Despite increased political tension in recent years, Ireland and Israel have much in common. Is there a way to build positive bridges between Dublin and Jerusalem?
Ireland has emerged as one of Israel’s harshest critics in the European Union. The anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) has found a particularly fertile ground in Ireland.
The Knesset recently cancelled a delegation to Ireland in protest of an Irish bill that aims to boycott Israeli goods from Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
Yet despite increased political tension in recent years, Ireland and Israel have much in common. Is there a way to build positive bridges between Dublin and Jerusalem?
Ireland and Israel are both small countries that fought for independence from British rule. Irish nationalists like Michael Collins inspired the Zionist freedom fighter and late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. The 20th-century Irish freedom fighter-turned-statesman Éamon De Valera was sympathetic towards the Jewish people and Zionism. In 1951, De Valera visited the fledgling State of Israel and was warmly received by the Israeli government, led by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Late Israeli statesman Chaim Herzog was born in Ireland, where his father had served as the Chief Rabbi.
There are two main sources for current Irish-Israeli tensions: Irish Catholicism and IRA. Unlike other Catholic European countries that reformed and improved their ties with the Jewish People, traditional Catholic anti-Semitism remained strong in Ireland. The powerful and influential IRA, which carried out terrorism against United Kingdom, forged strong ties with the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In the worldview of IRA and today’s Irish BDS supporters, Israel is the “oppressing occupier” while the Palestinian Arabs are the “victim.”
However, it is important to keep in mind that not everyone in Ireland supports the increasingly anti-Israel position. The economies of both countries have transformed dramatically since the 1990s. In the past, Ireland and Israel relied heavily on agriculture. Today, they have established themselves as leading technological centers.
Ireland, which used to be among Western Europe’s poorest countries, now boasts one of the highest GDP per capita in the European Union. Israel’s impressive GDP per capita is comparable to those of France and Great Britain.
There is a growing Irish interest in benefiting from Israel’s extensive technological expertise. For its part, the Jewish state is interested in learning from Ireland’s successful liberalization of its economy.
The Irish Celtic Tiger has far more to gain from strong future ties with the Start-Up Nation Israel than with the corrupt and despotic terrorist-supporting basket case regime in Ramallah.