Thursday, June 30, 2011

Irish Rover Gaza Controversy

Not this again, didn't the Egyptians open the Rafa border crossing ? Is the siege not already at an end?

Robert Avrech over at the excellent blog Seraphic Secret posted the following piece about Ireland's role in the upcoming Gaza Flotilla, a post he provocatively named Irish Ship of fools. Below is an extract.

An excellent article by Ruth Dudley Edwards, an Irish historian, novelist, journalist and broadcaster, on the Gaza-bound flotilla of fools. She correctly notes that this movement is motivated not by humanitarian concerns but a pathological hatred of Jews.

It was the Fifties and I was about seven when I pointed to the photograph of Hitler in my republican granny’s lair and said: “What about the Jews, grandmother?” “British propaganda,” she replied.

Grandmother Edwards was not stupid, but she was adept at filtering out information that didn’t fit her world view. As far as she was concerned, the Nazis had been allies of the IRA and enemies of the Brits so they were the good guys.

I retired to discuss the matter further with my mother, at whose knee I had learned about the Holocaust and who was an admirer of Jewish creativity and culture. I will be forever grateful to her for inoculating me against the knee-jerk anti-Semitism of Roman Catholicism and for making me ashamed of my country’s meanness of spirit in slamming the door against Jewish refugees.

Let us be clear. Whether they know it or not, that gaggle of posturing, ignorant Irish clowns who are setting sail towards Gaza on the MV Saoirse are driven by anti-Semitism. Otherwise they would be protesting against — for instance — the Islamist killings and bombings that are forcing tens of thousands of Christians to flee the Middle East, the ethnic cleansing in the Sudan, the ill-treatment of servants and women in Saudi Arabia, the hanging of gays from cranes in Iran, the massacres of protesters in Libya and Syria, the torture of Irish-trained doctors in Bahrain for tending to injured demonstrators and the vicious anti-Jewish propaganda that teaches Arab children to hate.

Hey, I have a fab-u-lous idea for the creatures who are so anxious to bring, ahem, humanitarian relief to suffering Arabs. Try pointing your flotilla towards Sudan where hundreds of thousands are being slaughtered, or Syria where children are being shot down in the streets by Assad’s thugs, or gee, hey about helping out the hapless NATO forces—Obama says he’s leading from behind, which is, I suppose, much like leading with your tuchus—in Libya where the lunatic Kaddafi and his mad-dog sons employ Muslim mercenaries to slaughter, what a shock, Muslims.

A commenter at Seraphic Secret made the following remark.

The Irish have a lot to answer for, and for not the first time, I wish I had a different surname. When asked about my background, I tend to say that my people came from the north of England and Scotland. Some of my Irish-Canadian friends joke that the famine forced all the really smart, energetic, industrious people out of Ireland, leaving the folks who killed each other in a civil war after gaining independence, helped Nazi subs refuel and provision, and support cretinous causes like the Gaza flotilla.

I being the cantankerous sort that I am took exception to aspects of this post and left the following comment.

The first part of Ruth Dudley Edwards' article is lazy and inaccurate for the following reasons. The story about her messed up old granny is a deliberate attempt to associate Irish Republicanism with being pro fascist and anti semetic. There is little or no evidence of this. In truth, her motivation is likely that of an emigrant whose experience in parochial Ireland was an unhappy one. This is probably more for personal reasons than anything else.

Now for some facts. The IRA of 1938-41 which was a splinter of a splinter of a splinter of a splinter of the IRA that achieved independence in 1922 sent 3 men to Germany in 1938. After realising their capability was light, they were refused any help by Berlin. The Nazis wanted people who could invade Northern Ireland or commit large scale sabotage in Belfast which the IRA were unable to do. The IRA instead initiated a bombing campaign of mainland Britain which petered out by 1940 after causing minimal damage and 6 fatalities. If any of you want to take from this that the Irish who won their freedom during 1916-1921 hated Jews and loved the Nazis then go right ahead, but I for one think that like those who constantly bash Israel, you probably have a bigoted (perhaps anti Catholic) motive.

I am glad Eamon referred to the Irish Republican constitution of 1938 which specifically mentions the Jews as having protection under the constitution. When the rest of Europe was enacting laws persecuting the Jews, the Irish were passing laws protecting them. This is one of the reasons there is a forest in northern Israel named after Eamon De Valera. I don't expect there is any other nation other than Israel whose constitutions mentions the Jewish people.

