrect to even hint at their thinly disguised anti-Semitism. That immediately turns them into the muzzled good-guys and the protesters into loathsome Jews seeking to silence yet more righteous critics of Israel with their doomsday weapon – charges of anti- Semitism. Moreover, any remote reference to the Holocaust is sure to elicit howls of derision.
“This diabolical yet prevalent deformation of perceptions confers on all anti- Semites the freedom to slander, while denying Jews the right to call a spade a spade.
“It’s a foolproof arrangement. Jew-revulsion now masquerades behind acutely inflammatory anti-Israel and pro-Arab propaganda, whose disseminators inevitably deny anti-Semitism. Their favorite ploy is to present Israel-bashing as just deserts for the Jewish state’s policies.
“Post-Holocaust circumspection has bred cleverly camouflaged anti-Semitism – not less dangerous or less in-your-face but more cunning and deceptive.”
I also noted Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky’s “3-D test.” It determines that Judeophobia must be suspected when purported criticism slips into demonization, delegitimization and double- standards. Judge for yourself whether the following talkbacks, all from the Irish Independent (there are similar specimen on other websites) pass the 3-D test:
• The State of Israel is the most racist state on the planet…. The only way to peace is for the Israelis to stop trying to exterminate the Palestinians. Many Israelis are gun-toting American Jews who think they are in the Wild West and behave with impunity towards the Palestinians because they can.
• Israel and Israelis need to comprehend the simple fact that being Anti-Israeli does not mean being Anti-Semitic. Furthermore they also need to realize that the Gaza strip is becoming increasingly like the Warsaw Ghetto every day.
• It’s worse than the Warsaw Ghetto and it’s going on longer too.
• That teacher should have realized that ALL criticism, however mild, of Israel and its racist policies is “anti-Semitic.” They have been playing the “anti-Semitic card” to justify their greed for Lebensraum, water resources and their oppression of the Palestinians and other crimes against humanity for many decades, and it still works, so who are we in the West to criticize the Herrenrasse?
• Why do we listen to this rubbish from a paranoid supplanted people who demonize the sovereign nation of Palestine on a daily basis? Are we turning into the US where this tiny minority rules the thoughts and minds of the majority into maintaining them on an illegal plantation?
• So as soon as anyone questions the foreign policy of Israel, they are Anti- Semitic. Israel is an occupying force in Palestine = Fact. Israel drives Palestinians from their land = Fact. Israel commits war crimes = Fact. Israel breaks International law again and again = Fact. Wouldn’t you fight back with anything you could put your hands on if you were a Palestinian? I suppose I am now Anti-Semitic even though my gripe is with Israel and not Jews.
• Typical Israeli overreaction to everything – play the Jewish card. Time to stand up to these narrow-minded little racists.
• Screaming anti-Semitism is the most powerful Israeli weapon used in their colonization of the Middle East. People should understand this.
• Anyone that displays any solidarity with a people that has lived under the jackboot of Israeli occupation, savagery and barbarity are accused of being anti-Semitic.
• Honig was obviously sent by her newspaper to find evidence of antisemitism in the most pro-Palestinian country in Europe. Pro-Palestinian is NOT equivalent to antisemitism.
• So all of Europe is wrong? I’m sure you would say it is not Israel’s appalling policies, actions and strategies that revolt us…. More and more people worldwide see Israel for the rogue state it is, so they better get used to being disliked.
• The Palestinians had their homeland wrenched from them during their holocaust or, for those who consider only Jews are permitted to use the word, “the Palestinian catastrophe.” The conquest of Palestine is well-documented…. The Jews made good their invasion of somebody else’s country…. A policy of ethnic cleansing was sanctioned by their leaders and implemented violently…. There followed massacres and expulsions which continue to this day…. If you want to call me a racist because I challenge Israeli greed and injustice, go ahead.
• Israelis are very sensitive about any kind criticism and go to great lengths to seek it out. Their attitude to the rest of the world is obnoxious – ‘we know everyone hates us (except the Americans, but we have them by the balls) but we don’t care’. They can’t have it both ways – behave with impunity towards the Palestinians and give the 2 fingers to world opinion and then whinge and play the Jewish card when they are criticized.
• Israelis might have more friends in this world if they were good neighbors and didn’t regularly attack and trash their neighbors’ houses. By the way, it has nothing to do with their religion. It’s their actions people find obnoxious. There is no excuse for it.
• In Israel, a Catholic (or Muslim!) could never become a Minister. It is after all a Jewish state for Jewish people. So Israel is an anti-Christian, anti-Muslim state…. It’s their Constitution. Methinks Ms. Honig should investigate this sort of legalized discrimination, and not set out on a mission to find antisemitism in Ireland.
• The Jews (or am I to be censored as a racist for using the term?) should realize that until they start treating their Muslim fellow countrymen in Palestine fairly, whose land they began stealing by force in 1948 and continue stealing to this day, they will continue being reviled by the international community.
• No reason why Ms. Honig should write untruths about a bunch of Irish children? Not even if she’s paid to do so by the Israeli Propaganda Ministry? That’s what propaganda is, lies.
• Israeli aggression: From the savage aerial bombing of undefended refugee camps filled with men, women and children and the rapes of the Muslim women, to the Mohammedan graves which the Israeli troops dug up in their search for gold teeth.
It needs to be stressed that the above are a mere few representative examples from among thousands. These are hardly the worst, either. But who has the masochism or intestinal fortitude to read them all?
Moreover, these were talkbacks which site moderators permitted. The more abhorrent material wasn’t – like the one that arrived last week at my own website. For days, numerous aggressive responders tried over and over to post hate messages. Below is one of them:
“You’re a bag of filth. Just read about your recent escapades in Cahersiveen. I just wish the Nazis were still around to deal with scum like you. I think you should concentrate more on writing about your own sub-human species and leave the Irish out of it. Perhaps you should go to concentration camp? F–k you, you’re a filthy Jewish rat.”
We checked the sender’s IP address. It was from the vicinity of Lusk, Ireland.
It’s absurd to claim that this rant typifies the Irish. But it’s not too outlandish to argue that it and the above-cited sample may well have been inspired or intensified by unfair and unbalanced media coverage, doctrinaire and biased opinion-molding and the fostering of an atmosphere which is hardly conducive to even-handedness and tolerance.