On 10th April over fifty people attended a very inspiring talk by Joanna Tuffy TD to a branch meeting of the Council of Christians and Jews in Belfast.
Joanna outlined her role in setting up the Irish Israel parliamentary friendship group. She described her political background and affinities between James Connolly and the Zionist labour movement. The left can be characterised as being anti Israel today however the reality is that within the Irish Labour Party there is a ‘broad church’ and differing views.
The anti-Israel lobby is very vocal in the Irish Republic and Joanna believes there should be a more balanced debate. The Ireland Israel Oireachtas Friendship Group was set up to promote trading, cultural and political links. Enterprise Ireland visited Israel recently and is putting together the business community in both countries.
Joanna is against boycotts in principle and strongly opposes bullying methods used to persuade others to boycott Israel, particularly when directed against artists and musicians. The Trocaire campaign has been particularly problematic but this has backfired as the public have objected to some of their methods, especially the anti Israel literature sent to schools (which Trocaire felt obliged to withdraw when attention was drawn to its contents).
The anti-Israel bias in Irish trade unions etc is a fairly recent phenomenon but Joanna believes people have been intimidated out of the debate. Anti-semitism remains an issue in Ireland. Vincent Browne’s remark on Irish TV about Israel being “a cancer” prompted an apology. Although this was judged not to be anti Semitism it was not fair or impartial. The Irish Times is often biased against Israel but even there commentators were taking a stand against the cultural boycott. The Irish Independent would take a more balanced stance so there are increasingly other voices being heard. It is vital in a democracy to listen to different sides and engage in balanced debate.
CCJ’s next speaker is Belfast’s new Rabbi, David Singer, who will discuss ‘ Religion and Responsibility’ on Wednesday 29th May at 7pm. For more details please contact branch secretary, Sandra Baillie.