Israeli journalist finds florid antisemitism in remote corner of Ireland
In this posting Richard Silverstein’s questioning of Sarah Honig’s JPost article is first, followed by an article and letters from the Irish Times, and lastly an article from the Irish Examiner.
Ms Honig’s blast against those who misunderstand Israel, especially Europeans as “getting the Jewish state to sign its own death warrant will apparently buoy sagging spirits in the Euro zone”, can be read here. She appears upset (vindicated) that she does not “find sympathy” for “a far more ancient nation” than Eire. (Partitioned Ireland won its independence from Britain in 1922, adopting the name Eire in 1937. Palestine was partitioned in 1947, and Israel was created as sovereign state in 1948 after fighting the British.) She appears to wish to demonstrate that wherever she goes in the world she will discover such a deep misunderstanding of Israel and ignorant sympathy with the Palestinians that it amounts to antisemitism.
It seems odd, or perhaps not, that someone who was educated in the USA should have so little grasp of why small nations with a history of fighting for their independence might feel sympathy with the small nation of Palestine that has yet to win its independence. For all her long experience – she has been a journalist for over 40 years – she has not understood that Israel is widely seen as a colonising power. JfJfP postings editor
By Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam
February 03, 2013
The Jerusalem Post is known for perpetrating hoaxes based on fake reports of anti-Semitism. It published a story purporting that Norway was riddled with anti-Semitism. Turns out the report was written by someone who made almost all of it up. He mistook his own personal fear of anti-Semitism with the real thing and made things up so people would be forewarned.
On a slightly different note, Caroline Glick wrote an atrocious account blaming multi-culturalism and Norwegian criticism of Israel for the Breivik mass murder. This too is a perfect example of the Post’s desperate need to twist major news events to suit their ideological biases.
Now, it’s the paper’s Ireland correspondent, Sarah Honig, who has regaled us with a dramatic episode of rabid anti-Semitism in a cozy village in the famed Ring of Kerry. In the village of Cahersiveen, a sleeping giant of Jew-hatred laid in wait for her. When she walked down the street encountering seemingly innocent Irish schoolchildren, and scratched beneath the surface, she found mad-dog Jew haters.
I thank God there’s someone like Honig around to alert us to this scurvy villain lurking in the hearts of Man (Irish man at least). Here are some of the more choice bits from Honig’s account:
There were no hints of affection there for us. On the town’s main thoroughfare, Church Street, I was buttonholed by three boisterous teenagers in Santa hats, carrying a collection box and big signs reading “Free Palestine.” They solicited my contribution.
I asked: “Free Palestine from whom?” The cheery trio’s swift answer was unambiguous: “The Jews.”
I pressed on: “Do you know where your money would go? “The boys: “To plant olive trees.”
“Are you sure,” I continued, as kindly-looking little old ladies generously opened their purses and dropped coins and bills in the collection box, “that this money wouldn’t fund terrorists and murderers?” Their retort threw me for a loop: “What do you have against Palestinians? What have they done to you? They are only against Jews. Jews are evil.”
I am right here and now challenging Honig and the Post’s editor to provide any proof of this encounter: a tape recording would be definitive, but even contemporaneous notes would help.
Short of that I’m going to call this account fiction embellished by the feverish ideological imagination of a wannabe reporter. The Irish Times has interviewed the main principles in her story, who deny they said anything approaching what she claims.
There are several reasons why I am certain this account is a hoax. I lived in Ireland for a year. I taught in a Dublin Jewish day school and knew the chief rabbi at the time, David Rosen. I had a wide array of Irish friends, most of them non-Jews. I know the village where this story allegedly took place.
Contrary to Sarah Honig’s fictional portrayal of an Ireland teeming with anti-Semites, the Irish are among the most tolerant people I’ve ever met. Their own history of colonial oppression and suffering has made them deeply sensitive to all injustice whether suffered by Jews or Palestinians.
While she regales us with alleged acts of anti-Semitism in Irish history the only one that involved harm to Jews occurred in 1904 when there was what Honig calls a “pogrom” in Limerick. She doesn’t mention that no one was killed and the priest who fomented the violence was later banished from town. She ventures several incidents during WWII in which PM Devalera spoke favorably of the Nazis without noting the historical context in which many Irish Republicans believe England to be their worst enemy, which allowed them to believe falsely that the enemy of their enemy was their friend.
Honig neglects to tell her readers that pre-State Yishuv leaders like Yitzhak Shamir and others had the same idea and believed they could negotiate with the Nazis for favorable status for Palestine in case Germany won the war. It was largely the Jewish far-right of the day which harbored such beliefs. Precisely the sort of individuals whom Honig and the Post politically idolize.
I pried more. I asked what they know about the conflict. It was nothing except that Israel is the horrid ogre and the oppressed Palestinians are unquestionably worthy of compassion. Indeed the boys never stopped to question any of this.
…I asked if they knew of the Palestinian Authority’s and Hamastan’s persecutions of Christians, but my youthful interlocutors had never heard of the Palestinian Authority and didn’t know that Palestinians are overwhelmingly Muslim.
