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27 Feb, 2017 12:40

Palestinians, with some luck of the Irish, may get another nod for statehood

Palestinians, with some luck of the Irish, may get another nod for statehood

The Irish and the Palestinian people share a common bond that stretches back in history many centuries - in the case of the Palestinians to Biblical times - and that is their long-fought struggle to acquire a national homeland against insuperable odds.

What distinguishes the two groups, however, is that the Irish succeeded in fulfilling the dream of obtaining statehood, while the Palestinians remain stuck in limbo.

The Irish achieved statehood status in 1922 following the Irish War of Independence and the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty (the struggle over Northern Ireland, however, continued up until the Good Friday Agreements in 1998). By comparison, the Palestinians have sat through countless peace talks, following battered roadmaps to nowhere, while the dream of a homeland always remains just beyond their grasp.

Now, with Donald Trump in the White House, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have little to fear about getting an Obama-style scolding over the settlement construction in contested territories, which has increased dramatically of late.

It was on Obama's watch, it should be remembered, that the US abstained from voting in December on a UN resolution that calls Israel “settlement building” in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank a “flagrant violation under international law."

A veto by the US – or any of the five permanent members of the council- would have stopped the resolution.

Just days after Trump’s inauguration, Israel announced construction plans for 2,500 new housing units in the West Bank.

Israel is steadily and effectively removing the one key ingredient necessary for the Palestinians to achieve their own state, and that is land. While many things in life today may be enjoyed ‘virtually’ – from virtual shopping to virtual entertainment - no country can exist without a piece of ground under its feet to call its own.

Thus, it is no surprise that some countries, exasperated with the decades-long standoff, have given up hope of the success of any future Israel-Palestinian negotiations and have unilaterally moved to recognize Palestinian statehood.

In October 2014, Sweden officially recognized Palestine statehood, making it the first Western European country to do so. And just this week, more than 150 legislators of the French parliament signed a letter to President Francois Hollande urging him to officially recognize Palestinian statehood. It now appears that Ireland could be next.

Earlier this month, Ireland’s Foreign Minister Charles Flanagan confirmed that such a step could be imminent, thereby possibly allowing Ireland to join the ranks of the 193 members of the United Nations that have already recognized Palestinian statehood.

“I am actively keeping under consideration, on a continuous basis, the question of whether recognition by Ireland in the near future of a state of Palestine might be a helpful step in relation to the Middle East peace process,” Flanagan said of his government’s stance.

In May 2016, Flanagan also spoke out in defense of the so-called BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions), saying that “while the government does not itself support such a policy,” the BDS movement holds a “legitimate political viewpoint,” and the government does “not agree with attempts to demonize those who advocate this policy.”

Some critics, however, point to double-standards at play with Ireland's sanctioning of Israeli-made products, while continuing to do business with other questionable international clients, as witnessed in Ami Horowitz's short documentary below.

In September, New York Senator Chuck Schumer rebuked the BDS movement as a “modern form of anti-Semitism.”

In an address to the Israeli American Council’s 2016 National Israeli American Conference , Schumer said BDS organizers don’t “believe there should be a Jewish State in the Middle East, and are guilty of the same anti-Semitism."

In light of these ongoing developments, I spoke with several colleagues from Ireland for their personal views as to what makes them and their fellow Irish countrymen sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

Gearoid O'Colmain, journalist and political analyst, based in Paris

“One must remember that Ireland is the only post-colonial country in Western Europe. The Irish people have a unique historical experience of dispossession and struggle for national self-determination. Marx said Ireland would be the Achilles Heel of the British Empire. The Irish Uprising of 1916 had a major impact on Lenin's thinking about the Russian Revolution. It is the reason why Irish people have always been particularly sensitive to the oppression of Palestinians. The Troubles in Northern Ireland were often compared to the conflict in Palestine, with Irish republicans North and South of the border identifying with the Palestinian cause, while loyalists identified with Israel.”

Danielle Ryan, freelance writer, media analyst

“I think it's definitely fair to say that many Irish people identify with the Palestinian people because of their own history under British rule. There's an anti-colonial mindset. They really get very passionate about the subject. Pro-Palestine activism is very visible in Ireland. Even those Irish that don't strongly take a side in the conflict tends to still have an inherent understanding or appreciation of the complexities of contested territories.

There's a natural comparison with Northern Ireland, which many Irish people still don't believe to be part of the United Kingdom. Having said that, the Irish government is never one to really rock the boat or break ranks when it comes to its place in the EU.

They're also concerned about expanding trade links with Israel.”

Finian Cunningham, freelance journalist, based in East Africa

“Irish people are very mindful of the historical injustice against Palestinians, which of course continues apace today. Palestinian solidarity has always been a strong element in nationalist communities in the North of Ireland. Partly that solidarity stems from a shared historical experience of colonialism and dispossession of democratic rights. The British government found a way to justify having a mandate in Ireland by referring to the implanted settler population introduced into Irish territory from Britain. This is the same process by which the British-supported movement displaced and dispossessed Palestinians, and made them "strangers in their own land."

Irish nationalists totally identify with the Palestinian cause. In many ways, it is the same cause.

Bryan MacDonald, journalist based in Moscow

"You have to understand the context of Northern Ireland, where the pro-British Unionists have kind of taken a pro-Israeli stance and pro-Irish Republicans, the Nationalists, have taken a pro-Palestinian stance. The Nationalists started it because they felt that the Palestinians were victims of an Israeli empire aggression, or however you want to put it, a stronger power and they found empathy with the PLO during the time when the IRA was fighting the British Army.

So they saw an equivalence between the PLO’s fight against the Israelis and, if you like, the American empire, and the IRA’s fight against the British government.

The Unionists started defending the Israeli point of view, so you’ve got a bizarre situation in Belfast where you can find Israeli flags next to British flags and Palestinian flags next to Irish flags.

The Unionist embrace of Israel is particularly funny when you consider that Israel was formed through a war of independence against Britain.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.