Across the Irish Civil War divide there was a positive view of Irish Jews. Richard Mulcahy is a figure who has been written out of Republican history because he took the moderate pro Treaty side in the Civil War, this despite the fact that he was IRA Chief of Staff during the 1919-21 war against the British. His son recently published his fathers papers in which he mentions several times how Dublins Jewish community contributed to the struggle by storing ammunition and harbouring IRA members on the run.

On the other side De Valera's close associate Robert Briscoe was a devout Jew and Zionist who fought against the British, and against the first independent government which he believed had sold out. His actions were very similar to those in the Irgun who were willing to fight the IDF in 1948. I don't think the late Mr Briscoe, or his son Ben (a former Lord Mayor of Dublin) would take too kindlly to Mrs Dudly Edwards article.

Furthermore, her statement that she was ashamed of "my country’s meanness of spirit in slamming the door against Jewish refugees" makes little sense. World War Two created many times more non Jewish refugees than Jewish ones. The Irish government didn't take them in either. The government of the time was protectionist and introvert and did not, shamefully accept many refugees. Like every nation on earth, Ireland at the time had anti semites but crucially, we kept ours away from power. When it comes to European nations' war time treatment of the Jews, Ireland is one of the last nations that should be criticised. Could they have done more , of course, what nation couldn't.

Mr McGinnis
I'm not sure what you think the Irish have to answer for.

I too wish you had a different second name. And as for your friends who joke that the 1.5 million Irish who perished in the 19th century famine (thousands of whom are buried in a mass grave about 1 mile from where I live) were useless and that their decedents are losers, please tell them that I said I think they are repulsive scumbags. And by the way, the post independence Civil War in Ireland lasted 11 months and cost 2,000 lives. It resulted in a stable democracy that has lasted the test of time. As civil wars go, it was must less costly than most, including your own American.


The" Irish chattering classes" are no different than the American chattering classes. There is also an American ship travelling to Gaza. I resent the title and the tone of this post.


Thoughts ? Would Gubu World readers care to add anything to this fascinating discussion.


thesystemworks said...

In fairness to Mr. Avrech, I believe Ruth Dudley Edwards called the MV Saoirse a 'ship of fools' in her headline and he probably borrowed the provocative title.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Ted,
Can't comment on other blogs, but yours was a pip today! Educational and interesting. Thanks,

Ted Leddy said...


I too am willing to give Mr Avrech the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Ted Leddy said...


Glad as always that you seem to be enjoying Gubu World

longtallmo said...

Most informative blog on M.Eastern affairs. Your contributions would serve well on Irish educational curriculem.

The System Works said...

On the point of refugees, Ireland did take in a number of German Catholic after the fall of the Reich, children whose homes were destroyed during the course of the war. Most stayed a for relatively short time though.

As an interesting aside, I have heard that Jewish displaced persons permitted to enter Northern Ireland briefly established a kibbutz somewhere before the bulk made aliyah. Would anyone here know something about this?

Rob said...

Ted I can undersyand your outrage as the comment about the Irish from the commenter on the other blog was somewhat bigoted. However, the like between Irish Republicanism and pro-Nazi sentiment is significant. That is not to say Irish republicans from that era should be tarred with the same brish at all but there was an anti-Semitic strain in the movement. A most prominent example is Authur Griffith who defended the Limerick Pogrom. Francis Steward assisted the Nazi propaganda machine. The oppression of Jews was well known even before the war and the foreign office consistently decided not to allow refugees in. Even after the Holocaust was discovered to be true, only a small number of Jewish children were allowed stay temporarily. I don't think De Valera was anti-Semitic but he refused to visit Israel after he was honoured wit the tree planting. The fact that he chose to express regret at Hitler's passing demonstrates the how many felt in Ireland at the time. However, it shouldn't be over-emphasised as anti-Semitism was very common in many nationalistic movements but I feel the contempt toward Israel in Ireland was an off-shoot of that. Ireland refused to recognise Israel until 1975 and rather pathetically even then didn't allow an Embassy until 1996.

Anonymous said...

Millisle was the protestant area in N.Ireland that took in Jewish children. Lovely story

I read somewhere that the South refused temporary refuge for 100 surviving children from Belsen. They only needed to pass through Ireland to get to other nations willing to take them. I agree with Rob, there was some disdain for the Jews from the southern government.

Brian the budgie

Ted Leddy said...


Thanks for the kind words

Ted Leddy said...


It us not very unusual to meet people in Ireland who are decendents of WW2 refugees.

Ted Leddy said...


Thank you for your articulate comment and welcome to Gubu World.