…The teacher, who unsuspectingly volunteered his name to me, said he took out his pupils, all from the town’s single secondary school, as part of a class project “to further a humanitarian goal.” The goal was to collect money to enable the Palestinians to replace olive trees because “Jews stole their lands.”
Here again I charge Honig with perpetrating a hoax. No Irish that I have ever known would say such a thing. If we keep in mind Honig’s clear pre-conceived ideological notions and her deep need to find anti-Semitism, then it isn’t hard to believe that she has fictionalized this encounter in order to fit with her own political narrative. Further, I didn’t know words like “Hamastan” could be published in an article purporting to be news reporting. In the fictive world of the Post, Hamastan exists as a real place, I suppose.
…The teacher remained remarkably unperturbed when I repeated to him what the three boys said earlier about Jews “always being villains,” along with one youngster’s aside that “they crucified our Lord.” In fact, the teacher nodded in agreement, without a word of objection.
While it’s certainly possible there are still some Irish Catholics whose theological beliefs are caught up in the 1950s or 1850s and hold views that have long gone out of favor (like the Jews killing Jesus or the Jews being evil), that is no longer the case in today’s Ireland and certainly not among Irish youth, who are if anything turning away from the Church and its traditional theology in droves.
This passage is unbelievably pathetic and a shock to see even in a gutter journal like the Post. Again, if Honig can’t offer any real evidence that such a statement was made she’s a liar. Reporters own tape recorders. If she was reporting for the Post she would’ve had one. Produce the tape, contemporaneous notes or admit this story is a freaking sham.
Honig and her story illustrate the age-old problem of pro-Israel ultra-nationalists who conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. There are certainly Irish who embrace the Palestinian cause. There are Irish who believe Israel is oppressing the Palestinians. But there are very, very few anti-Semites in Ireland and Honig didn’t meet any that day. She invented an anti-Semitic incident and put words in the mouths of characters who never uttered them. The Post and Honig have some explaining to do. But they won’t. They’ll just float along till they come to the next fraud or hoax they perpetrate in the name of Israel and the Jewish people. What a sad excuse for a newspaper.
I’ve e mailed Honig and the Posts’ top editors to ask them for proof of the statements she claims were made in her story.
By Judith Crosbie and Anne Lucey, Irish Times
January 31, 2013
The principal of one of Kerry’s biggest secondary schools, Coláiste na Sceilge in Cahersiveen, has rejected claims by an Israeli journalist of anti-Semitism and pro-Palestinian bias in the school.
Principal John O’Connor said students and teachers always acted on a “humanitarian basis” and, far from indoctrination, the school instilled critical thinking.
Journalist Sarah Honig related in a column in the Jerusalem Post, an English-language daily newspaper, how she encountered remarks that “Jews are evil” during a school-backed Trócaire fundraising event to help Palestinians buy olive trees.
Her article included photographs of teenagers holding “Save Palestine” banners and Palestinian flags.
Headed “Another tack: that unwitting indecency”, Honig’s column, published last Friday, focuses on the fundraising event in Cahersiveen, with Kerry teenagers telling her Jews had killed Jesus. A teacher accompanying the teenagers had also expressed bias, she wrote.
“The squawk was all about rights, but distinctly not about the rights of Jews , which are excluded from the official curriculum. The violated rights are those of Palestinian Arabs and the violators are Israeli Jews. And all this is crudely imparted under the auspices of a state’s school system,” she wrote.
“The Cahersiveen youngsters will surely grow into charming decent adults, but ingrained in their psyches from a young age will be the vague notion of Jewish villains and Palestinian martyrs. Indoctrination of impressionable minds . . . creates biased adults,” she added.
The article said Ireland has “a history of anti-Semitism without having ever had a sizable Jewish population” and refers to the 1904 Limerick pogrom and former taoiseach Eamon de Valera’s message of condolence to Germany after Adolf Hitler’s death in 1945.
“The bottom line for Cahersiveen’s juvenile fund-raisers, without one redeeming exception, was that the Israelis are the tyrants and the Palestinians the sainted victims. It’s black and white, with no grays, no depth, no background. There was no qualm about who deserves the unstinting sympathy of decent folks.”
Mr O’Connor issued a statement yesterday saying he was shocked by the claims in the article. “The students and teacher vehemently deny the remarks attributed to them. Part of our mission statement states that we are committed to developing people who are fair, caring, assertive,” he said.
Trócaire said in a statement: “We know the school and the teacher well and we are surprised as they are about this report. The school principal, as we understand, has investigated the matter and has denied these remarks were made.”
When contacted by The Irish Times last night, Honig that she had been visiting Ireland and was not on assignment.
“I have nothing against beautiful Kerry or against Ireland, which the founding fathers of the modern Jewish state admired unstintingly,” she added.
The incident would not put her off visiting Ireland again and she said she rejected calls for a boycott of Ireland.
Letters to Irish Times
Kerry school denies anti-Semitism claim
Sir, – Whereas some of the charges brought against pupils from Coláiste na Sceilge in Cahersiveen by an Israeli journalist appear exaggerated, they deserve to be promptly investigated and her claims either refuted or accepted (“School rejects Israeli journalist’s anti-Semitism claim”, Home News, January 31st). In the year of The Gathering it is important that Ireland remains a welcoming place to tourists from all backgrounds.
