During the Northern Ireland “troubles,” two versions of a checkpoint joke were circulating, the one humorous, the other foreboding: 1. Masked men stop a car outside Belfast and ask: “Are you a Catholic or a Protestant?” Driver: “I’m a Jew.”

Masked men: “Yes, but are you a Catholic Jew or a Protestant Jew?” 2. Same scenario, different punchline: the masked men answer the Jew with “and I’m the Hezbollah liaison to the IRA.”

Ireland could end its EU presidency, on 30 June, with a grand gesture in leading the move to register Hezbollah on Europe’s terrorist list. Why then is this so unlikely? Following the 1290 expulsion from England, a few hundred Jewish refugees found welcome in Ireland. The tiny community prospered until a bloody pogrom in Limerick in 1904 led some to return to England. Sinn Fein (the “Self” party) was founded in 1906 by the openly anti- Semitic Arthur Griffith to fight the British yoke, but Griffith’s prejudice was not to greatly influence the party.

Indeed, Israel’s first chief rabbi, Isaac Herzog, had earlier served as chief rabbi of Ireland. A close confident of Eamon De Valera, he was known as the “Sinn Fein Rebbe.”

Yet, on the basis of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend,” many Feiners opportunistically became pro-Axis. The Irish Nazi party was founded in 1939 by Adolf Mahr, an Austrian who had been invited to Dublin in 1927 to be Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum.

Mahr spent the war in Berlin, broadcasting to neutral Ireland and drawing up lists of Irish Jews for deportation following an eventual German invasion, designated “Operation Green.” In 1940, IRA chief of staff Sean Russell also arrived in Berlin, returning home on a U-boat to overthrow the De Valera government.

Suffering a fatal burst ulcer on the way, the plot was stillborn.

In 1950, a statue to his honor was erected in Fairview Park, Dublin. It was destroyed in 2004 by anti-Nazis and rebuilt by Sinn Fein in 2009.

Post-war Ireland was also the focus of Nazi looted-art controversy. This author was involved in the 1980 investigation of Dutch SS murderer and art thief Pieter Menten, who housed his collection of looted Jewish assets in his Waterford mansion.

President Mary McAleese set the calendar by awarding it Ireland’s Museum of the Year Prize. We urged that the Prize be suspended pending an independent investigation into the collection’s provenance.

Certain Irish media hysterically treated the Wiesenthal probe as akin to “a Mossad conspiracy to punish Ireland for its Palestinian support.”

Our Shadow Report, compiled by the respected Irish archaeologist Erin Gibbons, pointed to the Hunts’ ties with Adolf Mahr and a string of dealers in looted art, as also their attempts to reside in Foynes, the departure point for trans- Atlantic sea-planes, which triggered the concern of both Irish and British intelligence.

Much of the media trashed our argument for transparency to encourage younger generations to study the implications of Irish neutrality in World War II, the Holocaust, the establishment of Israel and the universal threat of terrorism.

From its inception in 1964, the PLO enjoyed generous support from the Irish government, which turned a blind eye to the IRA’s growing relationship with Palestinian terrorist groups. Ireland also played a major role in the UNIFIL peace-keeping force on the Lebanon-Israel border, creating tensions between Dublin and Jerusalem – especially when an Irish UNIFIL soldier on home leave reportedly firebombed the tiny synagogue of Cork.

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement bringing peace to Northern Ireland was viewed in Dublin as a model for the Israel- Palestine conflict. When the Oslo Accords proved an illusion and that Arafat was, sadly, no David Trimble, Ireland squarely blamed the Jews.

Another Irish president, Mary Robinson, as UN Human Rights Commissioner and secretary-general of the 2001 anti- Jewish hatefest in Durban, showed sympathy for the Jewish victims of the UN World Conference Against Racism.

Robinson, today, is an “Elder,” a member of the group of former politicians and UN officials that includes Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu, and is now chaired by Kofi Annan.

The Elders met last month in Dublin with current Irish President Michael Higgins to launch an anti-Israel boycott campaign, euphemized as “labelling produce of the settlements.”

Higgins’ record is unambiguous: mourned for Arafat; denied Hamas is a terrorist organization; in 2007 shared a platform with Ibrahim Mussawi of Hezbollah’s Al Manar TV; in 2008 spoke at a march surrounded by Hezbollah banners; and in 2010 proclaimed in Parliament his support for the Gaza flotilla.

Forget Hezbollah’s threats to Israel. Its current participation in Assad’s mass murder of Syrian Sunnis, or its seeding of terror- sleepers from Latin America to Africa do not faze Dublin.

It is ironic that the “peace walls” in Belfast keeping Catholic and Protestant apart are praised, while their Israeli counterpart, the security barrier that has almost eliminated the influx of suicide bombers, is reviled as “apartheid.”

There may be no longer roadblocks on the Emerald Isle at which an Irish Jew may be asked his identity. But it is no joke that Hezbollah has once again met the IRA at the EU’s Irish presidency.

This is great cause for concern, for, as a sincere friend of Ireland, I am convinced that there is so much in common between the Irish and Jewish natural liberation struggles to regain our sovereignty, that we should stand united against the scourge of terror that threatens us all.

The author is director for international relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, based in Paris.


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