Israel’s embassy in Ireland criticised after social media controversies
The ‘provocative’, ‘offensive’ approach of the country’s Dublin mission has drawn international media attention
Embassy couple: the Israeli ambassador to Ireland, Boaz Modai, and his wife, Nurit Tinari Modai. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Controversial message: the Jesus and Mary comment on Facebook
‘Somebody on the Israeli foreign-ministry staff in Ireland has a lot of explaining to do,” began the report in the Jewish Press, in August. The article went on to explain how followers of the Twitter account of the Israeli embassy in Dublin had been upset by a tweet: “It’s from 2011: The UN has itself become a tool against Israel. Hitler couldn’t have been made happier”.
The tweet was quoting Simon Deng, a South Sudan refugee, and contained a link to a speech Deng made protesting the Durban II conference. The event, sponsored by the United Nations, was boycotted by the United States and Israel, because of criticisms of Israel at a previous conference.
The tweet was deleted hours later, after complaints. Several Israeli media outlets reported on the episode. A headline in the Haaretz newspaper read: “Israel’s Ireland embassy: Hitler would have liked the UN.”
Officials at the Israeli foreign ministry played it down. “The controversial quote was taken from the words of a Sudanese refugee, as is clearly seen in the article linked in the tweet,” a spokesman told the Times of Israel. “It should not be attributed to the embassy, but in the face of the growing misunderstanding it was decided to remove the tweet.”
The “tweet and delete incident” was not the first time the digital-diplomacy output of Israel’s embassy in Dublin has drawn controversy. Last December, the embassy posted an image of Jesus and Mary on its Facebook page, accompanied by the following text: “A thought for Christmas . . . If Jesus and mother Mary were alive today, they would, as Jews without security, probably end up being lynched in Bethlehem by hostile Palestinians. Just a thought . . .”
The post was deleted within hours, but not before it had gone viral on social media and attracted international media attention. The embassy’s subsequent apology, published on Facebook, read: “To whom it may concern: An image of Jesus and Mary with a derogatory comment about Palestinians was posted without the consent of the administrator of the Facebook page. We have removed the post in question immediately. Apologies to anyone who may have been offended. Merry Christmas!”
Later that day, after journalists discovered other potentially objectionable material, the Facebook account vanished. The embassy’s press officer told the New York Times the page had been taken down for maintenance. The page later reappeared but with several posts removed.
Haaretz’s diplomatic correspondent, Barak Ravid, was scathing in his report on the incident. “Israel’s embassy in Dublin has been in the headlines many times over the last few years, not only because of the tense relations between Jerusalem and Dublin, but also because of embarrassing provocations by Israel’s envoys at the mission, who try to think creatively when it comes to public relations (hasbara),” he wrote. “The person who leads this provocative line in the embassy in Dublin is not only Ambassador Boaz Modai, but also his wife, Nurit Tinari Modai, who serves as deputy head of mission.”
That summer Tinari Modai, in a letter to the Israeli foreign ministry, had proposed a strategy to “humiliate and shame” pro-Palestinian Israeli activists in Ireland, claiming their activism was rooted in psychological problems. In the letter, leaked to Israel’s Channel 10, Tinari Modai, who also serves as the embassy’s cultural attache, suggested publishing photographs of the activists to “cause embarrassment for their friends in Israel and their family” and sow suspicion among non-Israeli activists that “they may actually be working on behalf of Mossad”, a reference to the Israeli intelligence services.