[Image: President Sean T. O'Ceallaigh inspecting the guard. Mr. O'Ceallaigh was President of the Republic of Ireland from 1945-1959 and set the tone for diplomatic relations between Ireland and Israel.]
"If one were to throw a sack of flour over the Irish parliament, it is unlikely that anybody pro-Israeli would get white. Among the 120 members of the Dáil-the Irish parliament's lower house-and the hundred members of the Senate, not one name springs to mind as a regular defender of Israel. There are either those who do not care or pro-Palestinians."
Dr. Rory Miller interview comments (cited from Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Rory Miller, "Irish Attitudes toward Israel," European-Israeli Relations, 181-94).
After reviewing several of the positions that Christy and Damien espouse regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one is struck by the similarity of these individuals’ respective view with those of Ireland based Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign: (link:http://www.ipsc.ie/index.php)
Much of The Scenic Route’s critique of the politics of the Left and its stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict appears directed at organizations and umbrella groups of this ilk. This site contains links to a wide range of human rights organizations as well as to thinkers and writers on the Israeli Left and Palestinian center. The IPSC, while relatively small, is among the most vocal groups of its type. The page devoted to Irish voices lists a total of three politicians, leaving one with the impression that those politicos willing to back the Hamas position in Irish politics are relatively few in number.
Under the category: The Importance of Ireland’s Role [as an arbitrator?] one may read the following paragraph:
“Irish diplomats and politicians speak with the moral authority derived from our history of peaceful co-existence, cooperation and mutual respect for other peoples and nations of the world since the foundation of our state. Owing to our centuries long struggle for independence and recent experience of conflict resolution, others who long for justice and peace are inspired by the Irish peace process.”
However inspired the world may or may not be with the Irish peace process, the casual observer has every right to examine the record of Irish diplomats and politicians to speak with moral authority on the question of the Israeli-Palestinian problem.
It is worth remarking that Ireland, in pursuing its diplomatic role as an international self-styled moral authority, has been in the vanguard of United Nations efforts to speak out on issues of religious intolerance. In an interview conducted by Manfred Gerstenfield with American Law professor Anne Bayefsky, Bayefsky “points out that Ireland has been the EU's leading state on the subject of religious intolerance at the United Nations. Yet it was determined to exclude any mention of anti-Semitism from the 2003 UN resolution on religious intolerance. Ultimately, to avoid a separate motion by Israel, Ireland agreed to include such mention if Israel withdrew its motion, which it did. Yet, the Irish delegation reneged on its promise.” (Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Anne Bayefsky, "The United Nations: Leading Global Purveyor of Anti-Semitism," Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, 31, 1 April 2005).
While several scholars are quick to observe that this diplomatic behavior smacks of a form of anti-Semitism, one must weigh the possible provenance of such a policy. After all, it is a diplomatic axiom that nations have no permanent friends, only permanent interests. On the level of economic exchanges, for example, the record between Ireland and Israel are distinctly more positive.
A quick survey of Irish diplomatic behavior toward Israel since 1948 suggests that there exists a set of biases that require careful and critical examination.
First, in the most recent major example of Ireland's diplomatic attitude toward Israel and Arab terrorism it may be stated that Ireland was one of only three countries, the others being France and Spain, that sought to prevent the EU from declaring Hezbollah a terrorist organization. (Rory Miller, Ireland and the Palestine Question, 1948-2004, by, Irish Academic Press, 2005).
By way of aside, the monarchies of Bourbon France and Bourbon Spain each carried titles conferred by the Pope designating the Christian role of these monarchies as temporal powers under a duty to protect Christians. The French monarchs were designated Christianissimus (Most Christian) and the Spanish monarchs were designated Catholicus. The politics of the Spanish reconquest of the Iberian peninsula and the expulsion of the Muslim and Jewish populations therein during the XV and XVI centuries did much to shape the demographics of early modern Palestine. Moreover on the subject of extra-territorial rights concerning the protection of Christians in Muslim lands, particularly in with respect to Ottoman-era Palestine and the city of Jerusalem, France and Spain have served as a Vatican sanctioned Christian state-powers charged with the protection of Christians at the holy places. Here is a summary of the historical legal position of Jerusalem related to the nineteenth-century Ottoman Capitulations as summarize by the Irael Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
The Holy Places in the city have often been a matter for dispute. In the 19th century there was bitter controversy when certain European countries extended their protection over the various Christian churches in Palestine, and over their Holy Places. Some of the Powers also established consulates in Jerusalem (France, Britain, Russia, Prussia, Austria, Sardinia, Spain and the United States). For the purpose of regulating the status of the various churches at the Holy Places, the Ottoman government published a number of firmans, the most important being that of 1852. This firman dealt with certain Holy Places and determined the powers and rights of the various Churches in those places. This arrangement was generally known as the 'status quo', and has been applied to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and its dependencies, the Convent of Deir al-Sultan, the Sanctuary of the Ascension (on the Mount of Olives), the Tomb of the Virgin Mary (near Gethsemane) in Jerusalem as well as the Church of the Nativity, the Milk Grotto and the Shepherds' Field near Bethlehem.
