Why we never use language to say what we mean
Last July, that very silly organisation, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions voted in July to boycott Israel. Which is why earlier this week Zion Ivonry, the unlucky Israeli diplomat who has the colossal misfortune to be his country's ambassador to Ireland, met ICTU officials, to discuss their brainless vote.
What poor Zion cannot possibly understand is that ICTU doesn't actually mean a proper boycott. If he were to take a screwdriver to the average ICTU laptop, he would certainly find Israeli-made semi-conductors there, and of course, ICTU medical cabinets are full of Israeli-made pharmaceuticals. Better still, ICTU intends to do nothing whatsoever about these inconvenient realities.
As the ambassador has probably learnt already, unlike Israelis, Irish people actually don't mean what they say, or say what they mean. For we tend to use words like Arabs do, as a pose and a dramatic statement, not as a literal and analysable declaration of the truth.
The traditions of Talmudic scholarship incline Israelis to use language precisely. So if Israelis voted to boycott something, they would then boycott it, energetically and systematically, at whatever cost to themselves.
But an Irish vote to boycott something doesn't mean people are actually expected to "boycott" anything. It simply is an infantile way of expressing disapproval, a petulant stamp of the foot. No one actually has to do anything which might cause them any discomfort. The ICTU vote to boycott Israeli goods is wind and piss and vainglorious hypocrisy.
And this last characteristic, vainglorious hypocrisy, is perhaps one of the most defining of all Irish characteristics, the loud statement of a Consensually Agreed Piety, which is accompanied by absolutely no personal intention whatsoever to bring that piety about.
The greatest CAP of Irish life is that Ireland should be an Irish-speaking society; but what most individuals actually mean by this is that other people should go the trouble of learning the language, and then speaking it, not they themselves. Another common CAP, which we can read from most newspaper columnists, is that the US is primarily responsible for the woes of the world. And naturally, a further CAP is that Israel alone is the cause of the problems in the Middle East, and that the solution is in Israeli hands.
And here, for once, the CAP has a point. The solution to the Middle East tragedy is in Israeli hands, or rather, feet. If the Jews of Israel were good enough to walk into the Mediterranean and drown, that would certainly be a "solution" to the "problem". One might even say a final solution.
But short of that act of mass suicide, there's not much that the Israelis can do with the various Palestinian movements, all of which use every concession as a bargaining basis for further concessions, meanwhile rejoicing in suicide attacks on Jewish targets. Israel cannot give the Palestinians what they actually want, and which they usually conceal behind the persiflage of diplomacy; and that is the end of the Israeli state and the eviction of all those inconvenient Jews.
Now, as it happens, I have always thought a great injustice was done to the indigenous peoples (who only came to be called "Palestinians" in more recent times: "Palestine" was an administrative term, not the home of a distinctive identity) with the formation of Israel. However, that was long ago, and there's nothing we can do about it now, any more than we can restore the confiscated lands of the Germans who were evicted from Poland, the Baltic states and Czechoslovakia in 1945-46. Nor can the Great Lakes be returned to the Hurons, or Mississippi to the Choctaws.
But contrast and consider. The remaining Arab -- or if you like, Palestinian -- population of Israel has full civil rights and elects Arabs to the Knesset. However, the descendants of the 900,000 Arabs who fled the new state of Israel now number five million, most of them living in squalid refugee camps in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, where they have no rights whatever.
Why? Because these Arab states made no attempt whatever to assimilate their so-called Arab brothers.
Moreover, who has been killing more Palestinians recently, Lebanon or Israel? But when did you hear anyone denouncing Lebanon for its human rights abuses?
And of course, ICTU would never call for a boycott of even Iran, which is in the middle of a wave of public executions (nearly 200 so far) and floggings (thousands). And nor would that preposterous confection, Aosdana, ever even contemplate a cultural boycott of Iran, as it did of Israel, last April.
Why is this? Well, it is actually an unintended compliment. Consensually Agreed Pieties are usually determined by expectations, and no-one expects any kind of virtue from most Middle East states. But people do expect virtue from Israel and the US. So when ICTU calls for a boycott of Israeli goods, it's actually saying (in its own stupid way, and without realising it, of course) that Israel can be made more decent by pressure and suasion.
Who would ever make such a ridiculous claim about Hamas, or the PLO, or indeed about any Arab state? They are all beyond redemption.