May plucks her mate from Ulster bible belt

June 16, 2017
Sarah Benton

Mrs May and her partner, fellow Protestant Christian, Arlene Foster, L.

From Ulster with love, Israel’s unlikely ally

Special Report: Who are the DUP? Following the 2017 General Election, we look at the pro-Israel party who may help prop up the next government

This article was first published on Oct 17, 2014. Republished June 09 2017

By Stephen Oryszczuk, Jewish News/ Times of Israel
June 08, 2017

Unknown to most until last week’s parliamentary vote on Palestine, the Westminster MPs of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are a staunchly pro-Israel lot.

While parliamentarians voted overwhelmingly in favour of the motion to recognise Palestine alongside Israel, 12 voted against the motion, and of this dozen, five were from the late Ian Paisley’s DUP.

To London’s Jews, Northern Ireland can seem off the political radar, but to those with an interest, the voting preferences of MPs Nigel Dodds, William McCrea, Ian Paisley (the late founder’s son), Jim Shannon and David Simpson should have come as no surprise.

Indeed, the founding of the DUP Friends of Israel group at Stormont in June was one of the veteran unionist’s last political acts before his death in September. In terms of his long-standing support for the Jewish state, however, it was merely the latest.

Earlier this summer, the DUP pressed police authorities on the legality of anti-Israel protests, while two years earlier, it launched fierce criticism at the Co-operative Group for banning Israeli products from the West Bank.

Why the support? Politically, culturally and geographically, Northern Ireland is some distance from Israel, so why such stringent views from Ulster’s Protestant community?

In part, it is because there is equally strong support for the Palestinians from the unionists’ arch-enemy. Irish Republicans have long associated themselves with the Palestinian cause, and there has been co-operation and trading between the PLO and the IRA dating back to the 1970s, including training and arms procurement.

That association is very much alive today, with Palestinian flags flown in Republican areas of Northern Ireland and murals proclaiming common cause with Palestine. This summer, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams even called for the Israeli ambassador to be expelled from Ireland, while the Palestinian representative to Ireland spoke at a Republican hunger strike commemoration.

Steven Jaffe, co-chair of the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel

But that’s not the whole story. Steven Jaffe, co-chair of the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, thinks it stems in part from faith. “Many DUP MPs come from a Bible-believing Protestant background,” he says. “They have a very sincere and positive attitude to the Biblical roots of the Jewish people’s connection to the land.”

As well as sharing a book, unionists in Northern Ireland say they also share common experiences with Israel, given that both have waged a war against terrorism. So in political terms, they can relate to Israel’s position, explains Jaffe. “They identify with Israel fighting for its survival, and they feel the international media is unfairly hostile to Israel just as they believe it was hostile to their own cause,” he says.

David McIlveen, the North Antrim Assembly Member who launched the DUP Friends of Israel group, says this translates into a willingness to defend the Jewish state when it is attacked. “Whenever we feel there is an unfair portrayal of Israel being presented in social or mainstream media, we do our part to try and argue against it,” he says.

Dr. William McCrea, a Free Presbyterian minister and one of the five MPs to vote against the motion, agrees with the others. “There’s a friendship there,” he says. “We know what it’s like to be under attack for years on end. We fought terrorism here, from the republicans, so we know what it’s like to face these things.”

Lessons from the past were very much the theme of Paisley Junior’s address to the Commons – his first since his father passed away.

“The conclusion of the negotiations [in Northern Ireland] was not set in stone in advance of the negotiations or during,” the MP for North Antrim said. “The participants in the process must be allowed to find their own conclusions… to find their own way; they cannot be told, lectured or dictated to on what is best.”

Paisley urged parliament “not to assume that it has the right to tell people how to sort out their peace processes,” before adding that a lesson from Northern Ireland was “not to pour fuel on burning flames”.

He added: “To recognise the state of Palestine when significant and strong elements in the Palestinian negotiating process do not even recognise Israel and would not allow that state to exist, would be to make an already difficult situation worse.”

And he should know.

