The Electronic Intifada / September 24, 2021
Ireland’s government will not tolerate the truth about how it panders to Israel.
That is the unavoidable conclusion from efforts made by the foreign ministry in Dublin to muzzle the human rights lawyer Susan Power.
Power was rightly furious when she read a nauseating article in The Jerusalem Post during June.
Written by Kyle O’Sullivan, Ireland’s ambassador to Tel Aviv, the article in effect repudiated the large numbers of his compatriots who had protested against Israel’s 11-day attack on Gaza the previous month.
Some Irish people, O’Sullivan claimed, have “an emotive and single-minded view of the Israel/Palestinian conflict.” Yet the Dublin government, he wrote, “has always supported Israel’s right to exist, including with its Jewish character.”
Tweeting her response, Power called on “Irish Zionists” in Tel Aviv to retract the article, describing it as “treasonous.” She demanded that a formal apology be published to the Irish and Palestinian people following the article’s retraction.
Documents I obtained via a freedom of information request show that Power’s tweets were discussed at senior level in Ireland’s foreign ministry.
A text message from Sonja Hyland, political director in the ministry, claimed that a “distinction” may be drawn between “robust criticism of government policy” and the remarks made by Power.
Hyland stated that there were “serious concerns” about the tweets, “specifically the accusation of treason and the reference to ‘Irish Zionist[s].’”
The word “concern” is overused by diplomats from Ireland and other EU states when responding to Israel’s latest violation of international law. Arguably, it has become a coded way of saying that the diplomats dislike such violations but will not take any action against them.
The difference in this case is that the foreign ministry was complaining about a human rights lawyer rather than a nuclear-armed rogue state like Israel. Not only did the ministry spend considerable time discussing the “serious concerns,” it implicitly demanded that Power be punished.
Don Sexton, Ireland’s envoy in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, complained about Power’s tweets to her employer, the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq.
Meanwhile, Sexton’s colleagues in Dublin got in touch with Sadaka, an Irish group campaigning on the issue of Palestine. So much pressure was exerted on Sadaka, according to Power, that she resigned as one of its board members.
Significantly, the documents released to me indicate that Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, approved of how organizations connected with Power – and by extension Power herself – were bullied.
Another text message from Sonja Hyland states that she “updated” Coveney on how the matter was being handled and “he’s happy with this approach.”
Power told me that the foreign ministry officials initially said they took issue “with the tone” of her tweets “and insisted it was not the content.”
“Then when I removed the tweets and rewrote and reposted them, they continued with threats, demanding that organizations I worked for apologize for use of the term ‘Zionists’ and the descriptions of the article [by Kyle O’Sullivan] as ‘treasonous Zionism’ and threatening that actions would be taken,” she stated.
The pressure was “incredibly stressful and continued over weeks,” she said.
Although Power deleted some tweets to which the foreign minister objected, she asserted that “I still fully stand over” them, pointing out that they were written in a personal capacity.
Power argued that the foreign ministry’s “actions are a very serious encroachment on the guaranteed right to freedom of expression without government interference and the basic human rights principles which Ireland values.” She described the ministry’s behavior as “completely disproportionate, aggressively punitive and extraordinary,” adding that it has had a “chilling effect on my work since.”
Power’s full reply to my questions can be read below.
She evidently touched a raw nerve in the foreign ministry simply by telling the truth.
By writing that Ireland “has always supported Israel’s right to exist, including with its Jewish character,” Kyle O’Sullivan was embracing Israel’s state ideology. As that ideology is called Zionism, it is logical to label O’Sullivan a Zionist.
I emailed Don Sexton and Sonja Hyland, querying why they felt Power was wrong to use the term “Zionists.”
Both replied by instructing me to contact the ministry’s press office. The press office refused to answer the question.
Israel is a “criminal country,” according to the newly published words of Yaakov Sharett. He knows what he is talking about – Yaakov’s father Moshe Sharett was among the politicians who signed Israel’s “Declaration of Independence.”
The worst crime committed by the Zionist movement was the mass expulsion of Palestinians during the 1940s.
The crime has been perpetuated by how Israel has asserted its “Jewish character” to the Palestinians’ detriment. The Nation-State Law approved by the Knesset – Israel’s parliament – in 2018 was a brazen affirmation of how Palestinians are treated as inferior to Jews.
Supporting Israel’s “Jewish character” – as Kyle O’Sullivan has done – amounts to supporting an apartheid system.
The accusation of treason against O’Sullivan was similarly deserved. Endorsing Israeli apartheid is a betrayal of the solidarity which ordinary Irish people have demonstrated toward Palestinians.
O’Sullivan also appears to have betrayed the position of the Oireachtas – Ireland’s parliament – and the Dublin government, which is not well-known for celebrating Israel’s “Jewish character.”
Asked for a comment, Marie Crawley, who chairs the aforementioned Sadaka, described O’Sullivan’s article as “ill-judged and misleading in terms of the political views of the Oireachtas and indeed the views of the government as we understood them.”
O’Sullivan does not have a monopoly on treason.
His groveling toward Israel was applauded at the highest level in Dublin’s foreign ministry. Simon Coveney, the minister, even praised O’Sullivan’s Jerusalem Post article as “balanced.”
Coveney has a record of betrayal.
He has betrayed democracy by blocking a ban on Israel’s settlement goods. The ban has repeatedly been approved by majorities in both houses of the Oireachtas.
He has also betrayed the truth.
While Ireland recently became the first EU country to formally acknowledge that Israel has illegally carried out a de facto annexation of its settlements in the West Bank, it should not be forgotten how that step was flanked by a caveat. Coveney insisted the move would only be taken if the Dáil – the lower house in the Oireachtas – accepted his amendment to a motion proposed by Sinn Féin, the leading opposition party.
In passing that amendment, Ireland declared that Israel’s attack on Gaza in May was a “response” to rockets fired by Hamas.
The reality is that Hamas’ activities are a response to decades of occupation and aggression by Israel. The reality, too, is that Palestinians have a right to resist the non-stop colonization of their homeland.
Aware that their own country has been colonized, ordinary Irish folk feel a great affinity with the Palestinians. Sadly, that affinity is not articulated by the Irish foreign ministry.