My Word: When Irish eyes aren’t smiling

If only they would realize this is their fight too.

Mabhouh 311 AP (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Mabhouh 311 AP
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Warning. If you don’t feel nauseous – or at least nauseated – by the end of this paragraph, check your pulse. Either your heart’s stopped beating or it’s in the wrong place. Among the news from Afghanistan that came and went recently almost without being noticed, were reports that the Taliban hanged a seven-year-old boy for “spying.”
The execution of the boy – whose name I sadly could not find – reportedly took place on June 8. He is believed to be the victim of a “revenge” attack.
Daoud Ahmadi, the spokesman for the provincial governor of Helmand, told Fox News that the killing happened days after the boy’s grandfather, a tribal elder, spoke out against militants in their home village of Heratiyan.
I first came across the story while following the news of a suicide attack at a wedding party in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar in which 39 people were killed. AP reported that the Afghan government suspects the Taliban carried out the attack because Afghani policemen were among the family present at the wedding.
It reminded me of the November 9, 2005, al-Qaida-led, triple hotel bombing that killed 60 people in Jordan. Among the perpetrators were a husband-and-wife team who entered a hotel ballroom in Amman and tried to detonate themselves as close as possible to the bride and groom celebrating their wedding there. The wife’s explosive belt failed to detonate although she was later sentenced to death by a military court. By then, her husband was already enjoying, at least as far as she could assume without being closer to him, 72 virgins in the sort of heaven you go to if blowing up weddings is your thing.
Another tragic story was the murder of F.-Sgt. Yehoshua “Shuki” Sofer, 39, who was shot in an ambush on a police car traveling from Beersheba to Jerusalem on June 14. Sofer was due to be married in three months. “Sweetie, all of our wedding guests have come to accompany you on your final journey,” sobbed his fiancee, Einat Blum, at his funeral.
Meanwhile, nearly 30 NATO troops were killed in Afghanistan in the first two weeks of June.
WHY DID all these stories come miserably to mind? Well, watching my eight-year-old son following the World Cup in South Africa and trying to make sense of global politics might have something to do with it. Questions like: “Mum, do we have ties with Algeria?” I can answer. The “Who’s better for Israel: Denmark or Holland?” is a little harder.
And when Israelis find themselves actually rooting for Germany, you know that times are hard.
I have long thought that soccer is proof that there will always be wars, there is something so tribal about it.
Mind you, this month’s elections in Belgium, host to both NATO and many major European Union institutions, demonstrate that the idea of cross-cultural unity is more of a dream than a sustainable, achievable reality.
But young boys should be interested in soccer and pretending to be detectives or spies. Sometimes you really stop short and wonder what kind of world they are going to inherit when grooms are gunned down just before their wedding or the celebrants massacred during the party. (And who in Israel can forget the suicide bombing of Cafe Hillel in September 2003 in which 20-year-old Nava Applebaum was killed along with her father, Dr. David Applebaum, and five others, on the eve of her wedding? That attack was so close to my home that my apartment windows rattled with the blast.) The other reason the horror stories merged together was the way in which it is clear that much of the global village still doesn’t understand the nature of global jihad. Or Israel’s costly role in fighting it.
The recent capture of the suspected Mossad agent Uri Brodsky in Warsaw for allegedly assisting the assassins of Hamas arch-terrorist Mahmoud al- Mabhouh in Dubai in January has strained relations with both Poland and Germany, among Israel’s closest friends in Europe.
And Ireland, which has lately proved an Israel basher with the blarney touch, on June 15 followed the lead of Australia and the UK and expelled an Israeli diplomat for allegedly using forged passports in the affair.
“The misuse of Irish passports by a state with which Ireland enjoys friendly, if sometimes frank, bilateral relations is clearly unacceptable and requires a firm response,” announced Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, adding a condemnation for Israel’s alleged role in ridding the world of Mabhouh.
“Many allegations have been made against Mr. Mabhouh which, if true, would categorize him as a committed terrorist,” Martin said. “The Irish government does not believe that states should fight terror with terror. As a matter of principle, Ireland opposes extrajudicial killings. We believe that states have a duty to operate according to the law and to respect that way of life that terrorists seek to destroy.”
Well, best of luck to you. Israel is also committed to international law, even though that law is not particularly effective in protecting us. Maybe we could send Richard Goldstone to investigate what the murderous Mabhouh was up to in Dubai? Or perhaps, there are some British investigators available now the 12-year inquiry into Bloody Sunday has finally ended, concluding, as we suspected, that the killing by British soldiers of 14 Catholic demonstrators in Northern Ireland in 1972 was “unjustifiable.”
WAR IS hell. And diplomacy, to paraphrase Prussian thinker Carl von Clausewitz, is war by other means.
The expulsion of the diplomat is likely to further strain ties between Israel and Ireland, already tested when the Irish-owned Rachel Corrie tried to break the naval blockade of Gaza, a la Turkey’s Mavi Marmara, but mercifully without the violence. That’s probably because the majority of the Irish would-be blockade breakers were dedicated to the idea of peace and justice for the Palestinians, while the hard core of passengers aboard the Turkish ship were interested in breaking Israel. Now Israel is bracing for the Iranian flotillas.
Ellen Lefrak, an artist friend who splits her time between Ireland’s Westport, County Mayo and Jerusalem, describes the situation as “sad, especially as the two countries have a lot in common.”
She feels the Irish media portray a slanted view of Israel. As a result, some of the people she meets now actually question Israel’s right to exist.
On a visit in Ireland years ago, I found the Irish undeniably friendly and interested in Israel. And curious about my surname. Indeed, there is not a drop of Irish blood in me, but my grandfather in England changed his surname from Cohen at the beginning of World War II, when it seemed likely that Germany would invade. Not that having an Irish surname instead of a Jewish one would have saved the family, we now know.
Most of the people I met had heard of – and were proud of – the late Irish-born president Chaim Herzog. But they were taken aback when I said that Israel had also had an “Irish” prime minister.
Yitzhak Shamir assumed the nom de guerre Michael Collins, after the Irish republican, when fighting for independence from the British.
We’re still waging the battle for independence and security. If only all those shocked by the thought of wedding dreams blown to pieces and murdered seven-year-old boys would realize that this is their fight too. And being polite to the likes of “Mr. Mabhouh” is not going to win it.
The writer is editor of The International Jerusalem Post.