Ireland has a ‘disproportionate obsession with Israel’, says ambassador Dana Erlich

Erlich says there will be a review of bilateral relations between countries following Irish recognition of Palestinian state

Ireland has a “disproportionate obsession with Israel that we don’t see with any other country”, the Israeli ambassador Dana Erlich has said, as she prepares to return to Jerusalem for consultations with her government after Ireland’s recognition of the state of Palestine this week.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Ms Erlich again objected to the Government’s decision, along with Spain and Norway, to officially recognise the state of Palestine, which has infuriated the Israeli government.

But she also expressed worry and frustration with how Israel is perceived and portrayed in Ireland.

“You can object to Israeli policy and the current government,” Ms Erlich said. “You can object to the steps taken by Israel. You can object to decisions.


“But what we see here – the comments made by politicians, different initiatives spreading in civil society – it has gone beyond the normal criticism, it is a vilification of a whole society, which now is also translated to the Jewish community here.

“We see the rise of anti-Semitism. And it is all connected. This is why yesterday’s step concerns us with the message it sends to Hamas, but also, me as ambassador, it concerns me about how Ireland sees Israel and the future of these relations.”

Ms Erlich said she saw the recognition of Palestine as the latest in “an accumulation of these initiatives and steps”.

“What we have seen in the past months is an obsession – a disproportionate obsession with Israel, that we don’t see with any other country,” she said.

Asked whether she believed that anti-Semitism was present in some Irish attitudes to Israel, she said: “I didn’t want to think so at the beginning here. But with all the people I have discussed [it with], with everything that I hear, I am starting to understand that perhaps it is.”

Challenged about the conduct of the Israeli military in Gaza, Ms Erlich said she was “horrified by what is happening in Gaza. What is happening in Gaza is a tragedy.

“But I can’t help wonder why, when criticising it, nobody is talking about Hamas,” she said. “All of what is happening there is their responsibility... They are using their population as human shields.

“If you want to question the legality of Israel’s actions, that’s fine. But when you automatically put all of the blame on Israel, when you trial and convict Israel without any other investigation or knowledge, when you take everything that a terrorist organisation says at face value – that is what troubles me,” she said.

She added: “We are a diplomatic country with bilateral relations with Ireland, and yet people here are so quick to vilify, judge, condemn Israel... in a way that creates incitement. I have no other word for it.”

Ms Erlich is returning to Jerusalem for discussions with the foreign ministry about a response to Ireland’s recognition of Palestine. She said that “all options are on the table”.

She said there would be a review of bilateral relations – “diplomatic, security, economy, military, anything, intelligence – all of the range of aspects, and then we’ll see the different diplomatic tools that we might have – if it’s authorisations, accreditations, anything like that”.

Asked about Irish non governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in Palestine, she said: “I don’t know because most steps are with government entities and government bodies, but... we need to review all of that,” she said, acknowledging that many NGOs are government-funded.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times