am perplexed by Seagan O'Murchu's elegantly written
but profoundly confused contribution, Scapegoats
& Swastikas, posted in last week's Blanket.
He takes as his point of departure an article that
appeared in the Irish Independent about a string
of troubling incidents in which a Dublin synagogue
and a number of local Jewish memorials were defaced
with anti-semitic graffiti. Jim Cusack of the Independent
speculates that the attacks are the work of a small
group of right-wing neo-nazis who hanker after a
"racially pure Ireland" (whatever that
is), but is unable to say much more. "Nothing
is known about the size of the group," he acknowledges,
"and it may consist of only two or three people."
does not bother himself much about the probable
source of these hate crimes. Instead he makes the
remarkable leap into an expose of the legacy of
"Irish anti-semitism" as it manifests
itself today, in-you guessed it-the work of the
Palestine solidarity campaign. An advocate of a
two-state solution to the war over Palestine, O'Murchu
bemoans the "whataboutery" that (he claims)
characterizes the debate on "each side"
of the Palestinian question, and insinuates that
advocates of a single state have no answer "as
to where four million Jews would go." He then
widens the conspiracy even further, drawing the
link between the 1904 Limerick pogrom, Joyce's fictional
depiction of anti-semitism in Ulysses, and popular
anti-semitism during the 'Emergency' to-wait for
it-"the sympathy and ties from the late 1960s
embraced by republicans for Arab and Muslim extremism,"
which, he asserts, "all document this habitual
[Irish] tendency to fight against suspected Jewish
a socialist who has been involved in Palestine solidarity
work for more than a quarter century-mostly outside
of Ireland, and alongside Jews, Arabs, and compassionate
people of unwavering integrity from across the multicultural
spectrum-I have to say that I find this all extremely
bizarre. I hold no brief for the republican tradition
in this or any other matter. But I have worked alongside
many republicans in Palestine solidarity work, and
I am deeply offended by O'Murchu's suggestion that
their contribution in keeping the issue of Palestine
before the people of this island represent a link
in the long chain of a peculiarly Irish anti-semitism,
or a pathological antipathy to 'Jewish dominance'.
Would he argue, similarly, that the well-known "sympathy
and ties" between, say, black South Africans
fighting apartheid and "Arab and Muslim extremists"
were evidence of a deep-seated "African anti-semitism"?
Doubtful; but is just as ludicrous.
do not mean to suggest that Ireland is somehow less
prone to anti-semitism than its European neighbors:
the authority wielded by the right-wing Catholic
hierarchy over a large element of the Irish people
for so long practically guaranteed legitimacy, even
respectability, for anti-semitic ideas. But it is
a long stretch from this to the secular and explicitly
multicultural activism of those engaged in Palestine
most striking aspect of O'Murchu's contribution
is what it shares with so much recent establishment
and Israeli-sponsored commentary on the "new"
anti-semitism: it takes a series of incidents for
which the far right is almost certainly responsible
as a starting point for a bizarre attack upon the
left, or at least upon those involved in building
solidarity for Palestine. I do not mean to imply
that O'Murchu is deliberately engaged in something
sinister in posting this piece, but clearly the
logic he brings to bear and the assumptions underlying
the article are deeply flawed.
am perplexed, first of all, as to why he assumes
that advocates (like me) of a single secular state
with equal rights for Jews, Muslims, Christians
and others would be somehow more prone to anti-semitism
than those (like him) who believe a two-state solution
more viable. There is absolutely no relation between
the two, so far as I can see: my own position is
based, in part, on a belief that there is no intrinsic
reason why Jews and Arabs can not live together,
in peace, on the basis of full equality. The "four
million" that he talks about would not have
to "go" anywhere. O'Murchu has, in other
words, projected onto solidarity activists a completely
(and O'Murchu may not be aware of this) I would
venture to suggest that mine is a minority position
among those involved in Palestine solidarity: many
have lowered their sights considerably over the
past decade, and like the conservative, US State
Department-approved advocates of realpolitik within
the Palestinian leadership, now accept the two-state
policy as the only one that might, possibly, someday
be entertained by Israel's benefactors in Washington.
So the majority of solidarity activists hold the
same (mistaken) formal position as O'Murchu.
have responded previously on this site to a more
malicious attempt to equate anti-Zionism with anti-semitism,
and see no need to repeat the arguments here. I
will say in closing that, as a matter of principle,
anyone involved in Palestine solidarity work should
be in the forefront, in Dublin and beyond, among
those expressing their revulsion at the desecration
of Jewish memorials and places of worship, and would
go further to recommend that local solidarity committees
take the lead in raising funds to restore these
sites to their original condition.