Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Israel and Ireland
In an article in The Irish Times today controversial journalist Kevin Myers (pictured) wrote an interesting piece about Israel and Ireland that is sure to trigger a wave of angry responses from Ireland's legions of Israel bashers. Myers is one of the few individuals in the Public eye in Ireland that regularly defends the Jewish state. The ultimate point that Myers makes in this particular article is that Israel has few friends and that Ireland should be one.
I tend to agree. Israel is a country that deserves respect. For all the suffering surrounding the conflict (which Israel does share plenty of blame)there is much to admire about Israel and its people. I will elabourate in future posts but for now let me say that protesting a commemoration of Israels foundation or picketing an Ireland Israel world cup qualification match at Lansdown Road are not in my book legitimate protests against Israeli policies in the west bank or Gaza, they are in fact demonstrations against the Israeli state itself. Israel is a legitimate state and those that claim or imply that the root cause of the conflict is the existence of Israel should be vociferously opposed.
Unfortunately in this country whenever Israel is discussed the debate is dominated by badly informed highly opinionated left wingers. Both Israeli and Palestinian observers of this debate could be forgiven for thinking that this is mainstream opinion. This I believe contributes negatively to the conflict. When for example Irish people take radical stances such as calling for a one state solution it embitters Israelis and makes them more introvert and less likely to engage in dialogue while also encouraging Palestinians to continue holding on to a dream that even Yassir Arafat had abandoned by the time of the Oslo agreement. I would like to see the debate dominated by those in the Conflict Resolution Unit at the Department of Foreign Affairs or by scholars of the troubles at the Glecree reconciliation center in Wicklow. We have overcome a conflict on this island that was at once deemed as intractable as any in the world. Encouraging the people of the Middle East to do the same should be our only agenda.
Above, Israeli and Irish soccer fans (including yours truly, bottom right with green baseball cap) mingle outside a bar in Tel Aviv before a March 2005 World Cup qualification match.
I believe that Israel listens to and acts on international criticism but only if it comes from a source they respect. I think Ireland should be a respected source. We should be perceived as a genuine honest broker. If this were the case then we would have influence in Jerusalem and would have leverage against those among the Israeli right hell bent on expanding Jewish settlements in the west bank which in my opinion is nothing more than mass theft of Palestinian land, an issue which incidentally I would like to see Myers address.
We all rightly identify with the ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people but that in my mind prompts the question, what needs to be done for that suffering to come to an end? If I believed that heaping boycotts and divestment on to Israel would reverse its policies I would probably be in favor. However anybody who understands Zionism realises that this tactic is totally futile. Israel will I believe disengage from all the occupied territories. They will dismantle almost all post 67 settlements. But they will not do so because it looks good, or because of international pressure and certainly not because of terrorism. They will do so when they feel secure.
This is where Ireland the honest broker should use its influence to make clear to the Palestinians that they must truly accept Israels right to exist as a Jewish state and not simply try to negotiate themselves into a position of strenght from where they will be better placed to oppose the state of Israel, a tactic some Palestinian leaders have admitted to. But more importantly, an Ireland that is close to Israel can contribute to a resolution by convincing Israel of the need to confront those within the country that are opposed to peace and in favor of expansion.