Blog by Dr. Shimon Samuels published in The Times of Israel
10 October 2021
The journalist, David Collier’s outstanding 202 page report on contemporary antisemitism in Ireland, is shattering… Though the history of Irish Jewry has also lights in the darkness.
At the end of the nineteenth century, while poverty-stricken Irish were emigrating to the United States, they were replaced by impoverished Jewish refugees escaping from the Russian Tsarist Empire. This created resentment from Trade Unions and a 1904 boycott-pogrom in Limerick, that was ended by an Irish Catholic welcome. During the Irish Free State, many Jewish figures identified and even joined the IRA.
Though in World War Two, Ireland mainly accepted Jewish converts to Catholicism, it also accepted a small “Kindertransport” of Jewish children from Nazi Germany.
The irony was common cause against the United Kingdom, on Jewish self-determination in “Palestine”. A vignette depicts two Irish soldiers who stole tanks from a British Mandate base and delivered them to the Haganah! We must also recall that the Nazi Wannsee Protocol extermination list included “Ireland’s 4,000 Jews”, who were saved by Irish neutrality.
We remember the exciting visit of Irish linguists, who came to Israel to study the revival of a language of religion, into modern spoken Hebrew, as an example for Irish Gaelic.
We worked with the late Siev brothers, the lawyer Stanley on restitution of an art work and Raphael, diplomat and Curator of the Jewish Museum in Dublin. With his guidance, in 2008, we sent a 165 page Shadow Report on the Hunt Museum in Limerick to the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowan and a related letter to then President Mary McAleese.
John Hunt and his wife Gertrude, formerly married to a Nazi SS officer, were alleged to have fled the British MI5 on false Irish papers. His friendship with Adolf Mahr, Director of the National Museum in Dublin and Hitler’s representative in Ireland, raised the question of looted art in the Hunt Museum.
The media response to our study created a wave of antisemitic threats against us, the first we had ever known from Ireland. In the time of the Ulster “Troubles”, the Belfast barrier portrayed pro-Israel graffiti on the Protestant side and pro-Palestinian on the Catholic side of the wall.
Collier reveals that anti-Zionist propaganda goes pari passim with antisemitism, as also his focus on its top-down nature and spread through social media.
We faced an example in the display of our UNESCO co-sponsored exhibition, “People, Book Land: the 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People with the Holy Land” at the 47-member-state Council of Europe. Ireland’s refusal was deafening. Idem at the European Union – where votes are unanimous – it is Ireland that blocks a declaration defining Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
The charge that Ireland, the Emerald Isle, is today the most hostile in Europe to Israel and Jews, is unacceptable, but sets us a challenge. In order that we return to the Dublin of Leopold Bloom, hero of the James Joyce 1922 novel, Ulysses, we need to inspire allies for a campaign to that end.
Shimon Samuels is Director for International Relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He has served as Deputy Director of the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, European Director of ADL, and Israel Director of AJC. He was born in UK and studied in UK, Israel, U.S. and Japan.