Demythologising Israel

A Bear 1Yesterday the Israeli Embassy in Dublin shared Richard Cohen’s opinion piece in Monday’s Washington Post, ‘Israel is Held to an Impossible Standard,’ on social media with the instruction that we, the people of Ireland, should “Do [ourselves] a favor (do you know what, please do me a favor) and read this article.” There were a couple of, now expected, insults from this anonymous Israeli technocratic aide. If it must pontificate to the Irish people, one might expect the Embassy of Israel to ensure at the very least that its various media releases at least do us a favour and adhere to the Irish conventions of spelling and grammar. His (or her) post makes a personalised demand. We must ask what right this person has to make demands, especially after this same person posted and promptly removed a poster on 27 July bearing the image of Dublin’s beloved Molly Malone statue apparelled in a black niqab with a racist and inflammatory slogan insinuating that Muslim women are a threat to both Israel and Ireland. Furthermore, the author of the shared article has, on one occasion, forced the Washington Post to apologise for his openly racist opinions; opinions that have continued to be published. As recently as 2013 he wrote that he had to repress a gag at the very thought that a white man could so sully himself by marrying a black woman and producing “biracial children.” In assuming the perfect ignorance of this Israeli aide – as one simply must – we must ask also a favour in return; that he (or she) desist from making demands, and start checking their sources (for now we shall not be pedants and kindly ignore the tellingly American spelling). Continue reading

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Scottish Independence

A Bear 2Back in the days before the New Labour landslide which finally ended the unelected and long Conservative domination of Scotland, safe in the bosom of Kilmarnock Academy in my later teenage years, a small band of comrades and I constituted something of a political collective. This was the mid-nineties and so before the advent of the hip Nerd. We were just awkward and a little bit weird. If memory serves me right there was Calum, Thomas, Mick, Alan, Gary and myself. As working-class Scottish lads living under the dull light of John Major in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust that never materialised a natural theme for loud discussion was nationalism and the question of Scottish independence. Devolution to Edinburgh was on the horizon and we weren’t old enough to vote, but such things have never stayed the ability of the Scots to have an opinion. We all had our opinions, and during our lunch breaks, if we weren’t at the chipper or smashing windows in an abandoned Religious Education classroom, the stairwells and corridors were ringing with our vocal battles of will. As we enter now into the last thirty days in the lead up to the Scottish Independence Referendum, now that we are all hairy-arsed and baldy-headed, early middle aged men, I am unsure of the opinions of those old boys. Facebook keeps us all abreast of one another’s life events and travels, but time and distance, and the auld bonds of sincere and sentimental affection keep the discussion between us muted. When any combination of us lands back in Ayrshire we meet up and go for pints. We don’t want to be falling out over politics – not at this stage. That’s a young man’s game. Continue reading

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A Bear 1Haemorrhoids are the mother and father of all embarrassing afflictions, I should know. They have been the blight of my back passage and constant steadfast companion for the past five miserable “bloody” years. But I have recently come to the realisation that the embarrassment caused by suffering this dis-ease is nothing more than a social construct engineered for the better comfort of wider, non-suffering society. So for the comfort of long-suffering, shame soaked haemorrhoid-suffering society I am going to blow the lid on the “suffer in silence” culture of comfortable society. How can any otherwise rational human being be expected to offer this noisome pestilence up for the holy souls when their stool samples are being produced with “go-faster stripes?” Go to the doctor? Go to the doctor?! What? Don’t go to the doctor. Back in the day when I still trusted in western medicine and the Hippocratic oath I minced into a clinic in south Dublin, losing a quart of blood and sweat an hour, to be given an internal examination. Now I had imagined that once my moderatorships were out of the way I wouldn’t have to undergo the trial of an examination again, and ever since I have been a huge fan of external examiners. This crazy quack asks a couple of perfunctory questions before-hand and then swiftly asks me to lower my pantaloons and briefs and lie foetus like upon his table. Continue reading

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Christian Zionism

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAZionism, or the Jewish nationalist ideology that espouses both the creation and development of a Jewish state in Palestine, has, like many movements, no single definition. Zionism in the world’s political landscape is a collection of zionisms which all subscribe to the dual vision of the creation and development of Herzl’s envisioned Judenstaat (published in 1896). In real world terms this means that there are many, often very different, forms of Zionism. Where Theodor Herzl considered himself an atheist, with assent to the central elements of the, then proposed now realised, Jewish state Zionism has been free to encompass most nationalist expressions of Judaism – secular and religious. In so transcending any singular conception of Jewish national aspirations it was open also to the nefarious agendas of non-Jews who, for various reasons, desired the removal of Jewish minorities from their own societies. Non-Jews with national aspirations for Jews, qua the ‘other,’ cannot therefore be considered Zionists in the proper sense of the word, but quasi-Zionists who, rather than advocating an authentically Jewish hope, were advocating their own hopes for ‘the Jews’ from the standpoint of their own objectification of ‘the Jews.’ These quasi-Zionist ideas have been present within and throughout both Eastern and Western Christianity since the first century of the Common Era; taking on, like Zionism in Jewish religious and political thought, both religious and secular dimensions. With the spread of the Protestant reforms, and the use of the Bible in less liturgical and scholastic settings, certain Christian aspirations for the Jews developed which were rooted not in a sincere appreciation of the realities of sixteenth century Judaism, but in fantastical caricatures of ‘the Jews’ as Christian readers met them in the Bible. From at least Herzl’s time these strands of Zionism and quasi-Zionism have not always developed in isolation from one another. In fact even Herzl’s emerging Zionism was in an ongoing symbiotic relationship with the Christian quasi-Zionism of William Hechler; the Anglican chaplain to the British Embassy in Vienna. As a Restorationist, Hechler believed that the ingathering of the Hebrews to Palestine – the Promised Land – was the fulfilment of Christian prophecy and a precursor to the Second Coming of Christ. To this end he long sought, yet ultimately failed, to procure the bishopric of Jerusalem. His construct of ‘the Jews,’ or the Hebrews, was simplistic and reductionist; accepting the diversity of Judaism in Europe as an objectified whole viewed only through the prism of a New Testament presentation of ‘the Jews.’ In this Orientalist encapsulation he anticipated their instrumentalisation as an element in his Restorationist self-fulfilling prophecy. Naturally each man saw in the other an expedient ally. Continue reading

