Speech by Alan Shatter for the ICEJ’s (Irish Branch) celebration of Israel’s 71st birthday – June 19th 2019

This year marks the 71st anniversary of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. It is also 81 years since Kristelnacht, 80 years since the commencement of the Second World War and 74 years since the end of the Holocaust and the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, commencing with Auschwitz- Birkenau. It is also 76 years since then independent TD Oliver Flanagan, later to join Fine Gael, praised Hitlers handling of the Jewish problem in a speech in Dáil Éireann in 1943 and just over 74 years since then Irish Taoiseach, Eamon DeValera, in May 1945 visited the German legation in Dublin to express the Irish governments sympathy and condolences on the death of Hitler.

How Ireland should be acting for the benefit of Israelis and Palestinians.

 

Former Minister for Justice, Equality & Defence Author of ‘Frenzy & Betrayal: 

The Anatomy of a Political Assassination’ (published May 2019 by Merrion Press).

Alan Shatter addressing the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) Irish branch on June 19th 2019
The persecution suffered by Jews in Germany was well known throughout the 1930s but as a matter of policy this state firmly closed its doors and turned its back on Jews seeking sanctuary in Ireland from German persecution. Wartime Government papers clearly disclose the government’s knowledge of Germany’s barbaric wartime extermination program and upon the wars conclusion there was the revelation of the systematic industrial extermination of six million of Europe’s Jews. Despite that, save for a handful, the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in search of a safe permanent home found Ireland’s doors still firmly closed. It wasn’t until the mid 1990s that a public apology was given for this state’s conduct by then Taoiseach, John Bruton.
 
The persecution of Jews over the centuries, their expulsion from States and empires in which they settled, multiple pogroms and massacres and rampant antisemitism resulted in the emergence of the Zionist movement led by Theodor Hertzl in the 19th century. Its objective was to provide a Jewish homeland, a safe location in which Jews could live free of persecution and a save haven for the persecuted. For centuries the area comprising today’s Israel and that of the West Bank and Gaza was ruled over by the Ottoman Empire whose demise resulted from the First World War. It was during that war , aprox 16 years before Hitler assumed power in Germany, that the British government, which ultimately assumed mandatory power from the League of Nations over the area, issued the Balfour Declaration promising a Jewish homeland. It was the Declaration of the United Nations in 1947, which gave international legitimacy to the creation of the Israeli State and also a separate Palestinian State.
 
It is right that we remember that had that Declaration not been rejected by all of Israel’s Arab neighbors and had two states been then created much of the trouble that has continued to this day could have been avoided and the circumstances of the Palestinians would today be substantially different and better. It is right to also recall that from 1948 until 1967 Jordan governed the West Bank and Egypt governed Gaza and during that time nothing was done to establish any independent Palestinian State on those territories.
 
I have briefly referenced this history as it is today forgotten by too many and the background circumstances to continuing conflict are too readily ignored by Israel’s enemies and detractors. The creation of Israel was the result of a recognition by Jewish visionary leaders over a hundred and twenty years ago that if the Jewish people, like other peoples, were to have the opportunity of a stable, safe, peaceful and secure future, self determination in a land to which they were irrevocably linked by history and religion was crucial. Israel did not come into being because of the Holocaust , as some contend. Israel came into being because the Holocaust compelled a majority of States to accept and recognise that the historical rebirth of a Jewish nation state was morally indisputable. Had Israel as a state existed prior to the rise of Hitler it could have provided a refuge for many of those slaughtered to whom other states, including Ireland, closed their doors.
 
Ireland as a state does not have a stellar record and lacks moral authority when lecturing Israel, as it often does, on issues concerning its security and the safety of its citizens. Irish politicians and public servants suffer from an extraordinary lack of insight in relation to this.
 
Irish history and this state’s failures have been too easily ignored by successive Irish governments when addressing the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict in a manner which betrays important values and principles which should be respected in public life and state craft, including the value of truth telling, dealing with reality and confronting falsity. They have also been ignored by the fanatical online keyboard warriors and those who peddle lies and hate in this State and elsewhere who are intent on Israel’s demonization, delegitimization and ultimate destruction, action all self proclaimed and misrepresented as being to the benefit of the Palestinian people. All emphasis and action is on the negative and no time or energy is dedicated to what could be positively achieved to problem solve and improve the daily lives of Palestinians. A recent example is the time consuming, useless, unsuccessful twelve months long BDS campaign to boycott the Tel Aviv Eurovision. Sadly the activities of groups and individuals who so behave have in recent years contaminated public discourse and unduly and wrongly influenced and unbalanced government policy and ministerial and opposition political rhetoric.
 
