Ireland rejects claim of hostility towards Israel


THE GOVERNMENT has strongly rejected reports, attributed to Israeli foreign ministry sources, describing Ireland as “the most hostile country to Israel in the European Union”.

Israel’s top-selling newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, quoted an unnamed official as claiming that the Irish administration was “feeding its people with anti-Israel hatred”. A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday rejected the reported comments as without foundation.

“The Government is critical of Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territories. It is not hostile to Israel and it is clearly wrong to suggest as much,” he said. “The notion that this Government is or would be trying to stoke up anti-Israeli feeling is untrue. We are not hostile to Israel. We are critical of policies, particularly in the occupied Palestinian territories. These are not the same things.”

Meanwhile, the Israeli news website reported that an “anti-Israel” demonstration had taken place in Dublin last weekend, claiming protesters wore Nazi uniforms - an assertion contradicted by all available evidence.

Dublin City Council was described in the same report as having “sponsored” the demonstration. This was rejected as untrue by the council yesterday. “Dublin City Council did not sponsor the event referred to in the article and has no knowledge of it,” a spokesman for the council said.

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign held a demonstration on Grafton Street on Saturday, during which participants dressed as Israeli soldiers and pointed fake weapons at other participants representing Palestinians.

Kevin Squires, national co-ordinator of the campaign, denied participants had dressed as Nazis. “They wore olive-green combats and the accoutrements of the Israeli military. Our only intention was to portray the Israeli military . . . and to bring home the daily humiliation Palestinians suffer simply trying to get around their country.”

Mr Squires said another point of the demonstration was to criticise building materials group Cement Roadstone Holdings, which has investment in Israel.

“CRH . . . holds a 25 per cent shareholding in a holding company called Mashav which, in turn, owns Nesher Cement. We do not control Nesher nor do we have any control over Nesher’s operations,” a spokesman for CRH said.

Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, Boaz Modai, distanced himself from claims of Irish anti-Semitism. “I don’t think Ireland is anti-Semitic, although there may be isolated anti-Semitic incidents. In my opinion, the silent majority here is either pro-Israel or indifferent,” Mr Modai told The Irish Times.

A source in Jerusalem complained of silence from officials in Dublin in the face of a “well- organised and well-funded anti-Israel smear campaign”, arguing that the line between legitimate criticism and incitement and hatred had been crossed frequently.

As an example, the official said there should have been a clear -cut denial from Government officials to claims made in the Dáil that Irish citizens in the flotilla had been mistreated and deliberately humiliated by Israeli authorities.