Of all the world conflicts, why are we so hostile to Israel?
Fianna Fail grandee and former TD, Chris Andrews, was this week travelling with the flotilla intended for Palestine (his ship was damaged in a Greek port on Wednesday and couldn't continue). Which is his democratic right.
What's less admirable is his comment on Twitter, describing Alan Shatter as "Israel's puppet in Ireland". This was a bad-minded and scurrilous thing to say, so astonishingly contemptible that I wondered if he fully meant it -- or had the fatal immediacy of the internet claimed another victim before he'd time to put his brain in gear.
Presumably he did; he then argued with other Tweeters about Shatter, Israel, that whole mess in the Levant.
So. Chris Andrews believes an Irish citizen and Government minister is an agent of a foreign state. Not merely an agent: a "puppet", which has long been a notorious slur against Jews.
There's the thing -- Alan Shatter is Jewish. Couldn't possibly be of honourable intentions when it comes to Israel, could he?
It's bizarre and depressing, how that small country riles Irish tempers so much. It seems to render some people mentally unstable; it makes them feel they can say anything, no matter how abusive or untrue.
There's no way Chris Andrews, or anyone else, would use such intemperate language about a public figure of any other ethnic background. But Shatter is Jewish, so all bets are off. A few years back Aengus O Snodaigh compared the Fine Gael TD to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. Such a deliberately cruel, provocative statement is tantamount to hate-speech, and deserving of legal sanction (or at least a good punch). Can you imagine something comparable being said of a black, Indian, Polish or German politician?
This is not a pro-Israel polemic; I'm neutral on the matter. I just know there is fault and merit on both sides, which again makes me wonder: why are some of us Irish so violently hostile to Israel?
It makes no sense. This is an incredibly convoluted, age-old conflict between two peoples, far removed from here; yet many of us see it only in black and white.
Worse still is our selectivity and hypocrisy. There's a fundamental unanswered question: why do you care so much about the oppression of one group, while remaining indifferent to similar situations (indeed, often unaware of them)?
We loudly condemn Israel's misdeeds while ignoring worse atrocities carried out by any number of 'respectable' states or terrorist groups. Stick a pin in the map and you'll hit somebody guilty.
Where are the street protests against the slaughter wreaked by Russia in Chechnya? Why don't you picket embassies of European countries which sell arms to genocidal maniacs? Why has the Chinese ambassador not been expelled over the country's human rights abuses?
Virtually every nation, including us, has blood on its hands; but it seems only Israel is held to account.
I once argued with someone over this. Their opening gambit was: "Oh, you support the killing of schoolchildren?" and it went downhill from there. But they eventually did concede: "You're right, I don't care about Chechnya." Their passion was more anti-Israel than pro-Palestine.
Is it racism, or anti-Semitism? Probably in part. But I think it's more to do with a dispiriting tendency towards groupthink: the way people dumbly, reflexively go with the intellectual flow.
Israel is bad. The US is bad. The West is bad. Those poor Palestinians are good. There are no grey areas. You are wrong, we are right. We are protesters, you are puppets.
Geopolitics has been simplified to the level of a children's cartoon. But I don't really feel like laughing.
Liam Fay is on holidays