In referencing history, it should also be not forgotten that the nascent newly independent Israeli State in 1948 had to defend itself against a war of extermination launched by its surrounding Arab neighbors, successfully fought the preemptive six day war in June 1967 when again publicly threatened with extermination and successfully defended itself in a third such war launched against it in 1973 on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of fasting and atonement. Thereafter, there came the barbaric horrors of the First and Second Intifada. Israel’s history right up to today has been marked by a continuous fight for its survival and to protect its citizens of all denominations in a hostile and brutal region. That fight, sadly, is not over.
From right to left: Pastor John Ahern of All Nations Church, Alan Shatter, Orli Weitzman Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to Ireland, His Excellency Ophir Kariv, Israel’s Ambassador to Ireland
Hamas, the barbaric terrorist organization that assumed control of Gaza in a brutal coup in 2007 is dedicated to Israel’s extermination. Since it’s take over of Gaza, almost two years after Israel’s withdrawal, Hamas has initiated three unnecessary wars by its engagement in terrorism and the firing of multiple rockets into Israel, indiscriminately aimed at population centers. Fatah, the supposed more moderate Palestinian group which controls the Palestinian Authority hails as martyrs those who murder defenseless Israeli men, women and children, some in their sleep, and pays a pension to those who do and to the families of murderous terrorists who perish. Their barbaric exploits are celebrated in Palestinian universities and held up as examples to be followed in Palestinian schools. Palestinian streets, parks and squares are named after so called martyrs who murder the innocent and vulnerable and their atrocities are presented as a source of pride.
 
While talking peaceful resolution of the long enduring Israeli / Palestinian conflict to gullible Irish and European visiting politicians, the PA and President Abbas, do nothing to prepare their people for the obvious compromises required to effect a peaceful resolution and encourage them to believe Israel can be eradicated and that there is no legitimate Jewish connection to the land of Israel, including the great and holy city of Jerusalem. This distortion of history and disregard for the bible erects an almost insurmountable barrier to reconciliation and conflict resolution. Its consequence is that should a new united democratically elected Palestinian leadership in the future emerge and conclude a comprehensive agreement which pragmatically fully resolves conflict with Israel it will be enormously difficult to secure the public support required to implement it due to people’s unreal expectations. In the meantime Ireland and other states wrongly look the other way as many members of the Christian community on the West Bank feel compelled to leave and the Christian population of Bethlehem is continuing to dramatically fall.
 
Iran publicly glories in promoting its commitment to Israel’s destruction as does it’s Lebanese surrogate, Hezbollah, who together with Iran fought to keep the brutal dictator Assad in power in Syria. Both Iranian and Hezbollah troops, currently based in Syria, today pose an additional existential threat to Israel. The greatest threat of all is Iran’s objective to develop an atomic bomb and Europe’s innocent complacency about the threat such development presents. Meanwhile Iran funnels millions of Euros to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza and to Hezbollah to fund terrorism and violence.
 
In the past 12 months hundreds of acres of Israeli forests have been destroyed by fires caused by projectiles from Gaza, over a thousand rockets have been fired into Israel and heinous terrorist murders and attacks have continued. Most such attacks have been perpetrated by young Palestinians in search of martyrdom misled by their elders, who know better, into believing their actions will bring about Israel’s destruction and it’s replacement by a Palestinian State. They too are victims, readily sacrificed by a political culture which values death over life and promotes despair over hope.
So what about the approach to the conflict by our government?
 
On the plus side, Irish troops, in their United Nations roles, continue to engage in peace keeping and observation duties in Southern Lebanon, on the Golan Heights and in Jerusalem.
 
The government has opposed Senator Blacks Bill to boycott goods and products originating from the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in which there is any Jewish involvement. Unfortunately, despite government opposition the Bill, with Fianna Fáil support is through the Senate and passed it’s second stage in the Dail. It presently awaits consideration by the Dail’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
 
The government continues to support a two state solution and to urge Israeli and Palestinian leaders to re- engage.
On the minus side, our government’s approach, as publicly presented, wrongly and excessively targets and criticises Israel as the party primarily responsible for the collapse of any peace process and mistakenly focuses entirely on Israeli Settlements on the West Bank. It does not stop to logically consider why Jewish people should be excluded from residing in limited areas of the West Bank when rightly those of all religions live in Israel. The truth is also that the lack of peace has nothing to do with Israeli settlements. Inexplicably, it is either forgotten or ignored that the start of this long enduring conflict precedes by decades the existence of a single settlement and even precedes the creation of the Israeli State.
 
At times of conflict the Irish Government also usually joins in the chorus of those who criticise Israel for so called “ disproportionate “ responses to Palestinian rocket fire and terrorist attack, ignoring the reality that the primary duty of any state under attack is to protect its citizens and end the threat to their safety. The response of Israel to such attacks is a great deal more restrained than would be the response by some of Israel’s State critics if similarly attacked.
Our government has consistently ignored Palestinian divisions, the fact that there have been no Palestinian elections for 14 years, the total absence of a unified Palestinian approach to constructive conflict resolution, the deadly rivalry between Hamas and Fatah which has resulted in two separate regimes governing the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Territories for over 12 years and the fact that Palestinian President Abbas hasn’t set foot in Gaza since 2007 for fear of assassination. It also ignores that the only agreed approach to the conflict amongst the various Palestinian factions is to demonize Israel internationally and stir up religious passions locally by regularly falsely alleging the Israeli government is intent on destroying or damaging the Al Aksa mosque in Jerusalem or obstructing worshippers access to it. It appears to also regard the firing regularly of rockets into Israel and the destruction of forests carefully planted and grown in a difficult climate as minor irritants unworthy of serious criticism.
 
