The next president of Ireland will not be a terrorism and pedophilia supporter.
That sounds like something that should be taken for granted, but in Ireland’s radicalized politics, it very nearly came about.
In July, Senator David Norris was heavily favored to be the first gay president of Ireland. His outspoken public personality and social media driven campaign had put him ahead in the polls and given him most of the political support he needed to win.
Irish Jews were not enamored of Norris who had become notorious for his attacks on Israel. Norris had called Gaza “an open air concentration camp” and repeatedly made comparisons to the Warsaw Ghetto”, denounced the “cynical, heartless and contemptible exploitation of the Holocaust” and called for an end to trade with Israel over the assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
Norris was no friendlier to America. During Bush’s visit to Ireland, Norris inquired whether he could be arrested on war crimes charges. In a 2005 statement, he compared the American interrogation of terrorists to the Gestapo, the CIA to the Nazis and suggested that America had the attacks of September 11 coming to it.
“Indeed, the media driven emphasis on the al-Qaeda inspired attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon failed to put this in the perspective of the activities of Western countries, led by the United States… Did they think it would never come home to roost?
Despite the appalling nature of the carnage in New York and Washington… the number of casualties was but a pinprick compared with what has been done to the subjugated people of this planet in the name of the West.”
Norris repeatedly denounced the War in Iraq, and went so far as to accuse America of causing a Holocaust in Fallujah. Senator Norris’ obsession with the United States led him to complain about matters of American politics that had no relation to Ireland, such as Scott Brown’s Senate victory.
But Norris did not limit his attacks on countries which defy terrorism to Israel and America. He also condemned the Colombian government for the death of FARC’s second command and praised Hugo Chavez, as a “remarkable man and campaigner for democracy and human rights.”
No wonder then that in 2009, Norris cheered that, “those who gloated at the demise of communism in the Soviet Union might find themselves attending the obsequies of capitalism during their lifetimes. To a certain satisfactory extent, this seems to be occurring. Socialism is beginning to happen, but it is a forced conversion.”
Norris also asserted that there is no Islamic threat, and that “the belief that civilization will be wiped out by Islamic fundamentalists is hysterical.”
Disturbing views such as these did not impede Norris’s bid to become the next President. But more troubling allegations began to surface involving pedophilia. Norris had aggressively attacked the Catholic Church over child molestation allegations, which made it all the more ironic that he had been caught sympathizing with child abusers.
Not only had Norris passed a motion for an “international solidarity campaign on behalf of the Paedophile Information Exchange,” an organization that supported legalizing pedophilia, but he had also commented in an article that there was something to be said for, “classic paedophilia, as practised by the Greeks.”
The final blow though did not come until the release of the Ezra Nawi clemency letter. Nawi, was a radical anti-Israel activist, who had received support from luminaries of the left like Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein, during his various brushes with the law. But in 1997, Nawi had been in an Israeli court on a more personal matter, charged with statutory rape for his sexual relationship with a 15 year old Arab boy.
In a letter on behalf of his ex-boyfriend to the court, Norris called Nawi, an “intelligent, honest, trustworthy, good and moral person.” Norris described himself as a “strong supporter of Israel” and emphasized that he had “been widely mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in the forth coming elections for the Presidency of Ireland.” The court, which was not likely to be conversant with Irish politicians, was left to assume that jailing Nawi would alienate a world leader.
Norris urged that Nawi be given a suspended jail sentence with community service, claimed that he had probably been entrapped by the police and warned that Nawi might commit suicide in prison.
The Nawi letter had remained out of sight until the blogsphere came to the rescue in the person of John Connolly, who blogs at The System Works. Since Connolly was pro-Israel, Norris supporters cried conspiracy. Connolly was accused of being a Mossad agent. The innuendo went far enough that the Israeli embassy was forced to explicitly deny any involvement in the release of the letter.
By then Norris had become an embarrassment. He was still the same man he had been all along, but the controversy now had more bite to it. From his letter on behalf of Nawi, it was clear that he had been thinking of the presidency for over a decade. And after having come so close, he was thwarted by his own words.
There was an element of tragedy here, but not one that Norris or his supporters were capable of appreciating. Norris’ views remained acceptable so long as they were in the abstract. It was fine for him to attack Israel or speculate about ages of consent, so long as he didn’t actually put them into practice. The Nawi letter was the intersection of Norris’ anti-Israel politics and his shifting stance on pedophilia. And it did him in.
But the larger question is not Norris’ feelings on child abuse, but why so much of Ireland’s political elite was willing to back a man for a position where he would have been a national spokesman, despite his ugly views.
Norris demonized, mining the Holocaust for venom to hurl at the people who had suffered the most by it. He didn’t just disagree with the War in Iraq, instead he again deployed Nazi and Holocaust rhetoric. The base of support on his side meant that the ugliness of his views were not isolated, but represented a standard of discourse that had become the political mainstream in Ireland.
Had Norris not brought himself down, we would be reading articles shortly about the first gay president of Ireland. And Norris would have had a prominent stage to deploy his vengeful rhetoric against the victims of terrorism.
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