Irish negativity a 'misplaced sympathy for underdog'


Israel’s education minister says the Irish have a black and white picture of the conflict, writes Olivia Kelly

IRELAND’S NEGATIVE reaction to the Israeli operation in Gaza appears to be linked to a misplaced sympathy with the underdog, Israel’s education minister has suggested.

Ms Yuli Tamir is in Dublin this week to put across the Israeli perspective on the Gaza conflict.

Speaking to The Irish Timesyesterday, she said she was disappointed people did not understand the “complexities” of the situation and were more influenced by “the last picture you’ve seen on TV” than an in-depth understanding of the conflict.

Hamas had failed to protect Palestinian citizens against the Israeli operation in Gaza, she said, while Israel had successfully protected its citizens.

“The Hamas were targeting our children all the time. We were very cautious – why didn’t the Hamas make any effort to protect the children? While smuggling all those weapons and arms, they never thought about also using some materials to protect the children, to fortify places for them so they can hide.”

The Israeli government regretted civilian deaths, she said, and many Israeli citizens were horrified by the deaths of Palestinian children and citizens. However, she said Israel had acted with a “lot of restraint and patience” and had endured eight years of bombing of its citizens before it felt compelled to act.

Ms Tamir said she understood Irish people might find it difficult to identify with Israel because it seemed the stronger party.

“It’s not necessarily the case that the weaker party is really fighting a just war. I think this is the case, that the weaker party fights a dirty war and fights it for reasons I think nobody in Ireland would support.”

She said she wondered why people did not see the danger Hamas represented when they were now so much aware of the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism.

“If there’s one thing I’m disappointed about it is that people paint a very black and white picture, they don’t see the nuance, they don’t understand the complexities. And the good guys and the bad guys – it’s all determined by the last picture you’ve seen on TV, rather than by a better more in-depth understanding of the situation.”

As a founder member of the Peace Now movement, Ms Tamir said she found it very difficult to see the death of any child, Palestinian or Israeli. The conflict would not be ended through war, but through dialogue, she said. However, she said there was no basis for negotiations when Hamas refused to acknowledge the right of Israel to exist.

It was too early to assess the success of the three-week campaign, Ms Tamir said, but Israel would hold its ceasefire as long as Hamas did. “I think the Hamas will hesitate to hurt our citizens once again. I think that it is quite clear that we’re not going to just witness the targeting of civilians on the Israeli side and remain aloof to their suffering.

“They know that we’re going to act, and hopefully this will create a new reality; as long as they will hold their fire, we will hold ours, which was the case to begin with.”

An Irish Timesphotographer was not admitted to the Israeli embassy to photograph Ms Tamir.