It is worth hypothesizing the extent to which historical Vatican policy toward the status of Jerusalem has affected the diplomatic relations of these three modern majority Catholic European states, Ireland, France, and Spain with the modern state of Israel.
For the record, the Vatican itself has never backed away from what was essentially a nineteenth-century position supporting the extraterritorial (one would now use the term international) nature of Jerusalem. The Vatican did not offer official recognition to the state of Israel until December 30th, 1993.
The Vatican felt compelled to articulate its position on the extraterritoriality of Jerusalem with the successful formation of the state of Israel in 1948 in two Encyclicals issued by Pope Pius XII (In Multiplicibus, 10/24/1948 and Redemptoris Nostri Cruciatus, 04/15/1949). Below are the relevant excerpts from the 1949 Encyclical:
9. We have never ceased to pray repeatedly for this enduring and genuine peace. And to the end that it might be brought to fruition and permanence at the earliest possible moment, We have already insisted in Our Encyclical letter In Multiplicibus, that the time has come when Jerusalem and its vicinity, where the previous memorials of the Life and Death of the Divine Redeemer are preserved, should be accorded and legally guaranteed an "international" status, which in the present circumstances seems to offer the best and most satisfactory protection for these sacred monuments.
10. We cannot help repeating here the same declaration, encouraged by the thought that it may also serve as an inspiration to Our children. Let them, wherever they are living, use every legitimate means to persuade the rulers of nations, and those whose duty it is to settle this important question, to accord to Jerusalem and its surroundings a juridical status whose stability under the present circumstances can only be adequately assured by a united effort of nations that love peace and respect the right of others.
11. Besides, it is of the utmost importance that due immunity and protection be guaranteed to all the Holy Places of Palestine not only in Jerusalem but also in the other cities and villages as well.
12. Not a few of these places have suffered serious loss and damage owing to the upheaval and devastation of the war. Since they are religious memorials of such moment—objects of veneration to the whole world and an incentive and support to Christian piety—these places should also be suitably protected by definite statute guaranteed by an "international" agreement.
Link to full text: http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/pope0260cc.htm
It is worth consulting the full text of this document. Its redaction fails to mention the state of Israel and its overall points and concerns mirror diplomatic discourse found in official statements made by the governments of France, Spain, and most particularly, Ireland.
Such parallelism between the Vatican positions taken toward Israel and the official and unofficial discourse on the Israel-Palestinian conflict one reads in Irish political tracts suggests that historians would be justified in taking up the important question of Ireland’s role in support of Vatican policy in East Jerulsalem and the extent to which the policy of Ireland toward Jerusalem specifically and toward the state of Israel generally is informed by Vatican positions regarding Holy Sites.
Ireland for example, did not extend immediate recognition to the state of Israel in 1948. Irish policy in this matter appears not to follow and independent source. Rather, Irish policy solidly adheres to Vatican developments. This is illustrated by that government extending to Israel the barest minimum of recognition and only upgraded diplomatic relations when questions arose surrounding Ireland’s application to join the European Union. Thus one finds the very odd diplomatic announcement by Ireland on 25 January 1964 that it had granted de jure recognition to Israel “some time ago.”(note: (note: Stefan Talmon: Recognition of Governments in International Law (1998), p. 73)
But like the Vatican, Ireland withheld full recognition and establishment of full diplomatic relations was slow, very slow (the agreement to establish diplomatic relations was not finalized until 12 December 1974). Lastly, it very curious to note that the Irish government did not approve the opening of the Israeli embassy in Dublin until 14 December 1993, some two weeks prior to the official recognition of the state of Israel by the Vatican. (note: Talmon (1998) p. 73). Again, such diplomatic parallelism is too stark to ignore.
While this is just a brief sketch on a complex topic, the pattern illustrated here indicates that nineteenth-century attitudes (at least 19th century) die a hard death and continue to linger on in forms that are not quite as obvious as one would suspect given the gloss and glitz of our modern media age.