Three reports in recent days illustrate the good, the bad and the ugly in views about and actions towards Israel and Jews. There are many other reports in a similar vein, but these three incidents simply occurred at the same time and threw the various reactions into stark contrast.
First, the good: The Jerusalem Post shows how to see the positive in Israel in An Irish view of Israel:
Michael Copeland, a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, recalls a recent protest near his office in Belfast during Operation Protective Edge. “There was civil disorder, with people waving Palestinian and Israeli flags.” He also recalls how Israeli goods were removed from stores, one of many vignettes of how the conflict played itself out in Europe. “The world’s press does not do Israel great justice,” Copeland notes.
He is one of a group of four Northern Irish who visited Israel two weeks ago. They were brought together under the auspices of Face of Israel, a non-profit that brings different groups to Israel to allow them the opportunity to see the country up close. For this group, the main focus was addressing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“I feel there are parallels with the Irish community. [Here] it is missiles being fired, back home they planted bombs in certain buildings and would call and tell you,” explained Joanne McKenna, a clinical consultant for a hotline for sufferers of acute PTSD, who is from the Catholic community. The other members of the delegation were Protestants.
“In the period of the Troubles we knew the areas to avoid. They fired at families, women and children,” recalls Caroline Knight, an emergency nursing sister at Ulster Hospital and a former officer in the Royal Army Nursing Corp. “The very fact that you need a bomb shelter here is shocking,” she added.
PTSD sufferers in Ireland come in many forms, from domestic violence, to those whose disorder is related to armed conflict. For Copeland, one of his main interests is in how Israel treats PTSD. “I was a former officer in the British army and there were a large number of sufferers from PTSD and Complex PTSD. During the course of conversations [back home] we realized that Sderot is a center of excellence [in this issue] and I assembled a number of people who were interested in how our state fails to diagnose [it].” Among those he brought were McKenna, Knight, and Alana Floyd, who works for the Northern Irish parliament and describes herself as a survivor of PTSD.
Copeland had a long interest in seeing the archaeological and historical background of Israel. He was struck by “the walls of Jerusalem, and to see so many complex variants of religions, all of which are intermingled in the same place; seemingly coexisting and protected by the laws of the state. We met Arab-Israelis and Orthodox and secular.
And on every single occasion, we have not been treated just as guests, but as friends.”
The group’s travels was a mix of visiting Israel health centers that deal with PTSD and seeing historical sites such as Masada. They were impacted by both experiences Floyd noted that, “It is exciting for me to see the trauma centers. I know that I want to see me [and my experience] in them. So I know when I speak with another person that I know what they are going through.”
McKenna agrees. “It was interesting to see the similarities in Sderot with how people work at home and how they cope with trauma here and they never give up and [they put forward] a message of hope and of keeping going and I am a counselor and very interested in how people therapeutically work here. It seems to be quite similar. There seemed to be knowledge of this. I would like to be able to bring it back with me.”
Knight was also struck by what she saw in Sderot. “I have been so impressed with the level of awareness and recognition of PTSD that we have witnessed here in Israel, and the overall focus on community, positivity, and preventative approaches in the culture of treatment here. Israeli society is a brilliant phoenix rising from the fire.”
They were interested to see how many public art projects there were in Sderot – which ranges from brightly painted bomb shelters to sculptures fashioned out of old mortar shells and kassams. The group commented that turning negative symbols into something positive, like art, is a form of therapy to help alleviate PTSD.
Although their friends back home often see Israel through the prism of conflict reported in the media, they were fascinated to see that the reality is different on the ground.
“I didn’t come with preconceived ideas, the way the media has portrayed the country has been negative and I wanted to come with a fresh mind,” Knight says. “The people we met, they are kind and generous with their time. It was inspirational.
When asked if there is a lesson for Israel, the delegation was not enthusiastic. “Peace is trumpeted the most, by those who did the least,” Copeland argues. “I think we could learn from here, because people here are very positive and they take negative issues and make them positive,” says Floyd. McKenna said that seeing the hardships Israelis face makes her more thankful for what they have back home.
Copeland has taken away a very pro-Israel message. “Israel is a western democracy that happens to be geographically in the Middle East and the nations around Israel who complain about human rights don’t extend human rights to their citizens… Any state under attack has a duty to defend its citizens within the confines of the laws of war.” The others nod in agreement. “What we have seen here has been very emotional, and the people we have met have been very inspiring. The fact that Israelis don’t give up in the face of their trauma[s] has given me a lot of hope for what we can accomplish in Northern Ireland too,” says McKenna.
What an inspiring story, especially since it concerns the Irish who have a rather mixed record on Israel.
Next, the bad. Sadly, the Irish positivity does not extend to England where a relatively minor event nevertheless demonstrates the power and influence of antisemites: – Liverpool Football Club deleted a tweet wishing their Jewish fans a Happy New Year for Rosh Hashana after receiving a torrent of antisemitic abuse:
A British soccer team deleted a message from its Twitter account wishing Jewish fans a happy new year after the tweet sparked a torrent of anti-Semitic abuse.
Liverpool Football Club posted the message on Friday, the second day of Rosh Hashanah, which read: “Liverpool FC would like to wish all our Jewish supporters around the world a happy new year. #RoshHashanah. But the club took it down just hours later following complaints over numerous anti-Semitic responses.
A spokesman for Kick It Out, a campaign to fight racism and other forms of prejudice in soccer, lamented the fact that an attempt to reach out to Jewish fans had taken such a negative turn.
“It is encouraging that a football club recognizes these holidays and religious landmarks – Liverpool did the same for Ramadan – but extremely sad when a club does that in a proactive manner and gets these responses,” the spokesman told the Guardian. “Premier League clubs appeal to supporters around the world and it would have been nice for Liverpool’s Jewish supporters to see this message from their club, that’s the bigger issue. It should be welcomed that clubs are doing this is in a proactive manner.”
The pusillanimous, lily-livered reaction of the club’s officials in caving in to antisemites is pathetic and outrageous. I cannot imagine they would have deleted a Happy Ramadan tweet if they received anti-Muslim messages. Then again I can’t imagine anyone sending such a message. Only Jews are such targets and only Jews are thus victimised.
But the ugliest and most shocking event in recent days is one that is constantly recurring, and not in some G-dforsaken hell-hole, but right here in our capital city of Jerusalem (h/t Zvi). Arab rioters severely vandalised the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives while the Border Police stood by for two hours (!) because they did not receive orders to act:
Visitors to the ancient Mount of Olives cemetery on Saturday night reported major damage to several parts of the cemetery, especially the area used by Gerrer Hassidim. Many headstones were toppled or broken, and brass lamps and other items of value were stolen, they said.
This is not the first time this section of the cemetery has been desecrated, the visitors said. While the Mount of Olives has been a target of vandals for decades, the destruction has gotten much worse over the past several months, they added.
Police said that vandals also tried to damage and steal security cameras set up at the site. Police opened an investigation.
The visitors’ report jibes with others in recent weeks. Miriam, a resident of the Maale Zeitim neighborhood that overlooks the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives, last week told Arutz Sheva that her daughters, aged 10 and 7, were on a school bus that was attacked with paint and rocks. “Stoning attacks happen at least three times a week,” she said.
Members of the Knesset Interior Committee recently conducted a special tour of the Mount of Olives in order to examine up close the security arrangements there. The tour comes after hundreds of complaints by Jewish visitors to the huge cemetery located on the Mount of rock-throwing attacks by Arabs, and vandalism of the graves of loved ones.
The Israel Police are a disgrace. Moreover, how can we expect the world to counter antisemitic acts when our very own police and government cower in the face of the same antisemitism?