Gaza: Did the West Learn Nothing from the Peace Process in Ireland?

Yves here. We mentioned the IRA as an example of a determined terrorist movement with which a durable cessation of hostilities was eventually achieved. It seems odd that example has received so little attention. Hopefully this post helps fill this lapse.

By Aidan McQuade, a writer and independent human rights consultant. He was director of Anti-Slavery International from 2006 to 2017. Prior to that he worked extensively in development and humanitarian operations, including from 1996 to 2001 leading Oxfam GB’s emergency responses to the civil war in Angola. He is the author of a novel, The Undiscovered Country, and his book, Ethical Leadership, is due in June 2022. Originally published at openDemocracy

Growing up during the Troubles in the North of Ireland, and subsequently as a humanitarian worker in Afghanistan and Angola, I learned a couple of things about war.

I learned what it feels like to be powerless and scared under the guns of hostile troops. I learned that whatever stories combatants spin to justify their actions, most of the suffering they cause is unjustifiable. And I learned that even though violence is unpredictable, it can predictably become self-perpetuating until cooler heads prevail. Those cooler heads are very rarely the fighters themselves.

Warring parties almost always need a hand to help them out of the abyss. This is all the more true where conflicts have become endemic, and where cultures of violence and dehumanisation have taken root.

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people, particularly Israel’s illegal and morally corrosive occupation of the Palestinian territories, has long demonstrated this. The vile rhetoric of the Hamas leadership after its crimes on 7 October, which saw 1,200 people murdered, was replete with the hateful language of eliminating Israel. Not to be outdone, the Israeli defence minister described Palestinians as “human animals” before launching a full out attack on Gaza. Israel’s military action has so far claimed 11,000 lives, including 4,500 children and 3,000 women, according to the UN and the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

Given the violence that has been meted out over the years, the extremists’ desire for more violence (on both sides) is perhaps understandable. As Seamus Heaney described, brutalised societies are filled with people ready

“To repeat themselves and their every last mistake

No matter what

People so deep into

Their own self-pity self-pity buoys them up.”

But that doesn’t mean this desire for violence must be accepted, let alone allowed to guide policy unchallenged.

Yet where is the challenge? Where are the cooler heads? External help from the United States and Europe was essential to ending the violence in the North of Ireland. Outside pressure and mediation were also vital to ending Apartheid in South Africa. But in this fight, the voices that were so productive in breaking other cycles of violence are either absent, abstaining, or worse: taking sides (in word and support, if not in deed) and joining the fray.

We Need Mediators, Not Cheerleaders

It is rarely helpful, when trying to stop a war, to take sides with one of the combatants. Doing so vindicates their actions and approaches, encouraging them to repeat “their every last mistake”. What is really needed is enough neutrality, objectivity, pressure for change, and dialogue to chart a fresh course.

This is sorely missing right now. In relation to this latest assault on Gaza, we have more cheerleading by international actors than credible diplomacy for peace.

Joe Biden allowed himself to be photographed embracing not Israeli and Palestinian peace activists, but the disgraced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, throwing him a political lifeline as a result. In the UK, the British establishment has repeatedly communicated that they have a double standard when it comes to Palestinian and Israeli crimes. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak directly told Netanyahu “we want you to win”, and leaders of the British Labour Party appeared to endorse Israel’s breach of international humanitarian law when it cut off water and electricity to the civilian population of Gaza, and attacked refugee camps. Last night, 56 MPs broke ranks with the leader of the opposition Keir Starmer to back an SNP-tabled motion calling for an immediate ceasefire. The motion was defeated 293 to 125, with Amnesty International calling it a “historic missed opportunity“.

Western leaders weep crocodile tears for the thousands of Palestinian children already dead from the onslaught yet refuse to call for a ceasefire. Despite few of them having any experience of armed conflict, they are convinced of their own understanding of war. And they insist that Israel must do what is necessary to bring about the military defeat of Hamas, even if it requires the slaughter of thousands more children in the process.

The Massacre to Recruitment Pipeline

In doing this they have proven themselves Netanyahu’s useful idiots. But this should be unsurprising. As Oscar Wilde observed, “… the English can’t remember history”.

