By Sean Savage/JNS.org
The Irish and Jewish people
share a common history of both suffering cruel persecution and achieving
national redemption against immeasurable odds. But today, Ireland is one of
Europe’s fiercest critics of Israel. The Irish government and prominent Irish
NGOs frequently condemn Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, and they are
pushing a boycott of the Jewish state.
Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore gestures while talking with Palestinian demonstrators at the weekly gathering in the mostly Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in eastern Jerusalem on Jan 27, 2012. Within an Irish government that frequently condemns Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, Gilmore is one of the most outspoken critics of the Jewish state. Credit: Sliman Khader/FLASH90.
Countering this trend is a
small, yet passionate, contingent of pro-Israel Irish groups seeking to create
more positive relations between these similar nations.
a national level, since the late 1950s, Ireland has considered a
solution to the conflict in general, and a solution of the Palestinian
refugee issue in particular, as one of its top foreign policy priorities
in the Middle East,” Irish-born Professor Rory Miller, who is director of the
Middle East and Mediterranean Studies Program at King’s College in London and
author of Ireland and the Palestine
Question 1948-2004, told JNS.org.
relations haven’t always been this sour. In the early 20th century, many Irish
leaders were sympathetic to the Jewish people, with the Irish drawing heavily
on historical parallels with Jews, including their suffering, the large-scale
migration of Irish in the 19th century, and their upward struggle for national
self-determination against the British.
following Israel’s independence in 1948, Irish sympathies inexplicably shifted.
The Irish no longer viewed Israel as the underdog struggling for its national
rights, but instead as a foreign occupier on someone else’s land—the Palestinians—similar
to the Irish experience with British control over Northern Ireland.
did not extend recognition to Israel until 1963 and did not establish an
embassy in Tel Aviv until 1996. Furthermore, Ireland was one of the first
European countries to call for a Palestinian state in 1980 and has insistently
focused on the Palestinian refugee issue.
its subordinate position within the European Union behind such larger powers as
the U.K., France and Germany, Ireland has played an outsized role as a voice on
matters concerning Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Current Irish Foreign
Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (known as the Tanaiste in Gaelic) Eamon
Gilmore has been one of Ireland’s most outspoken critics of Israel. Last month,
Gilmore, who is a member of the left-wing Irish Labor Party, announced that
Ireland would embark on a campaign to urge fellow EU states to label Israeli
products from the West Bank as “settler” products, and to eventually encourage
the West Bank are illegal, and therefore the produce of those settlements
should be treated as illegal throughout the European Union,” Gilmore said in
May, according to the Jerusalem Post.
policies have also targeted Israel on other fronts. In early June, Israeli
government officials accused the Irish government of being behind the
opposition within the EU to label the military wing of Hezbollah as a terrorist