The truth is beyond making noise, holding meetings and saying things designed to secure voting support for Ireland’s bid to become a temporary member of the UN Security Council, the Irish Government is presently doing nothing of real value to contribute to ending the conflict, effect reconciliation and bring about a two state solution.
What should the Irish Government do?
 
Primarily it should engage in some truth telling based on an understanding and acknowledgement of the complexity and history of the conflict and current reality.
 
It needs to publicly and expressly tell Palestinians that encouraging and lauding terrorism and promoting a martyrdom culture is a dead end leading to nothing other than further conflict, is contrary to the interests of the Palestinian people and totally undermines the prospect of any peaceful resolution and the creation of a recognised Palestinian State.
It should stop pandering to falsity. Instead of opposing the Black Bill simply because it violates EU law, it should expressly State it to be morally repugnant to so target Israel and adopt the approach of the German Parliament which last month passed a motion labeling the BDS ( Boycott, Divestment,Sanctions) movement against Israel as anti Semitic. It declared it was “ reminiscent of the most terrible chapter in German history” and the Nazi slogan “ Don’t buy from the Jews”. It is also reminiscent of a shameful chapter in Limerick’s history in the first decade of the 1900s. Our government should speak truth to the Palestinians, detailing the damage the Black measure if implemented and replicated across Europe would do to the thousands of Palestinians employed in Israeli businesses on the West Bank and talk about the contribution to reconciliation and peace derived from Israelis and Palestinians working together. It should also publicly acknowledge the links between the BDS movement and terrorist organizations and that Omar Barghouti, the co- founder of the BDS movement, has made it clear that the sole objective of the movement is the destruction of Israel. It is an objective that our government should call out as repugnant.
 
Our government should encourage reconciliation between the warring Palestinian factions and recognise that until there is greater unity and new Palestinian Elections little progress can be made.
 
Our government should open its eyes to the huge sums of money diverted from international aid to enrich some Palestinian leaders and demand in international forums that such corruption end and that their be full accountability .
Our government should open its eyes to the huge sums of money diverted from international aid to enrich some Palestinian leaders and demand in international forums that such corruption end and that their be full accountability .
Our government should encourage both Palestinian and Israeli leaders to engage in trust building measures and talks, to end both local and international verbal hostilities and to encourage, not discourage, the development of friendly relations between ordinary Israelis and Palestinians. 
 
Our government should welcome next week’s Bahrain economic workshop to discuss greater sustainable economic development in the Palestinian Territories and encourage positive engagement by both Israelis and Palestinians. To date, despite its potential benefit to the Palestinian people, the Palestinian leadership , assuming its usual nihilistic position, is refusing to attend and discouraging other states from doing so.
 
Our government, like the United States, should recognise that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and relocate Ireland’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Russia has announced the movement of its embassy to West Jerusalem which has been part of Israel since its foundation and there is no valid reason for our government not replicating Russia’s decision. Ireland and other states following the American and Russian lead would bring some badly needed reality to any future dialogue. It should also be recognised that Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem has ensured freedom of worship in the Holy City for all followers of the monotheistic religions, Christian, Jewish and Muslim.
 
Our government should examine its approach to-date to the conflict both at the UN and within the EU to identify what past engagements might now be judged as counter productive or of no value in contributing to conflict resolution and what might be done better with greater credibility in the future. It should also take more seriously in its EU and UN engagements the threat posed by Iran which, if it could, would perpetrate a second Holocaust of over six million Jews in Israel should it acquire nuclear weapons. Ireland having turned its back on the Jewish people when so many were being persecuted and exterminated by Nazi Germany should not repeat that grievous historical failure.
 
The Irish government should also stop ignoring the perilous plight of the Christian community within the Palestinian Territories and directly discuss valid concerns with President Abbas and the PA and engage at an EU and UN level to get support for those concerns and for impressing on the Palestinian leadership the need to have them fully and openly addressed.
 
Am Israel chai- the people of Israel live- our difficulty is that too many in this state, including some Oireachtas members, are devoted to Israel’s demonization and through ignorance or antisemitism or both wish for its destruction. Our mutual objective should be to ensure Irish governments and mainstream politicians do not for perceived political popularity succumb to this virus and by our communications and lobbying we must stiffen their backbone and ensure they are fully informed and supportive of peace and reconciliation and recognise the real benefits to our state of friendly and supportive engagement with the Israeli State.
 
Alan Shatter – 19 June 2019.

by Editorial

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