Israel’s embassy in Ireland got itself in hot water for an inflammatory posting on its Facebook page that embarrassed the Jewish state. The post stated that were Jesus and Mary alive today and walking around Bethlehem without security, they would be lynched as Jews by the Palestinians. When a controversy over the post ensued, it was soon deleted and an apology was issued. But the Dublin embassy is not getting off so easy. The New York Times quoted Haaretz’s diplomatic correspondent as reporting that this was just the latest though most egregious example of an aggressive stance taken by Israel’s envoys in Ireland. Apparently the embassy is guilty of speaking of Irish anti-Israel activists. It even had the temerity to re-post a satirical video about Irish media bias against Israel by the Latma comedy troupe.
All of this has brought down the opprobrium of Haaretz and the Times on the Dublin embassy. The Times even closed its piece on the subject by quoting a Palestinian response to the posting about Jesus and Mary that said that Christmas is freely celebrated in Bethlehem each year. But that remark, as well as much of the criticism of the supposedly undiplomatic behavior of the envoys, is off the mark. As much as it might have been wiser for anyone connected to the Israeli government to avoid any mention of the holy family or Christmas, their “offensive” post was primarily guilty of doing the one thing that diplomats are generally urged to avoid: telling the truth.
As the Times notes, Ireland has become a hotbed of anti-Israel incitement in the past few decades. Though Irish independence fighters and Jews struggling to free their ancient homeland once identified with each other due to their common British foe, the Irish Catholics now seem to identify more with the Palestinians while it is the Ulster Protestants who think of Israel as a role model for survival as a minority in a hostile environment. The Irish media is well known for its anti-Israel bias and agitation against the Jewish state that seems to be louder and nastier than in even neighboring Britain.
Perhaps that’s why Israel’s Dublin embassy has come to the reasonable conclusion that it needs to stop playing defense when it comes to correcting misperceptions about the Middle East conflict. In too many instances, Israeli diplomats and spokespersons have avoided getting into scrapes but in the process failed to adequately defend their country at a time when a rising tide of anti-Semitism has distorted the debate about the Middle East conflict in Europe.
More to the point, the embassy’s Facebook comments about Jesus, Mary and Bethlehem actually were very much to the point in dealing with that troubling trend. For decades, the Palestinian leadership has sought to portray Arabs as the true descendants of the biblical Jews. That serves the double purpose of delegitimizing Zionism and Israel while also allowing them to play upon the sympathies of Christians. Modern Christianity has embraced the notion that Jesus was a Jew as part of an effort to move away from a tradition of theology-driven anti-Semitism. But the Palestinians want you to buy into the anti-historical concept that Jesus was Palestinian rather than a Jew.
It should also be stated that the post did no more than state the obvious when it noted that Jews without security in Palestinian Authority-ruled Bethlehem are at grave risk. Indeed, Rachel’s Tomb, which is located outside the town, is often besieged by violent Palestinians seeking to take over that Jewish shrine.
In raising the subject, the embassy did the unthinkable and told the truth about Palestinian violence and prejudice. While that might have been considered undiplomatic, that is something that more Israeli diplomats as well as members of the media ought to be doing more often.