News Round-up from Ireland & Israel, Ambassador’s Message 28 November

It was great to launch our Irish Film Week to such a well attended opening reception and I understand that attendances were strong during the week.  I want to thank Cinematheque for their outstanding support.  It is a great outfit and a vital voice for cinema in Israel as a medium for art and insight.  We are looking forward to working with them for next year’s Irish film week.  Culture is one of the great bridges between Ireland and Israel and we at the Embassy are keen to develop it.

I attended two briefings this week.  The first was given by Bob Turner, Operations Director for UNRWA in Gaza.  He painted a grim picture of the situation there, with serious problems with water supplies and electricity (only available eight hours on, eight hours off).  It is particularly tough for the 17,000 families who lost their homes.  There has been some improvement on the movement of goods but nothing near the scale required to visibly improve matters.  To add to their woes, the recent rains have led to serious flooding in parts.  It was International Children’s Day on 21st November and UNRWA reminded us that children comprise half the population of Gaza.

The second was the annual diplomatic briefing by Peace Now, particularly its Settlement Watch experts. In its description of the multifaceted and continuous nature of settlements in the West Bank, it underscored why Ireland, the EU and the US are alarmed at the process and the obstacle it presents to the MEPP.  For a very good exposition of our position on the current situation regarding both the MEPP and the situation in Gaza, I would highly recommend Minister Flanagan’s speech to the Seanad here

I would also recommend that you read the Minister’s joint Op Ed with his Finnish counterpart Minister Erkki Tuomioja on the need to inject energy into the MEPP and for the EU to prioritize it, here .  As they argue, “Putting an end to the conflict would bring huge benefits for Israelis and Palestinians and have a transformative effect on the entire region. It would open the way to the normalisation of relations between the Arab states and Israel, as envisaged in the Arab Peace Initiative. It would remove the excuse many use to stoke other conflicts in the wider Middle East and help bring more stability to a troubled region.”

In terms of the Northern Ireland Peace Process, the talks to resolve the impasse over some key issues continue.  Minister Flanagan gave his assessment in an interview with the Irish Times here

Despite the persistence of conflict, global casualties generated by wars are at an historic low, and have been for some time.  We are, counter-intuitively, living through an era of peace. This is in stark contrast to the twentieth century which not only saw two world wars but tens of millions die as a result of ideological movements led by evil men, notably in Germany, Russia and China.

As with other instances of mass murder, sometimes the magnitude of the Shoah can overwhelm human comprehension and when it does stories can help grasp the horror.  Yad Vashem ( regularly publish ‘untold stories’ such as this one from Duniłowicze, Poland (today Dunilavichy , Belarus ).  A brief history of the Jewish presence in the town concludes, “between November 21 and 23, 1942 the ghetto was liquidated. The majority of its inmates were shot. Those who had hidden in bunkers were killed by hand grenades, while others were burned to death in houses in the ghetto. At that time a total of 812 (or, according to another source, 979) Jews from Duniłowicze were murdered.”

There has been much comment and discussion in Ireland on our relationship with World War I which actually demonstrates that we are coming to terms with its complicated legacy for us.  Many of the Irish men who enrolled in the British Army did so at the urging of national leader John Redmond.  However, the 1916 Rising caused a paradigm shift in the Irish nationalist narrative which rendered, in the perspective of the time, their sacrifice irrelevant, even embarrassing.  The National Library of Ireland has opened an exhibition exploring how individual Irish people responded to World War I.  By looking at these personal stories, the exhibition captures the complexity of the relationship between Ireland and the war.  Some details here

On a similar theme, and if you are interested in modern Irish history, I reviewed Ronan Fanning’s Fatal Path, British Government and Irish Revolution 1910-1922 on my blog here

Whether you are part of the great narrative of the Irish Diaspora and have left home, or have made aliya and come home, you might enjoy this short piece in the Financial Times on an Irish émigré’s return to Dublin, where he found a place that was both familiar and changed, .


Eamonn McKee

Ambassador, Tel Aviv


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