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.
The explanation given by Jim Roche of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign -- a spokesman for the Irish contingent -- is that "the people of Gaza are being slowly starved and are being completely deprived of their human rights to live in dignity".
For a start, the people of Gaza are not starving.
They have shopping malls and markets full of food and thousands of trucks regularly deliver food, medicine and buildings supplies. They have a longer lifespan than the Turks. But if Jim is set on providing aid, why not, as the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, suggested, send goods to Gaza through the legitimate crossings: the Israeli port of Ashdod or the Egyptian port of El Arish. Although consignments are checked for weapons, Jim wouldn't be providing weapons, so there wouldn't be a problem.
Jim would no doubt say that the flotilla will draw attention to human rights issues in Gaza, by which he means the misery produced by the Israeli blockade and Israeli military incursions. The trouble with that argument, Jim, is that Israel got out of Gaza years ago and would have been happy to leave it alone had Islamists not bombarded it with thousands of rockets. I'd like Jim to have a think about the human rights abuses perpetrated on the people of Gaza by Hamas, the misogynistic, militaristic bigots who rule their lives and who drove their political opponents out by a campaign of murder and intimidation.
But Jim won't know much about that, for Hamas has a short way with critics and reporters, as have the rulers of all of Israel's nasty neighbours. Israel is surrounded by people who want it exterminated, but precisely because it is an open democracy that allows freedom of speech and intellectual argument, the sins of Israel are blazoned to the world while those of its enemies are hidden underground in the prisons and the killing grounds.
Bizarrely, because it is efficient and prosperous, this tiny country is depicted as being Goliath, while the enormous swathe of ill-governed failing enemy states are seen as David. But Jews are natural scapegoats because they're so bloody smart, hard-working and successful.
Jim no doubt believes that what happened on the Turkish MV Mavi Marmara last year as it sailed as part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, was that brutal Israeli commandos attacked and killed unarmed activists. I refer him to Bloodstained Mavi Marmara, a recent book by a Sefik Dinc, a Turkish journalist who records that the ship carried no humanitarian aid, but had on board a large number of Islamist activists spoiling for martyrdom. Dinc's first-hand testimony and photographs show definitively that violent, heavily armed men set upon and viciously beat Israeli soldiers who had come on board to check for weapons: the shots were fired to save their lives.
The MV Saoirse will be one of 15 ships on a pointless mission which no responsible government backs. (Indeed the Turks have pulled out). Of the 25 on board, the vast majority are Sinn Fein activists and far-left agitators. My granny would have been right behind them.