Heated words as councillor says Limerick should be the ‘last county’ to boycott Israel

"I don't exactly break out in cold sweat every night about Israel": Cllr Emmett O'Brien hit out against a motion to endorse an Amnesty International report condemning apartheid in Palestine. Photo: Cian Reinhardt.

INDEPENDENT councillor Emmett O’Brien believes that Limerick is the “last county” in Ireland that should be boycotting Israel for its devastating assault on the occupied Gaza Strip, citing a dark moment in the city’s own past.

Cllr O’Brien reminded members of Limerick City and County Council (LCCC) this week of the Limerick Boycott (also known as the Limerick Pogrom of 1904 to 1906), which saw the Treaty City’s small Jewish community disappear from Shannonside.

The Adare-Rathkeale area representative was speaking on a motion at this Monday’s full monthly meeting of LCCC by Social Democrats councillor Elisa O’Donovan.

Cllr O’Donovan moved that the local authority endorse the Amnesty International report entitled ‘Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: A Cruel System of Domination and a Crime Against Humanity‘. She also called for support of the Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement as a show of solidarity with Palestine.

However, Cllr O’Brien was far from impressed and described the motion as “shameful”.

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“I don’t exactly break out in cold sweat every night about Israel and Palestine, and I certainly don’t care what’s happening in the Ukraine and Russia.

“Why do we have to concern ourselves so much in Ireland about it?

“When I hear the word boycott, and I hear the words domination, it just triggers something in me that this is a deeply dark, divisive, hostile motion brought here today. It is about setting people against people. Setting Israelis against Palestinian. Setting us against the Israelis,” he declared.

Cllr O’Brien also took umbrage with comments from Fianna Fáil councillor Azad Talukder who, in support of the motion, claimed that Israel “controls” the world’s media.

Cllr O’Donovan tried to interject to Cllr O’Brien’s objections but was quickly reminded of who had the floor.

“Excuse me, without interruption please, I know you were born in England, you mightn’t understand the culture of this country,” Cllr O’Brien snarled.

“at some stage you were moved by international events”: Social Democrats councillor Elisa O’Donovan proposed the motion. Photo: Cian Reinhardt.

The Pallaskenry farmer and barrister went on to point out that councillors live in a county that once boycotted Jewish stores.

“It is shameful that this motion is brought here today. In 1904, Jewish families were run out of this city because the Redemptorists heated people up to throw bricks through their windows and burn out their stores.

“Israel, for all its faults, is a democratic state, it is not an apartheid state,” Cllr O’Brien stated.

“In 1948, when the state of Israel was founded, instantaneously four Arab countries tried to wipe it off the face of the Earth. They did exactly the same in 1967. They did exactly the same in 1973, and there has been numerous intifada after intifada after intifada.

“On the 7th of October, something that seems to be completely forgotten by western liberals and middle-class leftists, is that Hamas went in and slaughtered Israeli citizens, slaughtered American citizens, and took hostage of an Irish citizen.

“Nobody is saying that the response of the Israelis means they have to kill everybody in Gaza, but Hamas is an internationally recognised terrorist association.

“80 per cent of Gazans support Hamas. Now just imagine the British took the same response to what we were doing to the IRA and started levelling them. The difference was, the IRA was only supported by one per cent.

Cllr O’Brien said Cllr O’Donovan’s motion was “deeply disruptive” and that “if I am the only one to vote against this, I will be happy to do that”.

Before moving on from the heated row, Cllr O’Donovan was allowed the last word, stressing that “nowhere in this motion am I being discriminatory against any religion”.

“There are many Palestinian people living in Limerick City West and I guess that’s reflected by myself bringing this motion.

“I would just like to remind Cllr O’Brien that, at a special meeting on Ukraine we had last March, he described the events in Ukraine as ‘heartbreaking’, which I got from the minutes.

“This shows that at some stage you were moved by international events. You also raised at that meeting the matter of a Russian-owned and large scale employer within Limerick,” she concluded.

Cllr O’Donovan’s motion was passed by members at the Dooradoyle chambers.