Friday, February 08, 2013

The Republic of Ireland and the Irish Roman Catholic Church subsidise anti-semitism (Opinion)

After reading an article by an Israeli journalist about the anti-semitism she experienced in Kerry, I wrote a critical blog on the guilty party, Trocaire, the Irish Catholic Church’s overseas development agency, which seems more interested in espousing right-on political causes than in feeding the hungry.

On Sunday, on BBC Radio Ulster, Trocaire’s Director, Justin Kilcullen, and I debated my accusations of anti-Israel bias. 

The programme was Sunday Sequence, which discusses religion and ethics, and I enjoy participating in it when it’s chaired by the estimable William Crawley. 

Now, before I complain about his stand-in, you should know that I’ve been perfectly happy with John Humphreys, Jim Naughtie, Jeremy Vine, Jeremy Paxman and 95 per cent of those I’ve been interviewed by over the years. 

But as one of my post-programme correspondents put it: "Mike Philpott let Kilcullen ramble on unchecked until, admittedly, he had enough rope to hang himself, while acting as a terrier on you with his questions."

Among the issues I raised about which Philpott seemed incurious was Trocaire’s penchant for hiring members of the virulently anti-Israel Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.  

It hired at least three IPSC members, two of whom used to be IPSC National Coordinators.  

One is Trocaire’s Occupied Palestinian Territories/Israel Programme Officer: another – who Kilcullen says has now left – was the Campaign Coordinator.

I wrote last year of IPSC's bullying of artists to bring about a cultural boycott of Israel. Trocaire hasn’t gone that far yet, but it loudly calls on Irish politicians to back a boycott of Israeli settlement products. 

Kilcullen explained at great length that far from being anti-Israel, Trocaire worked closely with Israelis.  

But the Israelis it works with are all fervent critics of their state: among those Trocaire helps to finance are Israel Committee Against House Demolitions, Rabbis for Human Rights and Breaking the Silence.  

As I tried to point out, an admirable aspect of Israel that distinguishes it from its neighbours is that tolerates dissenting views, but this is used by its enemies as a means of attacking Israel, not as a reason to praise it.

Trocaire’s problem isn’t with Jews, it’s with Israel, explained Kilcullen, so it should not be accused of anti-semitism.  

Well, I’ll tell you my rule of thumb. If you approach Israel as a prosecuting attorney and if you denounce its human rights abuses while showing little or no interest in the monstrous brutalities of its surrounding states, or the threat they pose to Israel’s survival, then I think that – whether you know it or not – you’re probably driven by anti-semitism.

Kilcullen said something sneering about the well-organised Israeli lobby which pops up every time the country is criticised. Well, as again I tried to get across, if there were such a lobby in Ireland, there would be no need for people like me – with no Jewish background or special interest in the Middle East – to defend Israel against its enemies. 

There is much about Israel of which I’m critical, for instance the spread of settlements and the special dispensations for the ultra-orthodox, but it’s a decent country that treats well all those who live in it, including the Christians and the Muslims. 

And when in Ireland the Left, the Catholic Church and the Irish government indulge in knee-jerk anti-Israel propaganda, those of us who care about fairness have to stand up and put the other side.

The Irish government has given Trocaire more than €160 million in recent years, and Catholic churches and schools and shops collect for it. 

Kilcullen seemed to think it relevant to point out that only a very small percentage of its large income goes on its Israel-Palestine activities. 

That may be so, but nonetheless, money contributed by Irish taxpayers, Catholics and the schoolchildren who collect for Trocaire is being used to demonise Israelis, while keeping quiet about the activities of Hamas, Hizbollah, the Iranian ayatollahs and all those other dangerous elements in the Middle East that want to wipe Israel off the map.  

If that isn’t a manifestation of anti-semitism, I’m a Jew.

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