To take just one example, the slaughter of civilians by the British Army in Ballymurphy and Derry in 1971 and 1972 provided floods of recruits into the ranks of the IRA. This in turn guaranteed a protracted and bloody conflict, typified by war crimes on all sides, before the political settlement that was obviously necessary in the 1970s was finally achieved in 1998.

Given the scale of the slaughter in Gaza, my expectation as an Irish person old enough to remember Ballymurphy is that the Palestinian reaction to it will be orders of magnitude larger than that of Irish nationalists to Bloody Sunday. So, even if Netanyahu manages to kill the majority of the Hamas leadership left in Gaza, Israel has sown the ground with a new generation that will seek brutal revenge in years to come.

In other words, the security of Israeli civilians will ultimately be undermined by the consequences of this assault on Gaza. The necessary political settlement that ends the illegal occupation and recognises the just aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike will still be years away. And obtaining it, and the peace and security it would bring, will be delayed by so much of the West acquiescing in the Netanyahu government’s desire for revenge, rather than providing meaningful advocacy for peace.

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  1. DJG, Reality Czar

    “It is rarely helpful, when trying to stop a war, to take sides with one of the combatants. Doing so vindicates their actions and approaches, encouraging them to repeat “their every last mistake”. What is really needed is enough neutrality, objectivity, pressure for change, and dialogue to chart a fresh course.”

    Indeed. This observation strikes me as a first principle. For that reason, I do not support the Russian government or the Ukrainian government or Hamas / Palestinian Authority government nor the Israeli government–plus the complicit U.S. government and His Majesty’s tottering U.K. government, these last two being warmongers extraordinaire.

    Wars aren’t soccer matches. Taking sides is a form of vanity.

    I’m not interested in opinions of Ramzan Kadyrov and Tom Cotton and Victoria Nuland and Radek Sikorski and Boris Johnson and Hillary Clinton (Clintonago delenda est) and other tough guys.

    I’d also add that Spain presents some interesting alternatives. The conflict in the Basque Country also was believed to be impossible to resolve. Yet the Basque Country is a relatively peaceful place now.

    And even though Pedro Sanchez caused a controversy in accepting Junts, the party of the Catalan big bourgeoisie, the history of the revival of the Catalan language and the struggle for autonomy in Catalunya also is worth looking into.

    Peace isn’t some luxury. Peace isn’t what we get when the Big Boys and Big Girls are done with their fighting. Peace is the only way forward.

    1. vao

      Indeed. This observation strikes me as a first principle.

      That is exactly what Dominique de Villepin (former French minister of foreign affairs) has been expounding

      But Ms. Malherbe, I am trained as a diplomat. The question of fault will be addressed by historians and philosophers.

      I am not neutral, I am in action. I am simply telling you that every day that passes, we can ensure that this horrific cycle stops…


      But once more, let’s stop asking about responsibility; let’s look at the reality of what’s happening on the ground! Assigning fault, allow me to tell you, we will leave to historians. What we want is to stop this violence, to stop these massacres.

      1. TimH

        USA wants to continue use Israel as it’s ME battleship, as has been repeatedly stated here, quoting Biden for one.

        USA supports the complete eradication (by death or exodus) of the Palestinian population simply because it’s the quickest way of stabilising the region. USA doesn’t care who dies, current examples being Ukraine, CV19.

    2. plurabelle

      No justice, no peace. “Peace” here is a euphemism for Palestinians meekly surrendering to their own annihilation. The Good Friday agreements may have worked in the occupied north of Ireland, but they will not work in Donbass or occupied Palestine, because both aggressors have a history of lying and signing bad faith agreements simply to continue their aggression. They can’t be trusted. You can’t sign treaties with liars or indeed, with Nazis.

      1. eg

        You think the English don’t “have a history of lying and signing bad faith agreements simply to continue their aggression?” Not for nothing is it “perfidious Albion” …

    3. Ignacio

      Thank you DJG. We should avoid in international policy being stuck in the blaming game all the time. Even if there in Gaza and the West Bank the abusers have usually been the Israelites and Palestinians the abused, one should not be trapped in anti-Zionist thinking very much like on the other side the terrorist attacks by Hamas shouldn’t lead to anti-Palestine feelings prevailing. Both are anti-Semitic attitudes. I am fed up about the many times I have read that this conflict has no solution. True, any solution looks extremely difficult right now, even chimeric but throwing in the towel at first chance wont be helpful. I am almost certain that big part of Israelites and Palestinians would rather find a path for a more peaceful solution. Let’s for instance speculate that the Israelites are able to annihilate Hamas (doubtful as it looks). It doesn’t solve the problem and will probably result in a bigger problem.

