Published Friday, December 16, 2005
EXCLUSIVE BY ROB HARRIS
IRELAND sparked a diplomatic outcry last night by refusing to back Jewish rights to a homeland.
An aide to Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern told the Jewish Telegraph that Zionism was a religious issue and refused to take a position on "an Old Testament mandate".
The Israeli government hit back, comparing the Republic to the hardline Iranian regime.
"I am very sorry that Ireland takes this position because in doing that they support [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad," blasted a senior aide to premier Ariel Sharon.
Last month Ahmadinejad told a "World without Zionism" conference that Israel should be "wiped off the map".
We are lifting the lid on these explosive comments after Mr Ahern refused to go on the record to denounce claims by former Irish minister Justin Keating that Jews have mounted a "self-serving and untruthful Zionist myth" to lay claim to Israel.
John Kennedy, a foreign policy adviser to Mr Ahern, said the Republic would recognise Israel only in its modern form and would not comment on any historical claims on the land.
Mr Kennedy said: "Support for Israel isn't premised on Zionism. Our support for Israel is that its effect in being. Zionism may be what brought it to be there, but Zionism is essentially a religious issue - a faith issue. I don't think you're going to get the Taoiseach to take a position on that."
He added: "Zionism is not part of relevant official policy here. Even within Judaism you get a division on Zionism.
"Some people support it and some people have a profoundly held theological basis to reject it. It's a theological issue, we're not going into that." He claimed that Ireland has not been "well served" by Zionism because the migration to Israel in the 1950s and 60s had left behind a "non-viable community".
In our series of conversations Mr Kennedy also maintained: "People who say that they have an Old Testament mandate to be there in their historic homeland, we haven't addressed that issue.
"I haven't seen anyone here taking a policy position on that. Our recognition of Israel and our exchange of ambassadors is all in the modern age, it's in an age where we simply recognise Israel as effect in being, a state of the modern world, one of the community of nations."
Mr Kennedy, a civil servant who looks after non-EU foreign policy for the Taoiseach, reiterated their stance: "You can take a view on the State of Israel, quite independently of Zionism."
The two countries only established full diplomatic relations in 1975, but the Israeli government says the Irish position, exposed by the Jewish Telegraph, is unacceptable, because it denies the legitimacy of Zionism.
"It is not enough," blasted Raanan Gissin, an aide to Mr Sharon. "There is a culture of hatred that says the Jews have no right to live here as an entity. We are here as our birthright not as a conqueror."
Mossad head Meir Dagan, who was listening to our interview, pointed out: "We were here 1,600 years before the Arabs." Mr Gissin added:
"If you don't support Zionism ipso facto you are actually saying, in the logical progression, we don't support the right of the Jewish people to have a state of their own, in their own ancestral homeland.
"There's no Zionism if Jews have a state in Alaska or Uganda." As comments by the Iranian president caused growing international revulsion this week, Mr Gissin further equated them with the Irish position we have uncovered.
He stormed: "Ahmadinejad is trying to erase Israel off the map by not recognising that Jews have a birthright.
Mr Gissin added: "We are having to teach the same lessons to Ahmadinejad and Ireland. "It is not a religious issue and you cannot erase history. The moment you equate Zionism with Judaism you deny any aspect of national sovereignty for the Jewish people.
"That is the problem with the Arabs, they recognise the entity of Israel, but don't recognise the fact that they have an inherent right to a homeland."
"Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. We are an ancestral tribe who have walked the face of the earth for 4,000 years. We have proof of our existence."
The Jewish Telegraph has spent a fortnight trying to obtain comments from Mr Ahern following a series of outrages in against Israel in Ireland this year.
In June the Jewish Telegraph witnessed IRA extremists targeting Israeli football fans with "Sieg heil" and "Death to Israel" taunts before a World Cup qualifier in Dublin.
And veteran politician Justin Keating wrote in last month's Dubliner magazine: "The Zionists have no right in what they call Israel."
As we went to press last night, words attributed to the Taoiseach were finally issued, which failed to address the Zionist issue.
"Ireland has excellent relations with Israel, at all levels," the Taoiseach maintained. "We are actively committed to supporting the Roadmap for a lasting and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."