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Antisemitism in Ireland

A Bear 1On Thursday of this week (August 7, 2014) the Israeli Defence Forces’ radio station in Israel reported an interview with the wife of the Israeli ambassador to Ireland – herself, quite conveniently, the deputy ambassador. In this interview Ms. Nurit Tinari Modai described those in Ireland concerned for the safety of the people of Gaza as “heathen hordes, agitated, anti-Semitic with a crazy, deeply rooted hatred of Jews.” She is certainly not alone in such an assessment of Irish peace and Palestinian solidarity campaigns. The comments posted on the Times of Israel’s website article on Ireland’s political support for the plight of the Palestinians frequently reference Ireland’s “strong Roman Catholicism” as a source of our “hatred of Jews.” The simple truth is that many Israelis and supporters of Israel are of the opinion that Ireland is a hive of virulent Jew hatred. An ongoing social media discussion of Irish Times’ journalist Kitty Holland’s support for a boycott of Israel on the Irish4Israel Facebook page, other than employing misogynistic insults (an identified trend in current pro-Israeli discourse), was keen to dismiss her and the boycott movement as “racist,” “Jew-hating,” and “anti-Semitic.” Allegations of this nature, targeted against people in the media, pose a serious threat to their careers and livelihoods, and so have functioned as an effective deterrent to open criticism of Israel. As recently as December of last year the host of a political radio show, Peter Kearney, was suspended by Dublin’s Near FM station after complaints from the Israeli embassy to the Irish Broadcasting Authority (BAI). The complaint accused Kearney’s show of “falsehoods,” “bias,” and for being “a forum for hatred against either Jewish people or the State of Israel.” Upholding the complaints of falsehoods (that Gaza was an open-air prison) and bias (presenting only the findings of the UN’s Gladstone Report which concluded that Israel was guilty of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead against Gaza), but rejecting the assertion of Jew hatred, the BAI’s decision lead ultimately to the suspension and silencing of Kearney. Continue reading

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A Bourgeois Appropriation of the Workers’ Lockout

A Facebook PostIreland, or at least the cultural talking-heads of Ireland, has or have declared the coming ten years a Decade of Centenaries. Depending on where each participant stands this might refer to either the centenaries of 1911 – 1921 (from the 1911 census of Ireland), or of 1913 – 1923 (from the Dublin Lockout). Whichever way we look at this, it is absurd; for no matter where we stand in the stream of human history, unless one happens to be a Young-Earth Creationist, it will always be one hundred years since something happened. Regardless, the upcoming centenaries are important for the national nation-creation myths or history of Ireland. We have the sinking of RMS Titanic, the colossal industrial agitation around the city of Dublin in the Lockout, the Great War, the Easter Rising, the War of Independence, and the Civil War. All of these things are important, but one hundred years of history and all the complex social and political currents of the historical ocean between then and now have served to add nuance and flavour to these events, resulting in a history that is highly contested, no matter how hard certain groups within Ireland try to hammer the square peg into the round hole. From the disaster of the Titanic onwards, the historical processes that have brought us to this point in time have not been all plain sailing. To begin with the old adage that only the victors are responsible for the record of accepted history is only the tip of the iceberg. Ireland has a long and rich history, her many and diverse communities have long histories, and the people of Ireland have equally long memories – and this may be part of the problem today when it comes to the state, or sanitised, presentation of a national historical narrative. Continue reading

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What Is Really So Crap About Kilmarnock?

A Facebook PostThe warning that one should expect to encounter “drug addicts, violence and binge-drinking” had me convinced that Marc Horne’s article in Scotland on Sunday (October 27th 2013) was going to be yet another exposé on the royal family. It wasn’t until the words “litter-strewn urban decay” that I arrived at the full realisation that this piece was going to be about Ayrshire and the town of Kilmarnock in particular. Litter-strewn is the last thing that can be associated with the British royal establishment; they have whole armies of working class people cleaning up their rubbish. Horne, naturally enough, isn’t peddling his own very humble opinion. He is giving the North Briton broadsheet rubber stamp to Sam Jordison and Dan Kiernan’s sequel to their 2004 poverty porn sensation, Crap Towns, just in time for Christmas. Crap Towns Returns is altogether much of the same: a condescending sneer from the self-appointed editorial pedestal of a Cambridge University graduate. Perhaps this ad hominem observation is a little uncalled for, it would be wrong to base any response to this literature on the persons responsible for it. No, integrity demands that we keep our thoughts on this work, which is on the same wavelength as, on topic – class war. Continue reading

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