      You mention Catalonia and Basque Country. Particularly the case of the Basque Country where ETA, unexpectedly, announced one day they would stop terrorist killings. It was obvious that those actions were getting the Basque Country nowhere. They realised such violence was counterproductive and abandoned that path with relief for everyone. I remember reading the news at BBC online where i left a commentary. I was later contacted by BBC radio and invited to participate in a colloquium with other Spanish participants. During that programme I remember I couldn’t hide my relief and happiness while another participant was still calling for some kind of vengeance or whatever against ETA. This still goes on. The peacekeeping effort must be kept alive and enforced for a long time after any agreement is reached. It is like a delicate equilibrium. Even If I am not Irish i feel proud of the Irish doing so. Very proud. Unfortunately, I believe that the BBC is not longer what it was during those years.

  2. Robert Gray

    Paragraph 4:

    > The vile rhetoric of the Hamas leadership after its crimes on 7 October, which saw 1,200 people murdered …

    Sorry, that was enough for me.

    1. plurabelle

      Same. How is it “vile” for an indigenous resistance movement to want to abolish the genocidal occupying state that has stolen their land?

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        Your sloganeering does not help your argument.

        It can be, and is, vile to kill unarmed civilians, punto finito.

        Now, having said that, I’m sick of the propagandistic conflating of Hamas’ killing of IDF troops (who were legitimate targets of war) with the killing of civilians. There’s also the issue of Israeli civilians killed by friendly fire; OK, fine, but even if you double or triple those numbers, and rightfully ignore the yellow journalism tropes about beheaded babies and rapes, the fact remains that atrocities against civilians were committed. Evading that with slogans and rhetoric does you and the Palestinians no favors.

        1. Kouros

          The peaceful “return home” protest stage for many months by people in Gaza in 2018 ended with hundreds of palestinians killed and maimed. Also, hundreds of palestinians have been killed, assaulted, sumarily incarcerated, with their posessions destroyed and made homeless in the West Bank. A lot of violence done by setlers…

          Nobody is condemning such acts.

          And the “peace process” has been burried before Oct 7. What do you suggest Palestinians would have done differently in order to expose to the world the vileness of the Israeli occupation?

          1. Michael Fiorillo

            “Nobody is condemning such acts.”

            I disagree: the weight of global public opinion, and even US public opinion, has shifted radically with this war, and condemnation is widespread, coming from unexpected quarters, and likely to intensify. What’s happening now is very different from the silent non-response to Israeli violence against the March of Return.

            You seem to think I’m ignoring or justifying Israeli/US behavior. I’m not; instead, I’m suggesting that the Cause – Palestinian freedom, and some justice, whatever that means in practice – isn’t helped by swallowing and regurgitating your own propaganda, which includes minimizing civilian deaths. Likewise with hostage-taking: Hamas may have had “legitimate” strategic reasons for taking hostages, and that will play out however it does, but that doesn’t take away from the awfulness of it.

            We can argue about the moral culpability of people living in forcibly and unjustly occupied lands (I personally can’t quite grasp the full dystopian insanity of holding a rave within sight and sound of an imprisoned population, for example), but it’s one thing to acknowledge the historical reasons, inevitability and potential consequences for what happened on October 7th, and it’s another to casually (and lazily) justify it with slogans, especially in a location such as NC.

            1. It's About Colonialism

              Don’t colonize a people, and the colonized won’t murder you in retaliation. This isn’t complicated.

              Riddle me this, if violence is not a valid option, then what is? I’ve never gotten a clear answer in regards to Palestine. Israel doesn’t care about wider world opinion, and it doesn’t need to. It doesn’t care about peaceful protests. It’ll take an instance of someone throwing a rock and respond by crippling limbs with sniper rifles. If there are no rocks, it’ll snipe anyway. Years of mildly annoying the Israeli economy with BDS has changed nothing. Making more movies like On the Side of the Road or 5 Broken Cameras to pull at the heartstrings of those already sympathetic changes nothing.

