Israel’s new envoy to Ireland on facing an ‘extreme’ BDS challenge

Israel’s new Ambassador to the Emerald Isle, Ophir Kariv, struggles to stay on script as he talks to Stephen Oryszczuk about his new role


As you’d expect, Israel’s new ambassador to Ireland won’t be drawn on most things, but when an Irish senator accuses his kin of “Goebbels-style” propaganda in the Emerald Isle, surely he’ll come close?

Speaking to Jewish News this week, Ambassador Ophir Kariv was happier to talk about the Bill being debated when those comments were made last Wednesday. “It’s the most extreme anti-Israel legislation in Europe,” he says. But it’s a start – the word “extreme” is used advisedly by diplomats.

Until two months ago, Kariv was heading the northern Europe desk at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem. Now he’s Israel’s man in Dublin, arriving to face the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, which most Irish politicians support.

If passed, the Bill would criminalise Irish residents or businesses for trading with Jewish settlements, making Ireland the first EU state to legalise a boycott. A majority of senators from parties such as Sinn Fein support it and after two readings it is progressing unruffled to the lower house, where Kariv hopes it will meet a brick wall in the form of the Irish government.

“It’s not a pro-Palestinian Bill,” he says, acknowledging a groundswell of support for the Palestinian cause in his new home. “Why? Because it won’t help Palestinians.”

Supporters of the Bill say it targets only the settlements, which are illegal under international law, and Irish ministers say they “understand” the Bill’s intentions. But, they add swiftly, that doesn’t detract from the fact it would be “contrary to EU law, requiring the State to do something not in its power”.

Presenting his credentials to Irish President Michael Higgins

That is because external trade rules in the Single Market are an “exclusive competence of the European Union, so goods from settlements can only be excluded at an EU level,” not by an individual member state. Kariv agrees. “It criminalises people who trade with Israeli citizens in the place where the Jewish people were born,” he says. “Settlements are part of final-status negotiations, but we should remember the historic aspect to this discussion. The Jewish people were born in the same area as the settlements.”

In accordance with the laws of 23 states, we are required to post this graphic

He seems to suggest boycotting settlements equates to denying the Jewish people the right to exist in their historic homeland, a controversial view given all the UN resolutions and the ’67 borders, but continues apace. “This Bill denies or annuls any connection between these areas and Jews living in these areas, the birthplace of the Jewish people. By criminalising trade contact, you say they have no right to live in this part of the world. It’s a terrible thing to say.”

Although the Bill’s supporters disagree, citing their own legal advice, Ireland’s attorney-general thinks all this talk is hypothetical, because the Bill is illegal. Foreign Minister Helen McEntee says if it is it would leave Ireland with a hefty bar tab.

Presenting his credentials to Irish President Michael Higgins

“We have every reason to believe the enactment of this Bill would expose the State to legal action, not only by the European Commission but also by the parties claiming to have been adversely affected by the Bill,” she said. “We expect that the State would be liable for recurring damages so long as the law remained on the Statute Book. This is not a course into which any Government would willingly enter against its own legal advice.”

Kariv won’t be drawn on whether Israel would take legal action, or on Irish internal processes, but says even if the “morally bad” Bill did become law, Irish-Israeli trade is so small that the impact would be “very little”, adding: “I don’t know its impact on Ireland.”

Has incomer Kariv found anti-Israel hostility in Ireland? No, he says, “because people here engage in conversation”. In the Senate, however, there are contrary accusations, levied by Independent Senator David Norris.

Politician David Norris and composer Raymond Deane join celebrities and public figures to launch the Irish campaign to boycott Eurovision 2019 in Jerusalem, Israel.
Photo credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ireland won’t get full EU backing because “the Germans have such a conscience about the Holocaust that they will never do anything”, says Norris, before adding: “There is a nasty campaign by the Israeli Government against the Bill.” He cites a Facebook video advertisement in which a Palestinian girl launches an attack with a knife, and quotes Israel critic Norman Finkelstein as saying it was placed by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs.

