|An edited pro-Israel billboard in Cork|
“BECAUSE HATING JEWS is no longer ‘politically correct’, hating Israel is the ‘correct’ way to hate Jews now”, the masthead of Irish4Israel’s official Facebook page ridiculously claims, but it illustrates how the rabidly Zionist group intentionally conflates opposition to the Israeli state’s aggression with anti-Semitism.
Irish4Israel has close ties to the Israeli Embassy in Dublin that has become notorious for its offensive online propaganda in Ireland.
The fanatically pro-Israel group says it aims to “provide grassroots support for Israel in Ireland” and opposes what it describes as “the demonisation of Israel in the media here” has been up and running for over five years. It was founded in 2010 by University College Cork student Barry Williams. He claims he became a supporter of the Israeli state after visiting the Middle East and hearing first-hand accounts of Israelis who live in areas hit by rocket and mortar fire from militant groups based in the Gaza Strip.
Much of its activity is online, with charities and NGOs such as Christian Aid, Trócaire and Irish Aid being their preferred targets and accused of having a “hate agenda”. Irish4Israel has organised occasional, small demonstrations in Ireland alongside groups like Irish Christian Friends of Israel who “accept the Biblical truth that God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people forever”.
There were scuffles at a small pro-Israel rally in November 2012 on Dublin’s O’Connell Street. Palestine solidarity counter-demonstrators clashed with gardaí as they picketed the propaganda event. Some of the pro-Israel demonstrators held signs praising the Israeli military – who at that very moment were bombarding the Gaza Strip from the air and sea. As the rival demonstrations began on a rain-soaked O’Connell Street, news came through that the death toll in Gaza from the Israeli bombing raids had reached 160, including 34 children.
Barry Williams (pictured) claimed, following 2009’s ‘Operation Cast Lead’ (in which Israeli bombing raids on Gaza killed more than 1,400 people and wounded over 5,000) that “the root of the conflict” is rocket fire from Gaza while dismissing claims that it is Israel’s siege and continuous bombardment of the beleaguered coastal strip and occupation of the West Bank which stokes the violence.
Some of Irish4Israel’s campaigns have been funded with the help of the San Francisco-based, pro-Israel public relations agency BlueStar PR. BlueStar says it aims to “humanise perceptions about Israel” using visual media to “build support for Israel’s case as a Jewish democracy within secure, recognised borders”.
The group helped fund Irish4Israel’s bus-stop advertisements in Cork encouraging people to visit Israel. It also raised funds for a trip to Israel as a prize for one of Irish4Israel’s competitions with the winning entry chosen by the notorious Israeli Embassy in Dublin.
Other activities funded by BlueStar go far beyond mere tourism adverts and include disturbing ‘commando tourism’ excursions in the West Bank as part of their BlueStar Fellows programme in which young people, mainly from the United States, take part in paintball war games on a privately-owned “counter terrorism” training facility in the illegal settlement of Gush Etzion. The website of the Caliber 3 facility (set up by a former Israeli Army colonel) promises an excursion which mixes “the values of Zionism with the excitement and enjoyment of shooting”.
A June 2013 report by National Public Radio in the US on the Caliber 3 facility describes instructors demonstrating firing techniques on targets dressed as Palestinians and telling tourists they can “help fight terrorism” by promoting a positive view of Israeli soldiers in their home nations.
A favourite tactic of both Irish4Israel and BlueStar PR is “pinkwashing” – using Israel’s fairly progressive attitude to LGBT rights in comparison to its neighbours to gloss-over its systemic human rights abuses and its apartheid regime. Mrs Brown’s Boy star Rory Cowan has become one of the Zionist state’s keenest advocates, claiming in an online video that “none of it is true” in what Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigners say.
Gideon Levy writing for the longstanding Israeli daily news site, Haaretz, is one that this tinge of liberality doesn’t wash with everyone who see beyond that.
“‘Hasbara’ is the Israeli euphemism for propaganda, and there are some things, said the late Ambassador Yohanan Meroz, that are not ‘hasbarable.’ One of them is Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians,” Levy wrote in June of last year.
“And propaganda shall cover for everything. We’ll say terrorism, we’ll shout anti-Semitism, we’ll scream delegitimation, we’ll cite the Holocaust; we’ll say Jewish state, gay-friendly, drip irrigation, cherry tomatoes, aid to Nepal, Nobel Prizes for Jews, look what’s happening in Syria, the only democracy, the greatest army.
“We’ll wail that the whole world is against us and wants to destroy us . . . the minister will declare that boycotts are unacceptable, the deputy director of the Foreign Ministry will explain that a bigger budget is needed . . . and despite it all, nothing will budge. Propaganda won’t cover for everything.”
- This article first appeared in the February 2016 edition of An Phoblacht