The chair of the Ireland-Israel Friendship League has resigned after being subjected to what he called "vicious personal abuse" by pro-Israeli "extremists" when he criticised Israeli soldiers involved in a confrontation with EU diplomats delivering aid to Palestinians in the West Bank.
Tom Carew came under a barrage of hostile comments after he posted the following on his Facebook and Twitter accounts: "TRIPLE crime by Israeli troops in ARAB land – 120 Arabs made homeless . . . EU French diplomat assaulted, EU aid seized."
He was referring to an incident in which Israeli soldiers manhandled EU diplomats – including a French diplomat who fell to the ground and later struck a soldier – and seized tents they had been attempting to give to some 120 Palestinians whose homes had been demolished by Israel days before. The diplomatic team included the deputy head of Ireland's mission in Ramallah.
In subsequent posts, Mr Carew wrote: “I greatly admire anyone, not least an unarmed tiny French woman, who stands up to a large gang of well-armed bullies busy destroying homes as Military Occupiers in the land of another People”. He asked: “By what moral standard is destroying Arab homes OUTSIDE Israel – not wrongdoing?” and also accused Israel of “racist” policies.
Pro-Israeli commenters responded by accusing Mr Carew of “libelling Israel” and alleging he was a “liar and mischief maker” who had “done so much harm to Israel for all to see, eg politicians and journalists”. Others called him “irrational” and questioned his health. One woman suggested he see a therapist.
'Bitter personal bile'
In response, Mr Carew wrote that "the bitter personal bile . . . leaves me quite speechless" and later compared it to the "same kind of poison which led to the murder of [Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin who was assassinated by an ultra-nationalist in 1995] . . . Such tactics make me even more determined to confront and expose them at every turn, and not to yield an inch to intimidation."
Mr Carew said he did not believe in “being an uncritical friend” of Israel. “It truly amazes me that some folk cannot accept that you can admire the original State of Israel, its founders and its core values, and not be repulsed – on moral grounds – at the dominant ideology which has taken over in the past three decades, that of the Greater Israel movement and settler project. It is the ultra-nationalist forces who have abandoned the founding values and who are its worst enemies.”
Mr Carew said his decision to resign was "not purely" to do with the messages. "I want to be able to speak freely and not bother with the question of whether other people happen to share my opinions or not," he told The Irish Times. "I was under no pressure to resign."