“This kind of interference is unacceptable,” Norris says. “Other people who have taken positions on the Bill have had this advertisement pop up too. I point out this kind of Goebbels-style operation going on from the Israelis which is to be condemned.”

I put it to Ambassador Kariv a senior Irish politician has just accused the Israeli government of Nazi propaganda – worthy of Goebbels himself – in order to kill anti-Israel legislation. Surely he’ll be drawn now. So, what says he? “I don’t know about this, but what we do is voice our concerns…” Fine, but he knows about it now – so what does he think?

“Again I’m not aware, but if we go around sharing or expanding allegations about Nazi campaigns, I’m sure Mr Norris will be quite aware of the Nazi anti-Israel, anti-Jewish campaigns Palestinian friends are initiating.”

Is that it? Is there anything more Ambassador Kariv thinks about this remarkable remark that’s been levelled at the state he’s there to represent? “Do I really have to react to this?” he asks, surprised. No, I say, of course not. I just thought he may think it was an extraordinary claim. He sighs, pauses, and speaks. “This kind of antisemitic allegation – and again I want to make sure that not everybody who criticises Israel is an antisemite, not at all, I’m not making the comparison – but when you equate Israel to Nazis, I would refer David Norris to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism to see the category his claim falls into.” So, does Kariv hope to encourage the Irish government to adopt the IHRA definition? He won’t be drawn.

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  1. All across America in every business that sells any groceries soaps bleaches nearly every label includes a Rabbinical Jew tax stamp . Usually its a K in a circle or the letter U in a circle on the product and its a TAX stamp and sometimes there are multiple stamps on the one item . Yes the joo collects every time YOU buy any product with this kosher stamp . Personally I try very hard NOT to buy anything with this mark of the Beast on the label ….It has nothing to do with better flavor or quality …Taxation without representation ? they drove the Mafia out of business long ago look who owns Las Vegas . Actually Im surprised Ireland allows these leeches to set foot on the Emerald Isle .


    Israel’s Ophir Kariv, Israel’s new ambassador to Ireland will find tangling with “The Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018” a very salutary experience. I urge VT readers to read the first article on the original boycott in County Mayo. I imagine Ophir Kariv has read it. If not, he should.

    The Leader of the Irish Land League and main protagonist of the boycott was Michael Davitt of Straide Village in Co. Mayo. (It is the same Michael Davitt who steered one Lloyd George into Parliamentary politics at a farmers meeting in Wales in 1886.) But this is about Israel, or more particularly about the Occupied Territories.

    Oddly enough, Michael Davitt wrote an account of a murderous pogrom in Kishinev, Russia in the early 1900’s and the plight of the Jewish victims. He was a friend of persecuted Jews.

    • The Irish government (Dail) under De Valera allowed twelve (12) Jews into Ireland during WW2. A shocking and absolutely appalling figure by any standard. The Irish have an affinity for that specific number of Jews representing as it does, the Apostles of Jesus. As I understand, there were more Irish who went to fight the British Army in Palestine. According to a former Jewish work colleague in New York back in the 80’s, one of them stayed on after the British withdrew and lived at Kibbutz Ravi outside Tiberius.

      A priest of the Limerick diocese in Ireland stirred up some local hysteria against Jews around 1905 which was quickly suppressed by the local Royal Irish Constabulary but not before a few shop-front windows were shattered. The number of Jews in Ireland has risen in recent years and the community has been well represented in politics – Alan Shatter and Mervin Taylor being among those I can recall. William Annyas, a Jew was elected Mayor of Youghal, County Cork in 1555 (I knew his sister well!) and more recently we had Gerald Yael Goldberg who was Lord Mayor of Cork in 1977. Robert and Ben Briscoe were notable Lord Mayors of Dublin. As Yogi Berra said when he heard about it: “Only in America!”

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