I consider the men and women who fought for Irish freedom from 1916 to 1921 to be the purist form of Irish Republicans. As I said, those assosiated with the S plan (bombing campaign of Britain) were splinters amd rejectionists. If some of them did have Nazi sympathies, this does not implicate mainstream Republicans.

Collins, De Valera, Griffith, Brugha Cosgrave, Lemass and so on. These men were all controversial figures but whatever one thinks of them they were all democrats who were committed to building a democratic state after independence. Their record shows them as being anti fascist, anti communist, nationalists who would all ultimately take action to confront and control other nationalists that refused to embrace constitutional methods of furthering their cause.

I know that Arthur Griffith was known to have written anti Semetic documents in his early political life, including surrounding the Limerick incident of 1901. However I believe he later regretted these and developed a warm relationship with several leading members of the Irish Jewish community.

Who was Francis Stewart?

De Valeras mind is a bit of a mystery, not just on this issue but on many things. Having read Dermot Ferriter's biography of De Valera I tend to believe his trip to the German consul in April 1945 was based more on his strict interpretation of neautrality than anything else. But there is no doubt he saw an opportunity to upset London. It must be remebered than in the 1930s while speaking at the League of Nations he was one of the most outspoken critics of fascist agression. He also stood up to the "Blushirts" (Ireland's fascist movement) when they attempted to march on Dublin in 1933. Anti semetic ? I think not but who knows what is really in a mans mind, Fascist sympathiser ? definitely not.

I would like to know more about Ireland's early relationship with Israel.

Ireland suffered a serious diplomatic lag after WW2, probably because of De Valera's condolonces message. We did not even join the UN until 1955. I don't know why it took so long to officially recognise Israel but the embassy only being established in 1996 does not surprise me. We still do not have many embassies around the world.

Ted Leddy said...

Brian the Budgie

Thanks you for your comment and for the interesting link.

The Irish government did allow some Jewish refugees to stay permanently in Ireland (about 500 I think)so I think it is strange that they would deny others temporary residence. Either way, their refusal to help more was shameful.

Rob Harris said...

Hi Ted, Cheers for the welcome and keep up the good blogwork.

I think a fair bit of your take on what happened isn't incorrect but think there was a much darker side to Irish republicanism too.

Indeed the anti-Semitism described amongst some would be appropriate to rejectionists of the Treaty signed by Collins. However, Griffith who was in a sense the spiritual father of Modern Irish Republicanism had a huge impact and wasn’t a rejectionist. He is reputed to have reconciled himself to some extent with the Jewish race but his highly influential republican publication spread hatred about Jews for several decades. He refused to believe in the innocence of Dreyfuss which was a cornerstone of a resurgent anti-Semitism in Europe. He went as far as to justify the attacks on Jews in Limerick in 1904. True, he was strongly anti-Communist but saw the Jews as being complicit in its spread.

Francis Stewart was a famous Irish writer who admired Hitler and collaborated with the Nazi’s in propagandistic broadcasts. Significantly enough he was the first Saoi of Aosdána.

I agree De Valera was not a fascist sympathiser. I’ve heard the idea of that de Valera expressed regret at Hitler’s passing as a gesture toward neutrality. I’m not sure about that. One must remember Hitler was held by a significant number of Republicans in high regard, not necessarily due to anti-Semitism but because he had Britain on the run. De Valera was still a strong republican and I think its possible that he could have thought political currency could have been enhanced by the gesture, especially after the anger over bringing in internment for Republicans during the war. If that seems unlikely then consider how the then deceased Lord Haw Haw was given a hero’s welcome when his body was re-interred in Ireland in 1976.

Ireland saw Israel’s establishment as a bad thing. This was in line with the Vatican which declared it was akin to the Third Reich! Ireland became a strong proponent of pro-Palestinianism within the EEC/EU along with France but it was driven by oil concerns after OPEC’s playacting as fuel security was a huge issue in the 1970’s. I hope to finish an article about Irish-Israeli relations sometime lol.

Israel had continually appealed to Ireland to allow the establishment of an Embassy but they refused to do so. It was only grudgingly accepted in 1993 after they established a Palestinian delegation in Dublin. This was when people thought Oslo would work. Even then they refused to establish an Embassy in Israel for several years, which was really a bit pathetic in my opinion.

I’m pretty sure the 500 children were only allowed in on temporary residency. I heard it a few times in documentaries on RTE. The Irish government only allowed in 60 Jewish refugees between 1933 and 1946. I remember the excellent documentary Cathal O’Shannon made where he was disgusted at how he was treated with contempt for having fought on the side of the British, whilst highly dubious characters seemed to be coming to Ireland with no opposition from the authorities after the war!