              I’m also dubious of the entire notion of ‘innocent civilians’ in countries that are democracies. The Zionist project has, in various tweaked forms, complete dominance in Israeli politics. The colonization is official policy. The entire country is inherently a colony. Those advocating for a true change in that state of affairs are political non-entities in Israel. You do not get to vote for oppressive policies and then claim victimhood when the oppressed fight back. Israel regularly ‘lawn mows’ Gazan civilians by the hundreds, but Israelis are off-limits? Israel reaped what it sowed.

              I’ll add that one of the rhetorical flourishes I’ve seen at times is to the effect that ‘Hamas is the elected government of Gaza. Palestinians brought this on themselves’. Okay. So be it. The same applies to Israel.

              The notion of civilians becomes even blurrier in a country with universal military conscription for both genders. I can muster a small amount of sympathy for the foreigners killed on October 7, but, hey, maybe don’t be tourists and workers in a settler colonial state that keeps millions of people in an active prison. Especially don’t visit right outside the prison walls.

                1. Tom Stone

                  After living in California for seventy years I’m interested in giving this Democracy thing a try.
                  It has some promise of being survivable long term while the system I’ve lived with all my life seems determined to end all life on earth PDQ.

            2. hk

              I don’t think people will have noticed the goings on in West Bank or even at the Dome of the Rock until and unless “something big” happened. The events of October 7 we’re a twofer: it was a big event that grabbed world’s attention and instigated further Israeli reaction. Having escalated to an insane extent already, the only room Israel had left to escalate further was to reach into genuine genocide territory and that’s the sort of thing that even bystanders have trouble ignoring.

              But, if the conflict remained merely simmering, would people have noticed? I don’t think so.

              There is little dispute that Hamas (or, for that matter, Putin in 2022) acted opportunistically, to pursue agendas beyond mere “justice.”. But that’s politics, and a good way to enlist support from those who have been victims of genuine injustice. I would say that, if somebody has issues with this, they should try to stop injustice in the first place to.

        2. nippersdad

          Playing Devil’s advocate:

          As Edwin so rightly points out below, those settlements in the occupied territories are there in violation of international law. Those kibbutzim are explicitly holding actions for maintenance of the ethnic cleansing of previous Israeli operations, so can those residents, often weaponized as in the West bank, even be considered civilians at all?

          Given that logic, I think one of the bodies recovered was a child, and there is no way of determining that it was not killed by the Israelis, themselves, but even given Hamas killed that child, doesn’t the reduction in numbers of “civilians” from twelve hundred to one have weight? It is not even like the child had the agency to leave; could you even count him?

          It is not a matter of evading atrocities against civilians at this point so much as defining what a civilian is. The state of Israel demands that everyone is trained in the IDF, unless of course they are a special case of exemption for being ultra orthodox, so are there any “civilians” left in Israel at all?

          Short way of saying that it looks like we are in need of better definitions of who is party to the conflict.

    2. Bert Luger

      Yup! Two points: it is moot whether any language against used by a resistance about an occupying power can be classed as vile (the article quoted seems very reasonable in the context of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine) just as it is moot to classify any acts of resistance against an occupying power as “terrorist”, and the the Nazis and Vichy set the terms of the debate by classifying the maquisards as terrorists. By definition, the acts of an occupying power to enforce the occupation are always acts of terror.

      Second, the article quoted to support the “vile rhetoric” refers to a statement by a Hamas spokesman, ““Israel is a country that has no place on our land,” Hamad said in an interview with Lebanese TV channel LBC on October 24, which was translated and published Wednesday by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). “We must remove it because it constitutes a security, military and political catastrophe to the Arab and Islamic nation. We are not ashamed to say this.” The Hamas position is and always has been that the state of Israel must be eliminated and it has never suggested that the Israeli people must be eliminated either by death or less individually terminal methods of ethnic cleansing.

    3. nippersdad

      That stuck out for me as well.

