Why Ireland should recognise Israel’s capital.
I feel the need to preface this article with a few statements. I am not pro-Israel, I am not someone who always argues Israel’s corner, and I hold some very serious grudges with that State over its interactions with Ireland and particularly with Irish peacekeeping soldiers in Lebanon. For example, an Israeli backed militia kidnapped and tortured three Irish peacekeepers, two of them to death. They killed another through indiscriminate fire. Israeli intelligence has used Irish passports in covert operations around the globe. No apologies have been issued.
These are issues that Ireland should take umbrage with, and that we should rightfully be confronting the Israelis about. But these confrontations with Israel are never confined to issues that affect us directly, and Israel is certainly not given a fair hearing in Irish media. There are many anti-Israeli figures and groups, there are little to no pro-Israeli ones.
Israel and Ireland have not gotten along in contemporary history, formerly due to Ireland’s indifference to what happened outside its shores for much of its early history, latterly because the Socialists in the Republican movement confused the struggle for Irish unity and independence with their quasi globalist aspirations of ‘everything-for-everyone’ and ‘nothing-for-anyone.’
Arthur Griffith, the founder and father of the original Sinn Féin movement, understood this, and according to P.S. O’Hegarty (who compiled a biography on him) “Griffith spoke of ‘the essential work of dissevering the case for Irish independence from theories of humanitarianism and universalism.” In plain words, supporting Ireland’s freedom and unity does not mean we fight the cause of every group around the world. We concern ourselves with Ireland first and Ireland alone.
Why then have the Government and the Oireachtas decided to meddle in the affairs of a region of the world that is notoriously unstable? Why has it decided to favour one side over another, with no benefit accrued to Ireland?
The Arab-Israeli conflict stretches back to the dying days of the British Empire, when British, Turkish and other local landowners sold territory to the Jews fleeing from Europe. Violence plagued Transjordan/the Mandate of Palestine (as it was known then), and a civil war erupted in 1947. When Israel declared independence in 1948, it was immediately declared war upon by the Palestinian Arabs. Much of the next 4 decades consisted of trading attacks; the Arabs would attack Israel, Israel would attack the Arabs, the Arabs would attack Israel, and so on, and so on.
It is not my place to offer absolution to Israel, nor whitewash its crimes.
But when we hold Israel accountable, we must also hold the Palestinians accountable.
In 2003, Palestinian suicide bombers carried out an attack on a school bus that killed 16 people and injured 53. The youngest person killed was 12 years old. In 2001, Palestinians threw bricks at Israeli cars. One of those bricks crushed the skull of a five month old baby. In September 2011, a young father and his newborn one year-old son were killed when his car was attacked, causing him to crash. These are just a few small cases.
If these don’t seem like the actions of a democratic State to you, you’d be right.
Mahmoud Abbas was elected President of Palestine in 2005, to serve a four-year term. In 2006, his party (Fatah) lost the elections to a quasi-political-terrorist organisation known as Hamas. Hamas was not recognised by Mahmoud, and a civil war erupted between the two. Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, Fatah controls the West Bank.
In 2009, Mahmoud decided to extend his own term for another year, and at the end of this year, was given control of the office indefinitely. At time of writing, the two parties have still not reconciled or unified their administrations, nor has any presidential election been held.
What then has the Irish State done to hold accountable his government? Have we introduced sanctions, suspended funding, stalled recognition? No, the Government has done nothing, indeed it pushes more and more towards recognition of Abbas’ regime as the legitimate government of Palestine.
“We need to have parity of esteem for negotiations to succeed,” is a common refrain. That may be true and may the only path to lasting peace, but parity of esteem requires not only that we treat them with equal respect, but also that we hold them equally accountable.
At present, we do not treat them equally, we are overly critical of Israel’s policies and responses, whilst ignoring the crimes and inhumanities perpetrated by one side of the conflict.
This confrontational approach has deeply soured Irish-Israeli relations and emboldened the hardliners in Fatah and Hamas who seek no compromise with Israel but its destruction. It also continues to sideline us in international affairs, and undermines any prospect for peace in the near-term.
If we are to to be fair, and if we are going to recognise Palestine as a sovereign State, then we must also recognise Jerusalem as the capital of the Israeli one.