Irish politics has long been a difficult place for friends of Israel. Earlier this year, the Irish parliament debated a bill to divest its Strategic Investment Fund to divest from businesses operating in Judea and Samaria, and that is just one of several measures against Israel that pop up frequently in Dublin.
For years, former minister of European affairs and deputy foreign minister Lucinda Creighton was one of the few pro-Israel voices in Irish politics, and as a lawmaker, she was one of the members of the “not-very-well-attended friendship group,” as she called it, between the Irish parliament and the Knesset.
Creighton continues trying to build ties between her home country and Israel as CEO of Vulcan Consulting, which helps Israeli and other companies get a foothold in the EU. She is also senior adviser to the Counter Extremism Project and hosted a podcast on the rise in antisemitism in Europe.
In Ireland, Creighton said, few understand what is happening in Israel, and that ignorance has been translated into hostility.
“There is very little independent, impartial reporting documenting what is happening in Israel, which feeds into a lack of fact-based knowledge, and I think that allows these narratives to kind of take off and be propagated, and that has been the case in Ireland,” she stated.
Why politics in Ireland are so anti-Israel
Creighton lamented that in Ireland people “don’t hear much about how Hamas’s objective is the obliteration of the Israeli state,” and only get a critical perspective on Israel and a sympathetic perspective on the Palestinians from the media, which are then “conflated with broad antisemitic views with very little counter-narrative.”
“It’s difficult to extract antisemitism from anti-Zionist and anti-Israel sentiment,” she said.
Creighton gave the example of a lawmaker from Sinn Fein named Martin Browne who said that Israel created ISIS and called for the destruction of Israeli Zionists. One of his colleagues in Sinn Fein, Reada Cronin, tweeted that Hitler was a pawn of the Rothschilds, that Israeli embassy staff are akin to monkeys, and that former UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has made antisemitic statements in the past, was targeted by the Mossad. She apologized for the tweets in 2020, but said they had been “glib” and “off the cuff.”
“She apologized for the manner, as opposed to the substance, and didn’t acknowledge it was antisemitic,” Creighton said. “When these statements are made by elected officials, the substance is not really challenged, and that is a problem. That kind of comment is normalized.”
Creighton expressed hope that the EU’s efforts against antisemitism will have an impact. She cited research that there have been fewer violent antisemitic incidents in France in recent years, while it is on the rise in the US, and said that she believes that pushback from EU member state governments has helped.
As for Ireland in particular, “it’s a very uphill battle,” she said, because “there aren’t very many high profile public champions of Israel…to push back against some of the throwaway and unchallenged remarks that conflate criticism of the State of Israel and government of Israel with Jewish people generally.”
She encouraged advocates for Israel to “be persistent and keep the faith.”
Creighton argued that some of the legislation targeting Israel in Ireland, such as the settlement divestment bill, “come from a trade perspective that is very much interwoven with a particular narrative. It’s critical of Israel as a state, but the same people who are pushing those narratives are also very well documented expressing really hostile antisemitic sentiments, and that goes without comment or very little pushback.”
So far, Irish governments have blocked bills trying to institute boycotts of Israel or parts of Israel, often because it would go against EU trade policy. Generally, the bills get to a certain point, and then the attorney general or Foreign Ministry blocks or freezes them. However, Creighton warned current Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin is more critical of Israel than his predecessors.
At the same time, Creighton pointed out that most of the bills, should they pass, would have a minimal real-world impact and described them as “showboating on the part of Sinn Fein, tokenistic…virtue signaling.”
Under Creighton’s leadership, Vulcan Consulting has been looking to deepen its relationship with Israeli companies and support their access to EU institutions and understanding of EU relations.
Ireland and Israel have much in common economically, she said, “in that [they] have huge trade with the US tech ecosystem.”
Creighton hopes to help Israeli companies access EU institutions and understand EU regulations, and serve as a bridge between Israel and Ireland, as well as the EU more broadly.