INSPIRED by The Skibbereen Eagle’s celebrated talent for keeping an eye on things international, this week we turn our attention to the Israeli elections. In fact, we nail our colours to the mast. We’re rooting for Isaac Herzog, the chap who leads a coalition of centre-left parties called the Zionist Union (pity about the name), which is performing very well in the polls.
Isaac Herzog is the grandson of Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, onetime Chief Rabbi of Ireland, who went to school in Dublin and became a fluent Irish speaker. During the War of Independence, the British labelled granddad Herzog the ‘Sinn Féin Rabbi’ due to his support for the Republican cause and his close friendship with Eamon de Valera. And that’s good enough for us. Like grandfather like grandson (hopefully); and, in response, The Skibbereen Eagle confers the title of honorary Irishman on Isaac!
After all, an Israeli government led by a prime minister of good Irish stock would be preferable to the villainous, morally-corrupt and internationally-despised regime currently under the command of Mr Benjamin (‘Bibi’) Netanyahu.
Leaving aside for the moment – if that’s possible – the horrific and almost indescribable wickedness of Netanyahu’s armed forces in Gaza – the atrocities and violation of all morality, as well as the endless seizure and colonisation of Palestinian lands – it is a fact that Netanyahu has done more to damage Israel’s reputation than any other politician in that country’s blood-soaked history.
Even Netanyahu’s American chums have had enough. His unprecedented hijacking of the US Congress, where he delivered a speech tailored to the forthcoming Israeli election, was bad enough. It was his arrogant advice to Obama on how to implement US foreign policy that infuriated the President. Within hours, America’s National Security Council described Netanyahu’s comments as ‘utterly divorced from reality’.
To make matters worse, his buffoonery at the ‘Je Suis Charlie’ rally in Paris marked Netanyahu as someone best avoided in polite society. Intent on cadging votes back in Israel by pretending to be a big shot in Europe, he danced into the sombre front row of world leaders, waving to the crowd ‘like an Olympic champion rather than a grieving head of state’.
He posed for photographs at the kosher supermarket where four Jewish shoppers were murdered and then, in a stunt that bordered on farce, persuaded the Jewish families of those killed in the supermarket to have their relatives buried in a quasi-state ceremony in Jerusalem.
On the arrival of the coffins in Israel, the families were shocked at being asked to pay £11,500 per grave in the Mount of Olives cemetery. After excruciating haggling, the price was knocked down to £8,400 per plot on the proviso the burial would take place in another location, the Mount of Rest.
The undertakers explained that the going rate for foreigners in the Mount of Rest cemetery was around £15,000 per plot, so the relatives were getting a bargain at £8,400. As the world squirmed at this latest Netanyahu fiasco and at the acute embarrassment the families were suffering, an offer was made to entomb the bodies for free in a multi-storey grave complex.
At that point, Israel’s Ministry of Religious Affairs belatedly stepped in and announced that it would cover the cost of a decent burial for the victims. It was not Mr Bibi’s finest hour!
Change at embassy?
As far as this country is concerned, should Isaac-the-honorary Irishman win the election we might well see a change for the better at the Israeli Embassy.
Although five years have passed since Israeli terrorists stole the identities of five Irish citizens in order to carry out the assassination of a political opponent, Mahmoud al-Mabhouth, the insult to this country’s sovereignty has not been forgotten.
Israel failed to make amends, brushing aside Irish concerns as irrelevant. The ambassador made the feeble excuse that he knew nothing about the vile murder or of the suspected involvement of his country’s secret service.
For that matter, the Fianna Fáil government of the day did not pursue the matter with much vigour, although it stated that the conduct of Israeli authorities in Ireland had been ‘profoundly disturbing’.
In very low-key fashion, Foreign Affairs Minister Mickey Martin timidly requested the expulsion of a low-ranking diplomat, despite vociferous calls from the public for the ambassador to be kicked out. Martin went to great lengths to explain that the expelled official was not suspected of any wrongdoing but was a victim of the actions of the state he/she represented.
Job for Isaac?
Whatever about Mickey’s diplomatic fastidiousness, the Israeli Embassy gives the impression of being a run-down pub that’s frequented by chancers with a tendency to spew invective against the local population.
Last year the Deputy Ambassador accused the Irish of being ‘anti-Semitic, brutish masses who harboured a deep-rooted, rapacious hatred of Jews’. On another occasion, the Embassy’s Christmas message proclaimed that if Jesus and Mary were alive today, they would end up being lynched by Palestinians. Even more controversially, it declared that Israelis living in Ireland who were hostile to the Israeli occupation had deviant sexual tendencies.
Letter from America
If elected, Isaac-the-honorary-Irishman has a job on his hands. He might start by taking on board the opinions of Professor Alon Ben-Meir of the University of New York. In a letter to this newspaper the eminent prof wrote that Netanyahu’s claim to speak on behalf of world Jewry was offensive to the 1.5 million Jews who live, work and flourish in Europe.
‘Not a single non–Israeli Jew living outside Israel has appointed Netanyahu to be their spokesperson or protector,’ he said.
He attributed the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiment to Netanyahu’s ‘misguided policies towards the Palestinians and the continuing Occupation,’ and he dismissed as hypocritical bunkum the prime minister’s advice to European Jews that they would find safety in Israel. ‘Eighty times more Israelis were killed in Israel by violence with the Palestinians in the past 25 years than all the Jews killed in Europe by terrorists during the same period,’ he said.
‘Netanyahu,’ he advised, ‘should wake up to the gloomy reality that nearly one million Israelis emigrated from Israel in the past 25 years’. Many of them left because they became weary of endless violent conflict and they see no reason why they should return.
Nor do they want their children ‘to be inducted into a military that has become the oppressor rather than the proud guardian of a free, independent and prosperous country at peace with itself and with the people that co-inhabit the land’.
Jews, he declared, have little hope ‘that the political environment will change any time soon, unless new leaders emerge who are committed to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’.
Question is, will Isaac-the-honorary-Irishman be that leader?