      The “twelve hundred” is propaganda. Over a third were soldiers, fair game for occupied against occupier in international law, and makes no mention of how many of its’ own citizens Israel killed, some estimates being as high as eighty percent. He makes no mention of the rationale for trying to take hostages for leverage to get back the thousands of political prisoners held by Israel, something it sounds like they routinely have to do for any hope in getting their people back. The word “murdered” has an implied value judgment that “lives claimed” does not….Nor does he mention that ALL of this is happening on occupied territory.

      He makes a good point about the sowing of dragons teeth by the Israelis, but he won’t get far if he continues to use loaded rhetoric.

      1. edwin

        This is compounded by the settlements in occupied territories – war crimes, and those adults who inhabit them – also potentially involved in war crimes. It is not immediately clear to me, outside of children, who is and who isn’t a civilian, and what the effect of being a civilian committing war crimes means. Do you loose your protected status?

        Hostages, on the other hand imply a recognition of civilian status I would think. Of course, at the time of attacks Israel unofficially had kidnapped about 1000 Palestinians, who were held officially in “administrative detention” – a polite euphemism. The political prisoners are also kidnapped, but it is not so straight forward as those in administrative detention. There Israel isn’t even pretending.

      2. The Benevolent Ones

        Denial in real time. The arc of conspiracy theories is short and it always points to the same people. Fine. 300 Israeli soldiers dead. That is still an act of war. Welcome to war. It won’t end simply because Hamas’s schools and hospitals are running out of rockets. 1000’s of Hamas freedom… butchers are dead because Hamas leadership has a direct line to almighty, and he didn’t mention anything about day 2, or bomb proof shelters for either the ranks or the children, just rockets and rape. I know, unfair, war is conceptualized unfairness. Would calling it a special military operation make you feel better?

        Anyway, back to proper terrorism: the IRA won concessions because they understand how their enemies’s politics works. The IRA minimized civilian casualties in the UK to near zero. The IRA got a settlement because London’s insurers would no longer issue policy to London’s economic and government institutions on account of bombs going off in empty buildings in the middle of the night. The financial houses could not be rebuilt without insurance.

        That was it. And maybe scaring Thatcher helped, I don’t know. But actually hitting a mark and disassembling Lord Mountbatten and his family explosively was extremely counter-productive and almost earned a declaration of war. Which the IRA would have lost because they would have been bombed in their row houses like the RAF did the German city of Mainz: eight out of ten structures were destroyed from the air before moving on to the next city.

        1. nippersdad

          “The arc of conspiracy theories is short and it always points to the same people.”

          I have been taking my facts and figures from experts such as Scott Ritter, hardly conspiracy theorists.

          “Fine. 300 Israeli soldiers dead. That is still an act of war.”

          Under the laws of war the occupier has no right to self defense within occupied territories. The right of the occupied to seek freedom from the occupiers is always the default position.

          “Would calling it a special military operation make you feel better?”

          You are conflating two different wars. Russia complied with all of the relevant international laws prior to declaring its’ SMO. We should know as we wrote them after Yugoslavia to render our actions there legal post facto. R2P is based upon those updated laws, and was the rationale used by Russia to go into the disputed territories of Lugansk and Donetsk. Whether they change the title of the war on Gaza or not is irrelevant to the circumstances under present discussion.

          That is three, and you are out of strikes. Try that on someone else.

    4. Anon

      I was at a Palestine rally just yesterday where one of the speakers spent a fair amount of energy defending/’contextualizing’ Hamas. Many advocates do this–Norm Finkelstein being one of the most full-throated ‘I refuse to condemn Hamas’ people–and a good case can be made, I think. But rhetorically, I think it’s better to leave the Hamas question aside. Supporters of Israel often shift the debate to Hamas, anti-semitism, etc., and this seems like an attempt to steer the conversation away from basic human rights for Palestinians. Like you, I find these conventional condemnations of Hamas’ actions to be pretty annoying and simplistic, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s worth it debating about Hamas and international law. The simplest rebuttal to a ‘But Hamas…’ point is maybe just to say that there’s no Hamas in the West Bank and the Palestinians are horribly oppressed there as well.

