If the judiciary feels persecuted by justice minister Alan Shatter, then imagine how Palestinians in Gaza and their Irish supporters must feel.
The Fine Gael/Labour government has dumped Fianna Fail’s critical attitude to Israeli excesses and instead turns a blind eye, even as Israeli Special Forces sabotage the MV Saoirse, threatening the lives of Irish citizens in the Gaza relief flotilla. The government response has been about as terrifying as the proverbial dead sheep.
FF’s then foreign minister, Micheal Martin, who often substituted rhetoric for action against Israeli atrocities, did at least denounce the Israeli forging of Irish passports as a threatening act against Irish citizens and went on to expel an Israeli diplomat in retaliation.
In another example of Fine Gael’s preelection, split personality, Kenny cut up rough with the then Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, last summer following the Israeli killings of civilians in the first aid flotilla and the arrest of Irish citizens aboard the MV Rachel Corrie. Kenny even demanded to know if Cowen would pressure the Israelis to allow the Irish ship to “enter Gaza waters and discharge its cargo of humanitarian aid”. A most belligerent Kenny also wanted to know what Cowen intended to do about intelligence reports that an Israeli embassy official had assisted in the forging of Irish passports. Labour’s Eamon Gilmore was equally aggressive on the passports issue, demanding that the government pursue the issue with “more vigour”.
Now, with overwhelming evidence that the Israelis sabotaged the MV Saoirse (a Swedish ship in the flotilla had exactly the same damage done to its propeller) and the possibility that this could have imperiled the ship carrying Irish passengers had it left port, there has been barely a squeak from Kenny and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Gilmore. Prior to the sabotage, Kenny had quoted Gilmore approvingly as stating that Irish people should not travel to Gaza, in direct contradiction to his line when in opposition. In the same period, Billy Timmins, previously FG’s foreign affairs spokesperson, had warned that any exchange of information with Israel (as envisaged by an EU Commission initiative to share data on EU citizens with Israel) would again be used by Mossad.
At least you know where you stand with Shatter. The Israeli champion dismissed the flotilla as a “media event” and said, “I have no knowledge of what occurred and I will jump to no conclusions”. This is almost verbatim what an Israeli embassy spokesperson said when questioned about the sabotage. It is also the same line put out by Ambassador to Ireland, Dr Zion Evrony, when he met senior government officials in Dublin last year and insisted he knew nothing about the use of fake Irish passports by a team of assassins in Dubai.
Parties on all sides of the Dail had then warned of the danger to the lives of Irish passport holders in the Middle East by the actions of the Israeli hit squad in Dubai. Now, the government appears to have adopted a line that would hardly displease Shatter or the Israeli embassy. Last month, Gilmore said merely that it was up to the Turkish authorities to investigate the damage done to the flotilla ships, adding menacingly, “I will take a very serious view of it if it turns out that there was sabotage”.
They have not slept in Tel Aviv since this thundering denunciation.
This article appears in the print edition of The Phoenix magazine, (Vol.29, No.14 July 15-28, 2011)