By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The press officer at the Isr’li embassy in Dublin has been suspended after she wrote a letter to national newspapers strongly condemning the Gaza city air strike on July 22 which resulted in the death of nine children.
The bombing by an Isr’li F-16 warplane killed the Hamas military chief Salah Shehada with his bodyguard and 13 civilians, including the children.
Signing the letter in her capacity as embassy press officer, Dr. Noreen O’Carroll wrote that she wished to add her voice “to that of the Isr’li President Moshe Katsav in condemning utterly the horrific Isr’li air force attack in Gaza.”
“Isr’l’s government must take responsibility for this atrocity and do everything it can to prevent its air force doing this kind of thing in the future,” O’Carroll said.
“I am sick at heart at this, as I am at each and every attack on Isr’li citizens. But a missile attack on an apartment building, after midnight when children and adults are asleep in their beds, is no more justifiable than a suicide bombing.
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“I am appalled and ashamed of the current Isr’li government for sanctioning this and other similar operations.
“I am also appalled and ashamed of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s cold-hearted response to it, stating that it was ‘one of our greatest successes.’ Has he any heart, any moral sense at all?”
O’Carroll is an Irish citizen who was recruited locally by the embassy almost two years ago.
In her letter she said she wanted to put on record that, just as there was a huge divergence of opinion in Isr’l about the policies of the current government, there was also a divergence of opinion that “extends to the ‘local staff’ of Isr’li embassies.”
The counselor at the embassy, Boaz Rodkin, said O’Carroll was “under suspension” and her position was under review by the Isr’li foreign ministry in Jerusalem. He said embassy officials had received no advance notice that the letter was going to be circulated and he had first learned about it when he had read it in the papers.
“No one could be expected to ignore the letter,” Rodkin said. “It is not a question of freedom of speech. Everyone is, of course, entitled to their own views.
“But then again no one can be abusing their position of employment to express private views in such a public fashion.
“You don’t expect to pay wages to someone who was recruited to express government positions and then to criticize that government and still be employed by the embassy. She knew that Isr’l had expressed its sincere apology and said it was an error.”
Rodkin said O’Carroll had misquoted the Isr’li president as he had not condemned the attack.
“He said the usage of weapons such as F-16s was erroneous,” he said. “That was also said by our foreign and defense ministers. There is a whole process of soul-searching at the moment in Isr’l about the incident.”
The post of ambassador is currently empty in Dublin. The outgoing Ambassador Mark Sofer recently returned to Isr’l and his successor will not arrive until next month.