  3. The Rev Kev

    If the author is trying to compare the situation in Israel/Palestine with that of Ireland in the late 20th century, then I am afraid that he is about three or four centuries late for a better comparison for Irish history. In that earlier period, Great Britain was confiscating huge swathes of Irish land and bringing in Settlers from northern England and the Scottish Lowlands to take their place. There were rebellions and the mass slaughter of people on both sides but in the end there was a new population in Ireland – the Ulster Protestants – and the existence of present day Northern Ireland is a direct result of this genocide and mass displacement of the original population along with their subjugation in the following centuries-

    Now try and negotiate a peace with that.

    1. Geoffrey

      A history student told me that the problems in Ulster today descended from it not having originally been an “successful” plantation, because of the lakes and mountains the plantation forces were not able to completely eradicate the native Catholic population. Elsewhere they had been more successful so we don’t hear much about the munster plantation, the Leinster plantation etc…

      1. begob

        The destruction of the settler plantation of Munster in the 1640s, sixty years after its inception, has similarities with Israel today – including outrageous propaganda over slaughtered babies and the war of light versus dark. The plantation’s replacement in the 1650s might resonate with Israel’s leaders, since that involved ethnic cleansing – “to Hell or to Connaught” – and I believe one of those leaders has responded to the Irish government’s accusation of war crimes with a proposal that the Palestinians move to Ireland. It took another 40 years to settle the matter by brute subjugation, topped off with a war to end all wars. Israel today seems to have an accelerated process in mind.

    2. Alan Roxdale

      Now try and negotiate a peace with that.

      There were several treaties negotiated over the centuries and up to the present day.
      There’s now a Republic in most of Ireland and Northern Ireland has had it’s own peace process and since 1998. Both are reasonably stable polities. Arguably more stable than the present day USA for example.

      Saying peace is impossible is factually wrong.

      1. Kouros

        Yeah, but it took a lot of armed resistence to achieve this, didn’t it? The Brits didn’t just decide one Sunday morning that oh gosh, we should stop this nonsense of overlording over the poor Irish. No, they had to swallow their “Rule Britannia!” down the gullet, with a lot of bile released in the process.

  4. Pat

    I am going to violate the rules to comment on the title.
    While I am sure it isn’t meant to be, the first clause in the title is a rhetorical question.
    I cannot think of a time in the past fifty years that the West (primarily the US with the UK and EU) has learned from overall policy failures. Smaller entities within that big group might have shown some reflection and ability to reconsider and adjust, but other than PR changes it just doesn’t happen. As a group or individually, the US and its vassals, don’t even admit failure on the “we cannot fail, we can only be failed” level.
    CT would have it there is some small coterie that benefits from these failures even as vast numbers suffer controlling things, but then there is hubris. Could it simply be that those in charge are both ignorant and delusional about what they do but very smart about how to stay in power. At least until they aren’t. Either way nothing indicates to me that “The West” is remotely interested in learning from the past or anywhere else.
    Now to go read and learn what someone thinks they should be interested in and why.

  5. furnace

    I’m tired of Westerners reading the situation completely wrong. This isn’t Ireland, this is Algeria. This is a million “pied-noirs” (what a racist name!) and their “evolués” counterparts (even more racist!) oppressing and colonizing an Arab nation. The solution? The psychotic colonists who almost destroyed the Fifth Republic get deported to France, and the reasonable ones stay in Algeria as citizens of the new revolutionary Republic. It’s Fanon people. Third worlders really aren’t confused about the situation. No one really thinks Hamas is like evil and should be punished (except for the bootlickers, of course).

    You can’t go “oh but Hamas is evil” when you’re dealing with this situation, because Hamas is the only party in the conflict who actually dared trying changing the situation, however the cost. And time and time again the brutalized Palestinians, with their entire families massacred, go on saying “Hamas is sacred, we shall resist to the end”. Ireland had an actual independent state during The Troubles, for God’s sake! What do the Palestinians have? There cannot be a “Good Friday” for Palestine because who is gonna negotiate? What can they even get? The only solution by now is the end of the entity and the establishment of a new state, with the psychotic colonists expelled and the reasonable ones staying.

  6. Geoffrey

    Interesting to read an interpretation of Gaza thru the Northern Ireland-experience lens.

