You dont have to travel far in Norn Iron to see that Nationalist-Republicans and Unionist-Loyalists take very different views on the Israel-Palestine Conflict.
Are we taking sides as a kinda knee jerk reaction? Nationalists support Glasgow Celtic…and Palestine. Unionists support Glasgow Rangers …and Israel. It has become fashionable to deplore this. But there is a logic to this. And rather more logic on the Nationalist side than Unionist side. LetsGetALongerists wont like me saying that. In their world, everything is 50-50.
The History of Celtic is a better and more noble one than the more nakedly sectarian History of Rangers. Republicanism is a better philosophy than Monarchy. Nationalism is a better philosophy than Imperialism. In making a case for “Ireland” Republicans-Nationalists should not shy away from that simple truth.
And there is a logic to Republican-Nationalist support for Palestine. A look at a map of Israel today, compared to a map of Israel in 1948 shows a history of expansion. And that will be familiar to the Irish….the expanding nature of British rule from the Dublin Pale and the Ulster Plantation to dominate Ireland. The unequal treatment of “natives” within a jurisdiction and the whole Bible-spouting genocidal tendencies of (say) Oliver Cromwell and it would seem modern Israelis.
Are those of us who live in the post-Enlightenment world not entitled to reject all that.
It would be unfair to dismiss all unionists as living in a pre-Enlightenment world. There are two distinct strands of unionism….the logically conservative (secular) and the not so logical conservative (religious).
A secular unionist might well raise an eyebrow at a covenant between GOD and a race of people. It determines land and nationhood and rights over others. Its a nice little arrangement for the Israelis. GOD is on their side might not be an argument that secular Israelis and secular unionists actually believe. But they all believe in strengthening Israels position as the dominant force in the Middle East…and if the whole GOD thing assists the process then they will happily side with zealots.
The “religious” unionist will certainly buy into the whole Covenant thing. Unionists opposing Home Rule in 1912 signed a solemn Covenant.They love the “word”. They love the “idea”. They proclaim themselves as the lost tribe of Israel. GOD led them across the Irish Sea…in much the same way that He led the ancient Israelites across the Red Sea.
And of course there are parallels in USA. GOD led the Pilgrim Fathers across the Atlantic Ocean. GOD led them on a Manifest Destiny….which involved slavery and genocide.
Look at Ireland 1600. Look at United States 1783. Look at Israel 1948.
Secular and Religious Israelis have a common interest in the security of Israel. Secular and Religious Unionists have a common interest in the security of Norn Iron. Intelligent, modern people who really should know better should be embarassed by the connexion. But they are not.
So while we all say prayers for Peace in Gaza, the default position of Nationalists is to support Palestine and the default position of Unionists is to support Israel. But where does that leave the third Northern Tribe…the LetsGetAlongerists.
Well…lets be clear. LetsGetAlongerism is a coalition. Let me first pay tribute to a rank and file member of (I believe) the Alliance Party, who has been a consistent and strident critic of Israeli policy. Some months ago, he was arrested and detained in Israel. Yet he seems very untypical of the Alliance Party…who seem a tad embarrassed. The Alliance Party do not do Civil Rights. Members may be “progressive” but the Leadership wont identify with anything other than the blandest of hand-wringing.
Liberal Unionists….well they wont say or do much. They are not Liberals who profess to be unionist. They are Unionists who profess to be “liberal”. A component part of LetsGetAlongerism but…as useless now as they were in the 1960s.
But what about the “churchy” LetsGetAlongerists. Operating out of Schools of Theology and all those cross-community groups…all those “nice” Presbyterian ministers on the liberal sîde of that Church. …peace partnerships in North Belfast, South Belfast.
Certainly the “maverick” Catholic priests (alluded to by Professor John Brewer in a lecture last year at St Oliver Plunketts)…those priests at Clonard or Holy Cross CAN deliver the broader Catholic community. In at least two Catholic churches, there are relief committees formed.
So why are those “nice” Presbyterians shy of speaking up for Gaza. Three reasons…Politics, Religion and Hypocrisy.
