Few diplomatic incidents from recent Irish history have weakened Ireland’s credibility on the world stage like that of Mícheál Mac Donncha’s visit to the West Bank.
The Lord Mayor of Dublin was initially barred from entering Israel due to his dalliances with the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an organization whose members are taken to praising Hezbollah cross border raids against Israeli soldiers and its support for Hamas, the democidal rulers of the Gaza Strip. Mac Donncha, a Sinn Féin Councillor, managed to worm his way past Israeli customs officials by sheer luck. His full Irish language title, Ardmheara Mícheál Mac Donncha, was mistakenly taken as his full name on a customs interdiction order.
Mac Donncha proceeded to enter the West Bank and attend the 9th International Conference on the Status of Jerusalem. In a bizarre interview given to AP following the conference, a dishevelled Mac Donncha stated that the Israeli state and military must be condemned for their actions by the international community, and that the world’s only Jewish state must be pressurised into respecting human rights and the right to protest. The irony alone of a Sinn Féin councillor chastising the actions of the Middle East’s only democracy should be enough to discredit such posturing. Throughout the Northern Irish Troubles, the IRA, of which Sinn Féin was considered the main political offshoot, embarked on a vicious campaign of terror in Ireland and the United Kingdom, killing up to 1,800 people. Mac Donncha’s own party refuses to condemn or distance itself from the very organisation responsible for such crimes as the Omagh Bombing of 1998 and the 1976 Kingsmill Massacre.
This grotesque hypocrisy aside, Mac Donncha went on to exhibit the same dearth of self-awareness typical of most anti-Israel politicians. While sitting at the top table of the Ramallah conference, Mac Donncha was shadowed by an enormous portrait of Haj Amin al-Husseini (1897 – 1974), the British appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and organiser of the first 1st International Conference on the Status of Jerusalem in 1931.
Who was Haj Amin al-Husseini, and why is he relevant to this diplomatic awkwardness?
To begin with, Husseini was a virulent anti-Semite, whose hatred of Jews was both religious and racial. He was to become a close ally of Adolf Hitler and a vocal supporter of the Final Solution. Prior to being a cheerleader to the murder of 6 million Jews, Husseini instigated anti-Jewish violence and preached anti-Jewish incitements, culminating in incidents such as the Hebron Massacre of 1929.
Mac Donncha kept digging:
“The way to end conflict is to be inclusive and also to respect those of all denominations, all religions, people need to live together. But the idea that you can exclusively recognise the city of Jerusalem is a backward step and I think it goes against everything that is needed for a real peace process, a real negotiated settlement.”
Aside from the astounding arrogance of coming to the hottest border conflict of the millennium and effectively suggesting that everyone should just get on, the Lord Mayor of Dublin exhibits a truly breath-taking ignorance on the history of Israel-Palestine. Had Mac Donncha researched the founder of the conference at which he spoke, he would not dare pontificate on the need for better community relations on the part of Israel. Before the appointment of Husseini as Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, there was a sizeable portion of Arab leaders who were sympathetic to the plight of Eastern European Jews fleeing the Soviet Union. Even some who were critical of the Balfour Declaration of 1917, such as a group of 100 Arab dignitaries who petitioned Britain in 1918, wrote that they had “always sympathised profoundly with the persecuted Jews and their misfortunes in other countries,” but they would not be ruled by Jews (Morris, 2001), thus suggesting that a compromise along the lines of a two-state solution may have been reached as early as 1918.
Any possibility of a compromise was scuttled with the appointment of Husseini in 1922. He succeeded in transforming what may have been a territorial dispute into a religious war in which Palestinians were forbidden, under Islamic law, from making concessions to Jews. Husseini expounded at every opportunity that the only solution to the crisis of the Holy Land was for Jews to be forcibly driven from the land or for a small number of Jews to live as Dimmi under Arab occupation. Were it not for Husseini´s racial bigotry which has since inspired generations of Palestinian leaders to reject peace in pursuit of the total annihilation of Israel, who knows how many times over a lasting peace could have been achieved in the Holy Land.