Conservatives working with DUP will be good news for Israel

Opinion:Belfast-born Steven Jaffe looks at the possible impact on the community of Theresa May forming a government with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party

By Steven Jaffe, Jewish News
June 09, 2017

The DUP returns to Westminster with ten MPs and are the Conservative’s most natural allies to achieve a working majority.

And that might be good news for Israel.

Northern Ireland’s DUP MPs – including the experienced and well-respected Nigel Dodds and Ian Paisley, son of the party’s founder, are amongst the staunchest supporters of Israel in the House of Commons.

Their MPs regularly speak at meetings of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel and when some years ago the issue of recognising Palestine came up at Westminster the party turned up in block to register opposition. Indeed, they formed a full 5 of the 12 MPs that opposed it.

DUP MPs also spoke prominently in the debate earlier this year on the Balfour centenary and have been outspoken in condemning Palestinian incitement and funding for terrorist prisoners.

They have taken an active part in opposing antisemitism both in Northern Ireland and elsewhere and supported the Belfast Jewish community’s and Board of Deputies manifesto for the recent Northern Ireland Assembly elections.

When the Board of Deputies visited Stormont to promote the manifesto, the DUP deployed both its overall leader, Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster, and Westminster leader Nigel Dodds to meet us, such is their desire to demonstrate friendship.

There are fewer than 80 members of the Jewish community in Northern Ireland. So it seems hard to reconcile the DUP’s interest in Israel and matters of Jewish concern with electoral self-interest.

But Northern Ireland is the UK’s bible belt. Like the American south, Christian Zionism is a potent force amongst Ulster’s church-going Protestant community, the traditional heartland of DUP support.

This biblical focus also makes the party socially conservative on issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

But as the largest party in Northern Ireland with a large working-class support it is hard to pigeon-hole the DUP in the left versus right terms of Westminster politics. Likewise their support for Israel is also secular.

They draw parallels between Northern Ireland’s experience of terrorism and Israel’s and feel that both Ulster unionists and Israeli Jews get an unfair hearing in the world’s press.

In particular, their experience of peace making in Northern Ireland makes them wary of international interference which is one-sided or prescriptive.

The DUP will be no pushovers in negotiating a parliamentary pact with the Conservatives – Northern Ireland has special Brexit needs as it shares a land border with the Irish Republic. But there is no doubt on Middle Eastern issues they will be a friendly and positive influence for Israel.

Belfast-born Steven Jaffe is a consultant to the Board of Deputies of British Jews. His work is part funded by the Jewish Leadership Council.

First Minister Arlene Foster has flatly rejected Martin McGuinness’s call for her to ‘stand aside’ to allow an inquiry into corruption allegations. Photo by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Explainer: What is the ‘cash for ash’ scandal?

The latest twist in the long-running controversy has seen Martin McGuinness resign after Arlene Foster refused to step aside.

By Liam McBurney PA Wire/PA Images/The Journal i.e.
Jan 09, 2017


Martin McGuinness resigned as Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister today over the long-running Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) or ‘cash for ash’ scandal.

The move came after First Minister Arlene Foster ignored repeated calls for her to step aside while an investigation is carried out into the scheme – which could cost taxpayers in the North in the region of £400 million (about €460 million), possibly more.

There are questions over how long Foster, who was the minister with responsibility for the scheme from its inception in 2012 until 2015 – knew the initiative was flawed.

The RHI aimed to encourage businesses (and later individuals) to switch to more environmentally-friendly heating methods. Subsidies paid to companies were not capped and the more heat a business generated, the higher the subsidy it received.

In his resignation letter, McGuinness said Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), “has a clear conflict of interest”.

She was the minister responsible for the RHI scheme at its inception. No cost controls were put in place and warnings were ignored. This has led to an enormously damaging pressure on our public finances and a crisis of confidence in the political institutions…

“Sinn Féin will not tolerate the arrogance of Arlene Foster and the DUP. Sinn Féin wants equality and respect for all. That is what this process must be about.”

© Copyright JFJFP 2017