Politics…where were the nice Presbyterians in the 1960s. Did they march for Civil Rights for Catholics. No … But they were active in Peace Groups in the 1970s. But shied away from difficult questions about Peace.
Religion…ah that whole Covenant thing. They see themselves as inheriting that special relationship with GOD.
Hypocrisy…..the mentality that does not notice Orange bonfires until they notice that all those tyres an enviromental problem. And that Alliance Party posters start appearing on the bonfires.
The default position of LetsGetAlongerists is that everything is 50-50. They simply cannot bring themselves to see that this is simply not the case in Gaza.
Since “Slugger O’Toole” recently changed design, I cannot sign in to comment there.
Barton Creeth is the most decent person in the Norn Iron Blogging Community. His obvious decency endears him to all. Being an American guy,who has chosen to live and work among us …is something from which we all benefit.
But Barton in a Slugger article asks “why are (we) the Left so nonchalent about anti-Semitism?”
I simply think its not true. Anti-Semitism is a very real thing. Six million people died because of anti-semitism …just a decade before I was born. Europeans are sensitive to anything that looks anti-semitic and Israel is deft at playing the defamation card.
Earlier this week ITV screened a documentary on Hatton Garden, centre of the London jewellery market……the goldsmiths and the silversmiths and the pawnbrokers. The family businesses are Jewish-run. The portrait was sympathetic and light-hearted but it struck me that there were enough stereotypes and clichés to agitate the most avid anti-Semite viewer.
Has Anti-Semitism played a part in criticising Israel. But I suggest that a person does not have to be anti-semitic to oppose killing innocent civilians on the Gaza Strip.
The Left is anti-semitic? Two words ….Karl Marx.
Two more words. ..Ed Miliband.
For yes…the current British Labour Leader and potentially the next British Prime Minister is Jewish. His “heritage” thT his father escaped Nazi Germany in 1938, has already been noted …with a certain degree of innuendo in the British media….the RIGHT WING Media.
Barton Creeth does not seem to have noticed the newly discovered fondness of right wing nut jobs for Israel. Some have a history of anti-semitism, even expressing fealty to Adolf Hitler. Seemingly Islamophobia trumps anti-Semitism.
European Socialism owes too much to European Jewry to be anti-semite. And American Socialism….well part of the reason that it never got off the ground was the way that bosses and right wing politicians played the anti-semite card. As I type this…how on earth are a group of contributors on Fux News expressing disbelief at Israeli restraint in Gaza?
Barton is probably aware that Jews make up less than 0.5% of the population of Ireland. But in the 1990s when the Dail had about 155 members…three were Jewish. This is a remarkable statistic. Even more remarkable that Ben Briscoe represented Fianna Fail, Mervyn Taylor represented Labour and Alan Shatter represented Fine Gael.
We should celebrate two things. The maturity of the Irish electorate and the commitment to public service from a small ethnic group.
Indeed Alan Shatter is still in the Dail. Earlier this year he resigned as Minister for Justice. It is widely believed that he abused his position. There was much online criticism. Was there a hint of anti-semitism? Yes there was.
But somehow I suspect online criticism was just a little muted for the same reason. Nobody wants the anti-semitic label.
But can we please be frank. In War there is no Nuance. Britain sought to defeat “Germany” but after the War, the emphasis was on “Nazi Germany”.
There are a lot of fault lines running thru Europe. When “The West” clearly backed the break up of Yugoslavia, there was more than a hint of anti-Slav, anti-Orthodox even bias. But can that disguise the fact that most logical people have labelled Serbia as the aggressor and thinks that Serbia bears the greater guilt for war crimes during that War.
Does historic anti-Russian sentiment….or even anti-Orthodox sentiment lie behind “The West” backing the Ukrainian Government against Vladimir Putin?
I despise Putin. I think he is a nasty piece of work. It is not a view formed out of anti-Russian or anti-Orthodox feeling.
Rather like it is ok to dislike “Nazi Germany” for their genocidal tendencies, it should be ok to dislike “Likud Israel” for much the same reason.
The default position of LetsGetAlongerists to pursue a belief that everybody is always 50% right and 50% wrong is of course understandable but trying to play the anti-Semite card, in Gaza, is stretching things too far.