Haj Amin al-Husseini went on to become much more than an Anwar Sadat-like Arab nationalist.
Having openly signalled his support for Nazi Germany, the 1930s saw Husseini receive financial and logistical support for anti-Semitic pogroms in Palestine from the Nazi regime. Husseini went further in promoting religious hatred of Jews beyond Palestine, helping to organise thousands of Muslims in the Balkans into military units known as Handselar divisions. These became known for carrying out war crimes on Yugoslav Jews.
In 1940, and by now residing in Berlin, Husseini asked the Axis powers to settle the Jewish problem in Palestine in accordance with the “racial interests of the Arabs and along lines similar to those used to solve the final solution to the Jewish question in Germany” (Peters 1984).
In 1943, when it was well known what was happening in Poland´s death camps, he advised Hitler to extend the final solution to the Jewish refugees who had reached Palestine “in order to protect oneself from their menace”. In his memoirs Husseini wrote:
“Our fundamental condition for cooperating with Germany was a free hand to eradicate every last Jew from Palestine and the Arab world. I asked Hitler for an explicit undertaking to allow us to solve the Jewish problem in a manner befitting our national and racial aspirations and according to the scientific methods innovated by Germany in the handling of its Jews. The answer I got was: “The Jews are yours”.” (Honig 2001)
Husseini was rightfully condemned at Nuremburg and spent his final years evading justice in Egypt.
The character of Haj Amin al-Husseini raises 2 important questions to be asked of Dublin’s Lord Mayor:
- Did Mac Donncha know of the association between the Ramallah Conference and a Nazi War Criminal?
- If yes, did he proceed in the full knowledge that the Ramallah Conference clearly endorsed the views of Haj Amin al-Husseini regarding European and Middle Eastern Jewry?
If the answer to the first question is no, it shows that Mac Donncha knows next to nothing about the history of Israel-Palestine. It suggests that he is profoundly uninformed about the history of a conflict, yet simultaneously feels qualified to travel half-way across the world and speak on our behalf at an international conference about that very conflict.
However, if Mac Donncha was aware of Husseini´s links to the conference, and yet proceeded to attend and speak at an event founded by a Nazi war criminal and at which a portrait of a Nazi war criminal was proudly displayed, he should be ashamed of himself and it does not bode well for the future of our country if this is the calibre of politician representing our nation´s capital abroad.
To be fair to Micheál Mac Donncha, I do not believe he would endorse the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem if he were aware that that man was a Nazi war criminal, particularly as I find it unwise to attribute malice to what can clearly be explained by stupidity. That having been said, this has been a truly embarrassing diplomatic incident and which will surely affect worldwide public opinion of Ireland. To make matters worse, Mac Donncha’s attendance coincided with Holocaust Memorial Day.
I do not believe Micheál Mac Donncha is anti-Semitic, but the fact remains that he attended the Ramallah Conference in his capacity as Dublin´s Lord Mayor and people the world over will now have seen a senior Irish political figure sitting below the smiling face of an infamous Nazi war criminal on Holocaust Memorial Day. Unfortunately, this is only the latest episode in a string of anti-Israel measures to come out of Dublin City Council, including its endorsement of the BDS movement and a recent motion passed by the council seeking the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador.
Regretfully, Mac Donncha´s position as Lord Mayor is now untenable as he has brought the position into such disrepute by his actions abroad. If the members of Dublin City Council wish to assert that their approach to Israel is one characterised by a desire to achieve peace, and not by anti-Semitism, they too should be calling for his resignation.
Honig, Sarah. Fiendish Hypocrisy: The Man from Klopstock St., Jerusalem Post, April 6, 2001.
Moris, Beni. Righteous Victims: a History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001. Vintage, 2001.
Peters, Joan. From Time Immemorial: the Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine. Harper & Row, 1984.