The System Works said...

Thanks Brian. I did not realise the Millisle farm community was related to the Kindertransport (I associated it with Jewish DPs).

Some Belsen child-survivors were permitted into Ireland, due to fierce fighting on their behalf by a doctor named Bob Collis and some others. He adopted one orphan, Zoltan Zinn, who was the child of a mixed marriage (Jewish father, lived in Kildare last time I saw him). The obstacles faced by the Jewish children (who were only intending to stay temporarily) has been contrasted with the ease the German Catholic children had in getting visas.

Ted Leddy said...


Congratulations on the blog. I look forward to many future discussions on it.

I saw a play recently called "The death of Harry Leon" by Connall Quinn. I posted about it here

It was a great play about how Ireland's Jews would have been treated if Ireland had become a fascist country. It was very interesting but I began thinking that it doesn't make much sense to criticise one of the few countries in Europe that completely rejected fascism and anti semitism (1938 constitution), in an institutional sense at least.

I believe there are many people who deep down reject Ireland's independence and think achieiving it was a bad thing. There may be various motivations for this. Anyhow, one way people do this is by associating the people who fought for Irish independence with fascism and anti semitism. Ironically, I see it similarly to how Israel constantly gets delegitimised. Many Israel bashers claim that Israel was formed after a campaign of ethnic cleansing between 1945 and 1948. This is false, violence did occur but this does not invalidate the wider Israeli independence movement. Likewise, an unsavoury character here or there does not invalidate the Irish revolution.

Fascinating points, I have some of the Royal Irish Academy volumes on Irish Foreign Policy. I must do some research into early Irish Israeli relations.

Whatever the motivations, it is a tremendous shame that Ireland did not permit much more Jews entry into Ireland. They would have contributed hugely to Ireland culturally and economically. Ireland might not have been such a bleak place in the 40s and 50s.

The System Works said...

Rob: An interesting point about the Jews allowed into Ireland before and during the war is that the typical refugee was an Austrian Catholic of Jewish background, usually retired and with enough funds to live out the rest of his/her life in comfort.

Ted: Alternative history is an interesting genre, though often spoiled by the political opinions of the artist (was it that prick Spike Lee who did some rubbish film on the Confederacy winning the War Between the States?). The 'what if the Holocaust had reached Ireland' question makes for intriguing dramas, but I hope 'Harry Leon' did not have some kind of heavy message against the Irish state.

The System Works said...

Ted: On the matter of delegitimization, I think you make an excellent point. An interesting contrast between Ireland and Israel, however, is that Irish unionists like Kevin Myers and Ruth Dudley Edwards tend to be classed as 'right-wing' or conservative, while Israeli anti-Zionist journalists and academics are most often affiliated with the Israeli Communist Party and similar ideological movements.

I saw a lecture by Israeli historian Benny Morris recently, a man who has been attacked by the left and right, who made the interesting point that the number of Arabs civilians killed in direct massacres during Israel's War of Independence period was around 800, mostly by the smaller dissident movements like the Lehi and Irgun. He got a lot of flack from Islamoleftists in the audience for comparing that with the 8000-9000 Muslims murdered in a couple of days at Srebrinica. He also made the interesting point that the Jewish and Druze forces captured over 800 Arab settlements, while the Arabs only captured about a dozen Jewish ones, which were mostly abandoned by the time they came. Yet the Arab side still managed to massacre about 300 Jewish civilians in incidents like the massacre at Gush Etzion (though I am not sure if his figure includes bomb attacks such as the Ben Yehuda Street bombing, and he doesn't count the Hadassah Convoy massacre, which I would totally disagree with).

Rob Harris said...

Hi Ted,

Thanks very much for the positive feedback. I have a few pieces coming on stream soon. I added your blog in it.

I take your point about it not making make much sense to criticise one of the few countries in Europe that rejected fascism. I think we agree more than disagree because I would also object if people acted as if there was endemic anti-Semitism in Ireland. I completely agree with your view that some unsavoury characters did not invalidate the Irish revolution. Where I would differ is on elements within republicanism. It is more than a bad egg here and there with some nasty stuff in the United Irishman. This perhaps helped develop negative trains of thought about Jewry.

