Friday, December 12, 2014

UK: On the false parallel between Gaza and Northern Ireland

Eamonn MacDonagh brilliantly argues that the paralled between Gaza and Northern Ireland is false and that "Attempts to draw comparisons between the Troubles and the Arab-Israeli conflict only serve to excuse terrorism and obscure the real issues".

In recent years, debates over how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might be resolved have begun to make frequent reference to a fairy tale. This tale is based on the supposedly similar conflict in Northern Ireland between Great Britain and the Provisional IRA. That conflict was ultimately resolved with a peace treaty, and the suggestion is frequently made that if only Israel and Hamas could be persuaded to implement its lessons, then all would quickly be made well. The fairy tale goes something like this:
“Once upon a time, there was a bloody, decades-old sectarian conflict with roots going back centuries. Eventually, the British realized that violence was never going to defeat their bitter enemy, the Provisional IRA. They got over their foolish reluctance to negotiate with terrorists and entered into meaningful talks. In the end, painful concessions were made by both sides and nobody got exactly what they wanted. Nevertheless, a historic agreement was achieved that finally brought an end to the violence. Now if that was possible in Northern Ireland, surely it must be possible in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict too. If only the government of Israel would follow the noble example of its British counterpart and enter into meaningful negotiations with Hamas, then surely a fair solution to the conflict would soon be produced.” 

[...] More worrying is the recent appearance of an article and book on the subject by Jonathan Powell, who served as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff during his entire ten years in office. Powell lends significant prestige to the fairy tale due to his role as a key actor in the Northern Ireland peace negotiations. But Powell is more than that. He is the son of an Air Vice-Marshal and brother of Lord Powell of Bayswater—a key foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her successor John Major. Thus, Powell’s endorsement of the fairy tale indicates that its popularity is growing among government and policy elites who can have a real effect on the Middle East peace process itself. None of this would matter, of course, if the fairy tale were true. But like all fairy tales, it isn’t. In fact, drawing an analogy between the conflict in Northern Ireland and the Middle East is not simply unjustified; it is an error of the grossest kind. And it directly threatens Israel’s well-being by justifying demands for Israeli concessions to an enemy that is very different—and, yes, far worse—than the enemy Britain faced in Northern Ireland.

More: The Tower (via Simply Jews)

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