Outrageous claims of anti-semitism

THE accusation of anti-semitism levelled against a group of Cahersiveen students and their teacher in The Jerusalem Post this week is deeply unfortunate for everyone caught up in the needless controversy.

Like all ethnic prejudice, anti-Semitism is deeply vile. It is born out of perhaps the deepest ignorance of all - the reluctance to truly grasp the shared humanity among all the peoples of the world who are, after all, members of a single race.

Jewish people all over the world have every reason for grave concern on the matter. Anti-Semitism is inordinately more repulsive today, given all we know of the sickening horrors of the Holocaust. That such attitudes can exist anywhere today is profoundly worrying and depressing.

That The Jerusalem Post article appeared almost on Holocaust Memorial Day can only have led to even deeper feelings among its readers this week.

They read of innocent teenagers in a remote part of Ireland saying such things as ' Jews are evil.'

But Coláiste na Sceilge, the Cahersiveen school the students attend has said that its pupils said no such words and they question the veracity of the lengthy column.

Perhaps the children made some remarks, but we can take the principal's word that there is no trace or suggestion of anti-Semitism in Colaiste na Sceilge.

In fact the students of Coláiste na Sceilge have been imbued with a deep sense of sympathy for European Jewry from their earliest years. Not one of the them would harbour anything other than pride over the exploits of the Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty.

Indeed, their Trócaire collection for Palestinian aid took place mere yards from a memorial of the Monsignor. That was erected by the people of Cahersiveen as gratitude and thanks for the figure of the priest who risked his life to save Jews from the Nazis in Rome during World War II.

Pride in a Kerry man's positive role in the Holocaust is as deep as the memory of the British occupation is long. Oppression is understood very well in this country.

The incident also took place shortly after the latest Israeli bombings of Gaza, targeting the Hamas leadership but resulting in the hideous loss of many innocent lives - including children - in scenes that caused revulsion among people worldwide yet again.

Anti-Semitism exists, but the claims made about the pupils of Colaiste na Sceilge are illfounded and irresponsible. If they reacted in any way like what was claimed in The Jerusalem Post article it would most likely have been in a spirit of exuberant, youthful protest in solidarity with a people who find themselves oppressed in modern times. In any event they will have learned an important lesson about relations between Israel and Palestine.