Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Monday, 23 August 2010

A Corker of a Philosemite

Ireland is not a country very often associated with matters Jewish, despite some interesting Jewish characters who have dotted the pages of its modern history. There was, for instance, Polish-born Rabbi Aaron the Scribe, who resided in Dublin during the late seventeenth century before serving, for a time, as Rabbi of London. There was Ellen, Countess of Desart, born to wealthy German-Jewish immigrant parents in England; although remaining loyal to Judaism, she married an Irish peer and became one of the first two female members of the Senate of the Irish Free State following that country’s creation in 1921. There was Cork journalist Sophie O'Brien, née Raffalovich, the Odessa-born daughter of a Jewish banker; she converted to Catholicism, married an Irish nationalist politician, and embraced the Irish cause. There was Isaac Herzog, Chief Rabbi of Ireland from 1919-36 and later Chief Rabbi of Israel, of which country his son Chaim became President. And there was Russian-born shochet’s son Robert Briscoe, an Irish nationalist who served as Lord Mayor of his native Dublin for two terms during the 1950s and 1960s; a strong supporter of Vladimir Jabotinsky, he assisted the Irgun, and in 1948 visited the newly created State of Israel with Irish President Eamon de Valera.

And then there’s that famous fictional Irish Jew Leopold Bloom, protagonist of Dublin writer James Joyce’s Ulysses. Many literary-minded visitors to the city follow the route taken on ‘Bloomsday’ (16 June 1904) by Leopold.

I was reminded of all this because, over the past week, a talented philosemitic Irish girl has been the talk and the toast of the pro-Israel blogosphere. She’s 19-year-old Cliona Campbell, a non-Jewish student from Cork who’s been fascinated by Jews and Israel for half her life.  Under the auspices of the volunteering project group Sar-El, she recently completed a two-month stint working at military bases in Israel. She felt impelled to volunteer after seeing the unfair way in which the media portrayed Operation Cast Lead – she was indignant at the lack of compassion with Israel’s civilians, who had endured rocket attacks from Gaza for years before the military operation was launched. On her return to the Emerald Isle Cliona wrote an enthusiastic account of her experiences in her local paper, the Evening Echo (16 July 2010), which includes the following:

“Being in Israel during the ‘Flotilla Incident’ was one of the most sobering experiences I have ever encountered. I was stationed in the north of Israel at the time, far away from the events on the high seas, yet the aftershock reverberated throughout the country. Our ‘madricha’, the soldier responsible for us volunteers, greeted us after the flag-raising ceremony that morning in an uncharacteristically depressed mood. Her voice quivered as she told us what happened.... As the ‘madricha’ spoke, tears welled in her eyes — not of anger, but of despair. It was a hopeless situation — either weapons would be smuggled into Gaza, thus supplying ammunition to Hamas’ terror campaign, or else when the Israeli Defence Forces intervened to stop them it would be a propaganda victory for the ‘innocent peace political — the Gazans are far from needy. During the last 18 months, more than one million tons of humanitarian supplies entered Gaza from Israel, equalling nearly one ton of aid for every man, woman and child. We volunteers were dumb-founded as we scrolled through our phones and read western media reports, each one damning Israel for ‘impeding humanitarian aid’. Shortly after the flotilla incident, I attended a peaceful demonstration outside the Turkish embassy in Israel, and as Israeli flags whirled above our heads, we all chimed with heartfelt sincerity “kol hakavod Yisrael” — “Well done, Israel.”
See the entire article and photos of Cliona in Israel here

Troublingly, as a result of her support for Israel, Cliona has received insults and threats. "I came back after two months and wrote a piece [see above link] on my experiences. Now I am getting hate mail and being targeted. I went into a clothes shop where I live and the security guard came up to me abusing me. My Facebook page link was posted online in a forum and I started getting emails telling me to keep my head down from now on. My friends started getting abusive emails soon after that too."

In Ireland, there’s a great deal of animosity towards Israel in certain circles, and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign there has the reputation of being particularly inflexible and embittered. The anti-Israel movement is fostered in Ireland, as in the UK, by a strange alliance of hardline left-wingers and radical Muslims. Not all Muslims are Islamists, of course. “We in the Irish Muslim community have on the whole felt part and parcel of the wider Irish society for decades; this is the country where many of us emigrated to in pursuit of a better life and opportunities; or fleeing persecution, and freedom from religious, ethnic or political discrimination”, wrote one concerned Muslim to an Irish newspaper. “The majority of us are grateful for the opportunities afforded to us by this nation and not only do we respect the ideals of the democracy that we live in but also cherish them....” The ultra-conservative Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, situated at Clonskeagh, Dublin, is said to have links to the Muslim Brotherhood, and as elsewhere in Europe, radical Muslims in Eire advocate the adoption of sharia law. An anti-American, anti-British Muslim surgeon in Dublin has been quoted as saying that flags should not be burned at demonstrations “Unless someone wants to burn the Zionist flag since we do not recognise the Zionist state".

The accompanying picture has an eloquence all of its own. No wonder one of the many blogs about the admirable Ms Campbell  is entitled “How Can We Clone Cliona?”


  1. Great article Daphne


  2. Thanks, Jonathan.
    I feel that philosemitism is too frequently overlooked, such is the (understandable)preoccupation with antisemitism, especially today, when the latter is so commonly cloaked in the guise of anti-Zionism. Although the opposite of hate is of course indifference - not love - I believe there's more philosemitism around than is often credited.

  3. So you can't see that philosemitism and antisemitism are two coins of the same affliction??? One (AS) systematically identifies traits seen as negative to Jewry and Judaism, the other (PS) systematically identifies traits seen as positive to Jewry and Judaism. Clearly both are wrong unless you come from a Jewish Supremacist viewpoint. No social or other type of group is entirely 'bad' or entirely 'good'. A three year old understands that...

    Core blimey, and you consider yourself a scholar???

  4. Afternoon, Gert! Thanks for your input. When a people have been persecuted from pillar to post, over many centuries, they are naturally grateful to those who show them appreciation and sympathy. I intend to write a blog on philosemitism in the not too distant future.

  5. I don't think you're using the right word when you're using the term philosemitism in the context of your last comment: there's an enormous difference between showing some, even considerable, appreciation and showing appreciation without any critical faculties engaged whatsoever. Even a parent loves a child unconditionally but not uncritically.


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