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Israeli Ambassador says ‘extreme voices’ in Irish politics are calling for uprising against Israel and media coverage ‘lets Hamas off the hook’


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Asked about the recent controversy surrounding a women’s basketball team between Ireland and Israel, Dana Erlich told RTÉ’s News At One programme that media coverage of the conflict has let “Hamas off the hook”.

Referring to the Israeli basketball player Dor Sa’ar, who called the Irish team “quite antisemitic”, she told listeners:

“I think she might’ve been referring to the unconscious bias that there is sometimes against Israel. If we take for example this tragic war, lots of the coverage lets Hamas off the hook, I don’t see them held accountable for what they’re doing.”

Ms Erlich was asked whether she agreed with comments made by Dor Sa’ar. There were calls for Ireland to boycott the fixture, an 87-57 defeat at the hands of Israel.

“Obviously, criticising Israel is not antisemitism but when you delegitimise Israel that is antisemitism, when you delegitimise the right of Israel to defend itself, that is antisemitism,” Ms Erlich said.

Ms Erlich said some “extreme voices” within Irish politics are calling for a global intifada, an Arabic term for intense protest or “uprising” against Israel.

Tánaiste and Foreign Affair Minister Micheál Martin told the same programme continued bombing in the Rafah area of Gaza would equate to a war crime.

“I’m in no doubt and we are in no doubt that continued bombardment on Rafah will constitute a war crime and would certainly in my view gravely violate international humanitarian law,” he said.

“We’re looking now at what is the largest refugee camp in the world in terms of 1.5 million people in Rafah. They cannot be displaced safely.

“To bomb and to mount the military operation in such a confined area with so many people is absolutely inhumane, unacceptable and the international community must do everything it possibly can to put the pressure on Israel not to proceed with this invasion.”

Mr Martin said the issue is “very serious” and continued fighting in Rafah would create “catastrophic conditions” for families and civilians in Gaza.

Ms Erlich said the military operation in Rafah is “necessary” in the fight against Hamas.

“What we’ve seen is tragic, what’s going on in Gaza and we need to make sure that we hold the correct people accountable for the tragedy of this war that was started on October 7 by Hamas, this cynical playbook by this genocidal terrorists organisation,” she said.

“They’re cowards for targeting civilians and hiding behind their own civilians.”

Asked what would happen in Rafah when the Israeli ground invasion begins, Ms Erlich said no place in Gaza is safe because of Hamas.

“Since we left in 2005, they have built an underground infrastructure of terror in those tunnels who are reaching everywhere and we’ve seen what they’ve done above ground, embedding themselves in hospitals, in mosques, in schools.

Ms Erlich assured Israel’s commitment to international law and said the country’s actions have been “very calculated”.

Asked where Palestinian people would be instructed to go in the event of a ground invasion in Rafah, Ms Erlich said Israel is “damned when we do, damned when we don’t” and condemned when Palestinian civilians are told to evacuate.

“We don’t want to see any more civilians get hurt, there’s no need for anyone else to die, this can all end if all of the kidnapped will be released by Hamas. This can end tomorrow, this can end today.”

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