To agree in some part with Sarah Honig however, most Irish people have little or no knowledge of the evolution of the conflict in Israel-Palestine.How many Irish people know that it was Israel’s neighbours who started all three wars in which most of the now disputed land was annexed? How many Irish people know that most Israelis are descendants of Jewish-Arabs persecuted, robbed, and then expelled from Muslim-Arab countries in the 1950s? One cannot simply view Israel as the perennial villain and the Palestinians/Arabs as automatic victims.
As with all conflicts, including Northern Ireland, the fog of war allows only the naive, ignorant, or belligerent to assert a clear view point. Any work on this conflict undertaken in schools should attempt to give a balanced view of the creation of the state of Israel, the (few)rights and (all too many)wrongs of current settlement policy notwithstanding. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The Jerusalem Post has its eye on Cahersiveen – and well it might, for surely the westernmost town on the Eurasian continent, secure behind the great wall of the McGillycuddy Reeks with the whole of the North Atlantic at its mercy, poses a serious threat to world peace. It is well known that the town has a secret nuclear capability and threatens not only the inhabitants of Valentia, Cape Clear and the Aran Islands but also far-distant Tír na nÓg.
It is widely whispered in Kerry that in the biology lab of Coláiste na Sceilge a group of clever schoolchildren are well on the way to breeding back the leprechaun.
As the endearing little nuisances spread through the world their mischievous tricks and witty banter will render workers everywhere helpless with laughter and empty boardrooms of economists, accountants and bankers, who will rush off in all directions chasing rainbows and pots of gold.
World productivity will plummet.
Clearly the Jerusalem Post has done the world a service. Will the schoolchildren of Cahersiveen jump up and down crying, “Bully! Bully!”? I think not. They will, no doubt, do as the tsar of Russia wisely did in the face of a severe tongue-lashing from the Skibbereen Eagle: maintain a dignified, enduring silence. – Yours, etc,
Killarney, Co Kerry.
Sir, – Principal John O’Connor of Coláiste na Sceilge in Cahersiveen denies that his school has shown any pro-Palestinian bias (Home News, January 31st).
However, the school, by apparently excluding the Israeli narrative altogether and by pushing solely the Palestinian one – even to the extent of having its pupils fundraise for the latter – is patently demonstrating pronounced one-sided bias against Israel. Such an unacceptable lack of balance is not merely a false representation of the longstanding complex Israel-Palestine conflict to pupils: it dishonours the meaning of the word education. – Yours, etc,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.
An Israeli journalist who said she encountered “unwitting” anti-semitism and strong pro-Palestinian feelings at a Kerry secondary school street collection said she has received hundreds of “deeply upsetting” hate mails.
The school principal, John O’Connor, has placed a statement on the school website stating the students and the teacher involved “vehemently deny” the remarks attributed to them.
By Anne Lucey, Irish Examiner
February 01, 2013
Sarah Honig, said her article in the Jerusalem Post was actually about how even decent Irish people may be misguided, and there was no attack on the Irish or on the town of Cahersiveen.
Ms Honig’s account of overwhelming bias towards Palestine, and comments by students and a teacher about “the Jews”, during the Christmas school collection for Trócaire on the streets of Cahersiveen, have been rejected by Coláiste na Sceilge, and by Trócaire.
Ms Honig said her article was to show her own compatriots how they had lost the PR battle even in a lovely place like Cahersiveen.
She said she was taken aback by the lack of comprehension, the attacks on her and the odiousness of some of the reaction.
Hate mail has been arriving “in droves”, the journalist revealed.
“Clearly I don’t label the Irish or residents of Cahersiveen anti-Semites. I call them ‘very decent folks’ and I call the indecency I encountered ‘unwitting’,” Sarah Honig said last night.
Some of the emails have been traced to Ireland. One of those, from Lusk, Co Dublin, racially abuses Ms Honig, saying the writer had just read about Ms Honig’s “recent escapades in Cahersiveen”.
It goes on to wish that the Nazis were around to deal with the likes of her and that she should concentrate on her own species “and leave the Irish out of it”.
Ms Honig said she had received hundreds of emails like it and was deeply upset by them. “The hate mail keeps coming in droves. I cannot remotely believe all these people have actually read a word of my original.” Ms Honig also said she was deeply saddened that there is such a lack of comprehension by her critics.
The school principal, John O’Connor, has placed a statement on the school website stating the students and the teacher involved “vehemently deny” the remarks attributed to them.
He said the students were taking part in a Trócaire project to collect money for the planting of olive trees in Palestine and the lesson content was neither pro-Palestinian nor pro-Israeli.
Trócaire also issued a flat denial.
Ms Honig said she could understand the school principal, who needed to look after his own interests. However, she feels his reaction should have been to accept the challenge to show his pupils “the other side of the complex Israeli story they dabbled in with a shocking lack of basic knowledge”.
She deliberately did not publish the teacher or the school’s name and was writing for her own compatriots, stressing that they had lost the PR battle.
Her article is available on the Jerusalem Post or on her own blog under her name.