An element that should be remembered is rife anti-Semitism in Irish Catholicism. The fact that church and state were so close partly explains the lack of generosity toward Jewish children. In 1943 a FF TD (can’t remember ther name) spoke in the Dail about ejecting Jews from the nation to little opposition. De Valera, in a discussion with German ambassador to Ireland Eduard Hempel, accepted the idea the Jews had acted badly after WWI in Germany, which subsequently explained the behaviour of the Nazi’s and was the only European head of state to express sympathy on Hitler’s demise. De valera’s man Bewley was allowed prevent even a modest migration of Jews. I don’t believe de Valera was anti-Semitic but you can perhaps see that broadly Ireland’s attitude toward Jews was wooden-headed to say the least and occasionally found expression in real hate. After the truth about the Holocaust emerged in 45 some people said it was a British conspiracy. In Limerick they were still fighting about what happened to the Jews there up until the 1980’s and only restored the desecrated cemetary in 1990! Even on Nationwide a few years back a Limerick man was mealy mouthed about what happened, almost excusing it.

Irish republicanism mingled with a certain pro-German sentiment in Ireland. It was strong and threatened to compromise Ireland’s neutrality. Its perhaps inevitable that it mingled in with a certain anti-Semitism that was never really confronted and the like of which we are still seeing in a shadowy form today with a rabid pro-Palestinianism. It’s a truly remarkable fact that Ireland is at the forefront of this movement even though it has a tiny populace, and then the honouring of Sean Russell. Yeah maybe he was a fool or whatever but he still collaborated with the Nazi’s.

What we have to do is not demonise Irish republicanism to such an extent that it looks akin to National Socialism. I have seen things like that and would disagree strongly. They were not remotely alike and overall I see it as a very positive force for the country. My only contention is that we need to look a little more closely at some dark elements within the movement. It was after all a very loose coalition of people with intermingled elements of catholicism.

Rob Harris said...

Hi System Works,

I had a quick look at your site. It looks good. Must check it out more soon.

Interesting point about the type of Jews that were allowed in. Didn’t know that.

It seems some sources say 500 Jewish children were allowed in after the war but others say it was 100.

Benny Morris used to be part of the revisionist crowd but had the intelligence and integrity to question what was happening with Israel. He wrote an excellent letter in the Irish Times not long ago which was a real smack down of that windbag David Norris

Ted Leddy said...


All fair points. The traditional Irish Catholic ethos, which received an enormous boost after independence had many questionable elements attached to it. These affected Irish society in many negative ways as we know. Staunch catholicism in Europe, led by the vatican was unofrgivably slow to criticise Nazi crimes against the Jews. A similar mindset amoung elements of the the clergy in Ireland is probable.

My patience completely runs out with the likes of Sean Russell or Jim O'Donovon. Anti British or not, these guys ended up in Nazi Germany. In 1938, a group of seven surviving members from the second dail (1921-22) signed a document claiming that power had not beeen properly transferred from the second dail to the third and that the 1938 IRA was the legitmate army of the country. All future splinter groups would claim legitimacy from that doucument. In my view, all militant Republican organisations that followed this were criminal and terrorist.

I recently read David O'Donoghue's biography of Jim O'Donovon, the IRA man who ran the S -Plan and who fromed relations with the Abwehr (German Intelligence). The book explores this issue in detail. I would highly recommend it. It is called The Devils Deal.

The System Works said...

Rob: The Morris letter is great! If only all the Israel-bashers could absorb some real history.

I've been studying the Arab exodus from Haifa recently. Its amazing to read that Mayor Levy actually cried during a meeting with the Arab leadership in Haifa when they said they were organising a massive flight from the city. Levy begged them not to go, up until the very last Arab ship left the port of Haifa.

Anonymous said...

'Levy begged them not to go, up until the very last Arab ship left the port of Haifa.' I suspect his feigned tears were predicated upon the fact that he'd rather see them oppressed, homeless and starving. The depths of depravity evinced by those illegal immigrants knows no bounds, may Allah curse them.

Anonymous said...

"forcing tens of thousands of Christians to flee the Middle East"

If you are so worried with the future of christians in the Holy Land you should take a look in this documentary:

Quite interestingly, Israeli ambassador was deeply worried in this video. Why?

Don't be fools. Christians are discriminated in Israel just like Muslims. It's not a religious issue, it never was. Only in the jewish side, of course.

BTW, your remarks about catholicism are very interesting. I would like to see you making the same kind of "religious" study about Judaism and how it shapes jewish and israeli identity when it comes to prejudice, racism, etc, etc. Just like you did with the rabid anti-semitic religion of Catholicism.

Anonymous said...

"led by the vatican was unofrgivably slow to criticise Nazi crimes against the Jews. "

Another zionist lie. Pope Pious XII helped thousands of jews. His behaviour towards them was so exemplary that the rabbi of Rome himself converted to Christianity and adopted his name.