Israeli football team is very welcome in Northern Ireland

News Letter editorial

The Israel football team will play a friendly match against Northern Ireland tonight.

There will pro-Palestinian protests, including by Sinn Fein.

The Israeli team is very welcome in the Province. Israel has many, many friends here, which is why the flag is often flown by people in NI in a display of solidarity.

Sadly, across so much of Europe the country faces a cool reception, if not outright hostility, amid a liberal political outlook that see Israel as the aggressor.

Robust criticism of Israel and its actions is obviously legitimate and at times, more than appropriate, as it is of any state in the world.

But as the tensions within the Labour Party have amply demonstrated, anti semitism is rarely far away when some of the most militant opponents of Israel say what they really think about the country.

Some of the greatest hostility is shown towards it in the Republic of Ireland and among Irish republicans.

In Northern Ireland however, there is great sympathy towards the country, the way that it came into being, and the way that as a small minority in the region it faces an existential threat.

Some of the greatest opponents of Israel here are terrorists who make common cause with terrorists in the Middle East. Appeasement of such violence is simply not on the agenda in Israel, which is a strong culture that first and foremost seeks to defend its citizens.

There is a huge culture of serving in the armed forces, which helps explain why such a small nation has such a powerful military.

The DUP MP Gregory Campbell is right to accuse Sinn Fein of using “a cloak of self-righteous protest to polarise and divide” in respect of tonight’s match, with its call for the encounter to be cancelled and its demonstrations before and after the game.

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