The Irish Times - Thursday, June 14, 2012
Israeli diplomat in Ireland advises 'shaming' activists
MARY FITZGERALD, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
ISRAEL’S DEPUTY ambassador to Ireland sent an email to colleagues in the Israeli foreign ministry suggesting it “humiliate and shame” Israeli activists sympathetic to the Palestinians and claiming their activism was rooted in psychological problems.
Israel’s Channel 10 News reported that Nurit Tinari Modai, who is cultural officer at the embassy and is married to ambassador Boaz Modai, advised that the foreign ministry should adopt a new strategy in which it would “try to hit [the activists’] soft underbellies, to publish their photographs.”
This, she wrote, might “cause embarrassment for their friends in Israel and their family” and sow suspicion among non-Israeli activists that “they may actually be working on behalf of Mossad” (the Israeli intelligence agency).
The channel, which described Ms Tinari Modai’s comments as an “exceptional statement” from a senior diplomat, quoted her claiming that such activism arises from psychological issues.
“The activity of those activists against the state is, in my evaluation, not necessarily ideological (!) but grounded in psychological reasons, (generally of disappointment with the parents, [or] sexual identity problems) or the need to obtain a residency visa in one of the countries in Europe,” she wrote.
The channel reported that the Israeli foreign ministry was taken aback by the content of the leaked correspondence. It quoted an official statement from the ministry in which it said that while it tries to combat “delegitimisation” of Israel internationally, it does not “engage in witch-hunts”.
In a statement, the Israeli embassy acknowledged the authenticity of the email but claimed Ms Tinari Modai’s remarks were in jest. “The incident referred to was not a serious discussion of policy at an official level. It was a private joke, sent by private email, which unfortunately was leaked,” it said. Recently, Ms Tinari Modai used the embassy’s official Facebook account to describe campaigners calling for a boycott of Israel as “Israeli self-haters and anti-Semites”.
Martin O’Quigley, chair of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, criticised what he said was an attempt to “attack human rights activists’ characters and motivations”. He said the proposal chimed with Israeli think-tank the Reut Institute advocating a campaign of “sabotage”, “attack” and “naming and shaming” of pro-Palestinian activists.