Northern Ireland, Israel-Palestine: Making the Connections

Pay careful attention to the ongoing events in Northern Ireland.  It does not  detract from but rather strengthens the Palestinian Cause if one pays heed to other struggles against injustice and entrenched power.

The Northern Ireland case is particularly important if for no other reason than a simple comparison between the British and Israeli occupations, respectively, reveals shocking differences, and a few disturbing similarities, of course.  However, let us examine the differences that stand in stark contrast to each other.

Perhaps you may have noticed that last week in Northern Ireland, the worst rioting in at least five years between Protestant and Catholic youths raged for five days and nights in Belfast.  The Springfield Road rioting began on Tuesday night (June 19) after Protestant thugs threw stones at Catholic Primary school children whose school is located just inside a Loyalist neighborhood.

The amazing fact was that through five days and mostly nights of rioting, not one Irish man, woman, or child was shot dead or wounded by the Royal Ulster Constabulary forces and British troops who regularly escort them.  One BBC web site report detailed the number of “plastic bullets” (a much safer version than Israel’s notorious “rubber bullets”) fired by the besieged British troops: Eight!  Eight plastic bullets!

Compare that with any IDF unit under similar attack, and it boggles the mind. These British troops as well as the predominantly Protestant RUC police officers came under a barrage of stones, Molotov cocktails, firebombs, and yes, even some live ammunition from snipers.  Over seventy RUC officers and British soldiers were injured, one seriously.  But not once did they resort to the use of live ammunition or two-man sniper teams (one a spotter, the other a shooter) to shoot down Irish boys the way Israel’s vaunted Army so  regularly and without pity or remorse guns down Palestinian teens if as they were dogs or less.  Why the difference?

Honestly, there can only be one answer: Accountability.  There are millions of Brits who will immediately protest the use of live ammunition when other far less lethal methods are readily available.  In Europe millions more also would protest Britain’s conduct since Britain is a European Union (EU) member.  There exists accountability in this case.

In Israel, what remains of the Left either has crawled under a rock or worse, grown fangs and talons (See Gideon Levy, “Under The Volcano,” June 10, 2001, Ha’aretz).  The British Army in Northern Ireland faces a sovereign Irish nation just south of the border, and while in military terms Ireland is no match for Britain, she can nevertheless exact a high moral, economic, and political price from Britain should her Army begin to act like Israel’s. Pray tell, who stands up for the Palestinians?  Egypt?  Jordan?  Saudi  Arabia?  Kuwait?  The Palestinians, unlike the Irish Catholics, lack a sovereign nation to stand up for them.

Accountability.  When has Israel ever really had its feet held to the fire? When has the United States ever threatened the “Jewish State” with a cutoff in aid?  If you answer never, you are wrong.  One has to go back to the Eisenhower Presidency – the Suez Canal Crisis in 1956 to be exact – to find a period when an administration did not cower to Israel.  Of course, the American Jewish community had not yet develop the political muscle it has today; the American Jewish “Charles Atlas” was still getting sand kicked in his face back then.

Please pay careful attention to Northern Ireland.  “CNN Presents” had an excellent report last night (See:  Also, “Northern Ireland: Dying for Peace,” a one-hour special, on CNN June 28-July 1 –  The IRA will not  surrender their weapons, and rest assured that they will be lambasted for “missing a great opportunity” (sound familiar?) when the deadline passes on July 1, 2001.  First Minister David Trimble, one time leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, has threatened to resign if the IRA does not in effect surrender by July 1.  Should Mr. Trimble resign the results of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 (ironically brokered in part by former US Senator George Mitchell [D-Maine]) will in all likelihood collapse.  However, mark my words: Britain’s occupation will continue along its harsh course, but never degenerate to the level of unaccountable barbarism of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

Mr. Michael Lopez-Calderon taught High School Social Studies in Miami, Florida for seven years until March 2, 2001, when he was asked to leave the Jewish Day school where he had taught for the past five years. Michael was asked to leave for having posted pro-Palestinian comments on Palestine Media Watch’s subscriber-only e-mail. He remains an activist in the Miami area.

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