Thursday 22 August 2019

TD accused of 'anti-Semitic' rhetoric by ambassador

  

Fianna Fáil's Niall Collins. Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fáil's Niall Collins. Photo: Tom Burke
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Israel’s ambassador to Ireland has accused a Fianna Fáil TD of engaging in anti-Semitic rhetoric that is “offensive to every Jew”.

Ophir Kariv criticised comments made by Niall Collins, Fianna Fáil’s foreign affairs spokesman, on a Pakistani news channel last month where he said that there was a “huge Jewish lobby” across America that suppresses criticism of Israeli actions in the Middle East.

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Mr Kariv told Independent.ie: "I think that Niall Collins’s reference to a Jewish lobby is very offensive to every Jew. I mean referring to this Jewish power that moves things or prevents things or certainly, as he put it, makes problems I think it echoes things that we don’t want to remember."

Mr Kariv said he did not believe Mr Collins is anti-Semitic or that there is anti-Semitism in Fianna Fáil but added: "The rhetoric that he used - I am not saying he is [an] anti-Semite - but the rhetoric he used is anti-Semitic, this is for sure. The rhetoric we hear it in some places. It was very unfortunate… it shouldn’t come from a foreign affairs spokesperson of a major political party."

Mr Collins said he apologised and regretted any offence caused by the remarks. "I completely regret and apologise if I caused offence to anybody. That absolutely was not my intention," the Limerick TD said.

Speaking to Indus News on July 4th, Mr Collins claimed there was an "effort to suppress any criticism and any speaking out against the suppressive policies of Israel".

He said he had been targeted on social media by people "trying to suppress me and drown out my voice", describing it as a "form of extremism" that is emboldened by the the Israeli government’s settlement building in the West Bank and treatment of Palestinian people "being entirely 100pc supported by the American administration and the Trump administration".

He added: "Now I wouldn’t entirely blame the Trump administration either in terms of when we’re apportioning blame to the US because right across corporate America and right across America, I think, at every level there’s a huge Jewish lobby who have helped to create the problem that we are now discussing."

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Kariv also criticised the passage of the Occupied Territories Bill which would make it an offence to  import Israeli goods from the occupied territories in the Palestinian West Bank.

The bill is opposed by the government but its passage through the Dáil and Seanad has garnered global attention as Ireland would be the first EU country to end trade with Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

"This is an outrageous bill, now the line between sympathetic to Palestinians or being pro-Palestinian and being anti Israel is sometimes too thin and it’s too often been crossed and this bill is a very good example," Mr Kariv said. "This is the most extreme anti-Israeli piece of legislation in the western world outside of Iran."

Mr Kariv also warned the Irish government against declaring recognition for Palestine statehood after Tánaiste Simon Coveney said last year that the government could be forced to do so if there is no progress on peace talks in the Middle East. Mr Kariv said unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood would be a "very, very dangerous statement".

Irish Independent

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