Ireland and Israel: Has that Ship Sailed? (An exclusive CiF Watch essay by Cliona Campbell)

This is a guest post by Cliona Campbell.

(Campbell is a 20-year-old student born and raised in Cork, southern Ireland. She is currently a fresher studying English, history and Arabic in the University College of Dublin, Ireland. She has written on a variety of issues and has been published in two periodicals, the Sunday Tribune, the Sunday Independent, the Evening Echo and the UCC Express. She has also won awards from such institutions as Concern, the UCC Faculty of Law and Sky News. In the summer of 2010 Cliona volunteered on two Israeli army bases in Afula and the Negev.) See CiF Watch’s earlier cross-post about Campbell, here.

Why did the crew of Ireland’s flotilla come home to a hero’s welcome? Did they not affiliate themselves with the IHH, an organisation which comprises of internationally recognised terrorists? Did they not sing hateful slogans of veneration for the massacre of the Jews at Khyber? Did they not vow to become martyrs for the cause before they had even set sail? Don’t they realise that these are terrorists masquerading as a humanitarian organisation with a lengthy history of global jihad and links to fanatical Islamist networks?

Yet when I returned home to Ireland after two months of packing kitbags and painting warehouses on Israeli army bases, I was, for all purposes, the devil incarnate. As punishment for making public my volunteering in Israel, I was met by an onslaught of savage attacks and condemnation from my fellow countrymen. They called for the confiscation of my passport, claiming that I had already revoked my Irish identity the minute I volunteered for Israel. As far as they were concerned, I was a “baby killer”, a “terrorist” and a traitor to Ireland.  Many Irish people openly voiced their disappointment that I had not been raped and shot by the Israeli soldiers of whom I had worked alongside.

Yet this was no mere knee jerk reaction from an isolated group of extremists, but a widely held opinion originating from a deep-seeded and bitter hatred of Israel. Even the Irish media propagated the stance that such vicious attacks were wholly acceptable, prominent national newspaper The Sunday Tribune publishing a letter which deemed me as being a “brainwashed, ill-educated grunt”. So what is it that allows for the fermentation of such double standards in a modern, democratic European country?

A concept which is constantly re-iterated by anti-Israel lobbyists in Ireland is that the Palestinians are the Middle Eastern equivalent of the Irish in their ‘struggle to achieve independence from foreign occupation’. Despite the Good Friday Agreement having come into force over a decade ago, the Troubles still remain a highly emotive subject among today’s Irish citizens. This has been exploited by those who propagate the armed ‘resistance’ of Hamas as they compare it to the IRA’s employment of violence against the British. As a result, such Nationalist movements as Éirígí have made it clear where their allegiance lies in the Israel-Palestine debate. This is largely due to the fact that they too believe parliamentary politics in itself is insufficient and propagate violent uprising as a means to a political end.

Yet to present Hamas as being some kind of modern day re-incarnation of the IRA is completely illogical on many levels. The IRA never called for the complete obliteration of Britain, or vowed to drive them into the sea. Nor did they ever have the same level of outside support from neighbouring countries with the capabilities of providing not only a vast abundance of weaponry but also the ability to spread propaganda endorsing their cause. While sectarianism played a substantial role in the Troubles, there was never the same amount of religious fanaticism as is evident among the Islamist Hamas. Indeed, one could argue that religion in Northern Ireland merely assigned people their side of the conflict, but that Catholic doctrine itself did little to influence the violence of the period.

A phenomenon which never surfaced during the Troubles was the use of suicide bombing as a form of ‘resistance’, despite the fact that due to the centralised nature of the British army in bases and posts, it would have been a relatively easy and successful approach if utilised. Indeed, the prime reason that suicide bombing was not a tactic employed by the IRA is because the Nationalists never endured the level of religious indoctrination and fanaticism as is present among Palestinian suicide bombers.

The only method employed by the IRA which shows any hint of similarity was the use of proxy bombs, in which British ‘sympathisers’ were kidnapped and forced to be the mules for explosives which were then detonated in a location pre-ordained by the IRA. However, this underhand tactic was met by disapproval by much of the IRA’s support base, and had the effect of alienating even the most hardline of Nationalists. In contrast, instead of isolating itself from the Palestinians, Hamas’ tactic of suicide bombing has served as a morale booster and an effective propaganda tool, receiving widespread support from their followers. This is clearly evident from the plethora of posters and billboards throughout the West Bank and Gaza which celebrate these so-called ‘martyrs’.

A recent phenomenon which has no doubt spurred forth the anti-Israel campaign is the rise of the left-wing as a result of the recession. As the rate of unemployment soars, as does people’s disillusionment with mainstream political parties, whose corruption and poor choices of recent years have robbed them of all integrity. Instead, today’s disenfranchised youths seek solace in left-wing politics, which champions radical change and the establishment of an egalitarian society. They are also virulently anti-West, which they see as the haven for such ‘evils’ as capitalism, and perceive Israel as being another one of the West’s ‘imperialist exploits’.

These left-wing organisations celebrate socialism, anarchism and communism and are seen as the purveyors of hope for simple working class citizens; those of whom have borne the brunt of the recent economic downturn. The left-wing has also been spurred forth by the child abuse scandals of the Catholic Church which have completely knocked people’s confidence in religion as a whole. Communism’s blatant calls to eradicate religion have therefore found favour with those who wish to dispel all ties with the repressive Catholicism of yesteryear.

And so, these left-wing campaigners have become closely affiliated with those who champion terrorists as ‘freedom fighters’. Increasingly, such campaigns are operating under the false presence of human rights activism in order to appeal to the masses. Just recently, Claudia Saba, a Palestinian spokesperson working on behalf of the Irish Anti War Movement, was invited by the Socialist Worker’s Party to speak in the University College of Dublin on the topic “Will Palestine Ever Be Free?” Throughout her speech, Saba glorified Hamas, declaring that “it’s great that they’re putting up a fight” and villainising Israel as the “Zionist enemy”. She also praised Hezbollah as being “the only organisation in the Middle East which can still hold its head high”. Yet more disturbing than such vile rhetoric was the widespread acceptance of this hate speech and complete lack of dissent. If anything, it appears that Saba was simply re-affirming a hatred which has already pervaded the psyche of many college students.

To see the country of one’s birth become the feeding ground for Islamists and extremists is in no small way soul-destroying. I simply hope that someday people will wake up and realise that Ireland’s history of decades of bloody terrorist activity was never noble and never justifiable. As a nation which has endured the agony of years of terrorism, we should be on the frontline campaigning in opposition to such barbaric tactics. Has it been so long that we have forgotten that armed resistance is not the precursor to peace, but a foretaste of more savage brutality?

The philosopher Albert Camus once wrote that “The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.” The Irish are not malevolent by nature; in fact I would argue that the Irish people are some of the most genuinely compassionate individuals that one could ever encounter. Yet this is a compassion which is currently being exploited and redirected towards sympathy for a cause which has been skewed and corrupted, sullying our nation’s reputation and aiding an evil which is beyond even our comprehension. We have endured hundreds of years of hatred; it’s time to stand for peace once again.

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