How anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel led to attack on Northern Ireland synagogue
The sheer scale of the cleverly manipulated global campaign against Israel is indicative of anti-Zionism
How much anti-Semitism is there in Northern Ireland? The shattering of the windows of the Belfast synagogue (described by the PSNI as a religious hate crime) would suggest there's at least a bit of it about.
But we are constantly reassured that actually hatred of the Jews has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with hatred of Israel? Or, to use the currently fashionable terms, hatred of the "Zionists".
The timing of the assault on the synagogue would seem to suggest, however, that there is some sort of link.
Like all attacks on places of religion – the Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Newtownabbey was also attacked at the weekend (again), and Belfast's Islamic Centre has recently been targeted too – this needs to be condemned utterly.
We already know the enormity of the problems we face in Northern Ireland with sectarianism, racism and homophobia. But maybe our biggest problem is with denial.
Hate crime, to give it its official label, is rarely unconnected with hate speech, hate mindset and ... well ... just plain, old hate.
Most of us immediately see a connection between the wild, despicable language of the pastor and racism directed at Muslim people.
Where anti-Semitic – sorry, anti-Zionist – clamour is concerned, however, there seems to be an entirely different logic at work.
Let me make something clear here. I'm not saying nobody should ever be allowed to criticise Israel, its government or its actions. (Lots of Israelis criticise their own government. Unusually for the Middle East, they are free to do so. They are citizens of that region's only real democracy. They can vote for who they want, speak out when they choose. Women have an equal place in society. Gay people are not murdered on account of their sexuality. The media in Israel is free.)
What is indicative of anti-Semitism is the sheer scale of the very cleverly manipulated global campaign against Israel. Tens of thousands die in Syria, Libya, Iraq, the Sudan and while this makes headlines there is nothing, nothing on a par with the outcry against Israel.
That nation moves to defend itself against the terror regime relentlessly pounding its cities, its towns and villages with hundreds of rockets and once again it is the world's Great Satan singled out for particular censure.
Why? Israel is the world's only Jewish state.
We are assured, though, there is absolutely no connection between these two things.
A recent massive survey of global attitudes towards Jews (not Israelis, not Zionists) found that anti-Semitism was rampant in the Middle East but also shockingly common in parts of Europe. Respondents were asked did they agree with statements such as "people hate Jews because of the way Jews behave", "Jews think they are better than other people", and "Jews still talk too much about what happened in the Holocaust".
While the UK was rated at around 8%, Ireland was rated at a shameful 20%. (Older males were among the worst.)
So, where does that leave us in Northern Ireland? While we're included in the UK figure there is no breakdown by region. The suspicion has to be that we're more anti-Semitic (or anti-Zionist if you prefer) than we think.
And whatever the anti-Zionists argue, the especial ordure directed at Israel is a reflection of that.
The conflict in the Middle East is massively, tragically complex. It isn't something that can be summed up or sorted in a glib 140 character tweet. Or round a dinner table with a nice little Sancerre in BT9.
Of course those pictures of suffering civilians would tear the heart out of you. I imagine the Israelis grieve for the innocent victims every bit as much as the rest of us. Israelis are not, despite how their enemies portray them, inhuman.
But what is Israel supposed to do under Hamas attack? Just sit back and take constant, unceasing bombardment with only the Iron Dome anti-missile system and pure luck sparing countless lives?
We wouldn't here. No other nation on earth would.
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