    Elsewhere I’ve read that the apparently self-defeating October 7th attack could be rationalised as akin to the 1916 Easter Rising, to wit, a small band of die-hard revolutionaries suicidally took on the British Empire in a “blood sacrifice” which lead to the death of several hundred civilians in the ensuing fighting with British army but did eventually – due to political mis-handling by the British which turned the quiscent Irish majority against the UK – lead to the Irish Free State in 1922 and the Irish Republic in 1937. Like Israel today Britain at the time was distracted and weakened.

    Some few years ago I attended an event in the Dept of Peace Studies at Trinity College Dublin and learned that they had a regular cohort of South Korean students studying the Irish peace process with a view to what lessons could be learned for the Korean peninsula. It seemed obvious to me that if there were any lessons they could never be applied, as both the Irish and Korean situations were instrumentalised by the hegemon leading to polar opposite vectors. Apart from courting the Irish vote in US elections, I’ve read that one other possible US/UK motivation in the Irish peace situation could have been to end the drain on and distraction of the UK military & security apparatus with it, the better for the UK to participate alongside the US in military adventures elsewhere; meanwhile stoking problems between North & South Korea is longstanding US policy that excuses its overweaning presence in the area for geostrategic reasons.

    The disposition of greater outside forces is decisive, which is why, for the present, we have to stand idly by the Hamas/Israeli situation, because – at best – Russian and Chinese hypersonic forces are checking the US/Israeli impulse to escalate against Lebanon/Syria, ultimately Iran….

    1. Razor

      Very astute. I was thinking much the same myself. The 1916 Rising was the spark which lit the fuse leading to Irish independence. Oct 7th may well be the spark leading to the resolution of the Palestinian search for justice. Some fuses are quick burning, some not so quick. In a rapidly changing world, it seems to me that the future of the entity is looking pretty dark.

  7. maray

    The analogy with N Ireland isn’t accurate here. Whilst the English wanted to occupy and retian the provice (and still does), in Israel, the west wants to expand its occupation, the Palestinians have no say in the matter (that Palestine is now called Israel proves the point).
    The ‘Troublles’ (sic) in N Irealnd stated when the local police force attacked civil right marchers (wanting Catholics to have the same rights as Protestants). In Palestine, the Israelis want to exterminate the Palestinians and are on record as saying this. Without tackling the western problems of leibensraum for Europeans, the Palestinian extermination will continue. it is wrong to classfy it as a problem or some sort of equivalance in levels of violence when one side has nuclear bombs, tanks, fighter jets and the other side has stones

  8. furnace

    I think my previous post might have been swallowed by the filter (I was admittedly rather angry), but in any case to repeat the point I previously made the current war is not Ireland but Algeria. This is settler-colonialism in action. This can only end not in a “Good Friday”, but with the end of the project, with the most rabid settlers expelled, and the reasonable people who would like to share the land staying behind. Though the latter group seems to be diminishing fast with calls for Greater Israel even from liberals. There can’t be a political solution anymore. The die has been cast.

    1. vao

      This can only end not in a “Good Friday”, but with the end of the project, with the most rabid settlers expelled, and the reasonable people who would like to share the land staying behind.

      That is a possibility, but consider that numerous colonialist projects ended up with a victory of the settlers, implying a genocide of the native population — ranging from complete extermination (e.g. Caribbean, Tasmania) to native populations reduced at the level of an impotent minority (e.g. practically the entire America, large parts of Oceania — Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii). This is the solution that Israel is striving for (and has been pursuing since its foundation).

      1. furnace

        The difference is those examples aren’t from the 60s onwards, and do not include a population which is larger than the settlers. America got obliterated by the plague, the rest were too numerically small to fight against Europe at its mightiest. But look at Rhodesia! That’s more the example Israel is soon to follow.

  9. John Jones

    I got lost about here. It had all the hallmarks of an intelligent essay up to this point.

    “The conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people, particularly Israel’s illegal and morally corrosive occupation of the Palestinian territories, has long demonstrated this.”

  10. John Jones

    I got lost after this:

    “.. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people, particularly Israel’s illegal and morally corrosive occupation of the Palestinian territories, has long demonstrated this….”

    1. Kouros

      Are you arguing against many of the UN and UNSC decisions? As in Israel over-reaching beyond its recognized 1967 international borders? Or Israel keeping Gazans in a prison? or Israel instituting de jure and de facto an Apartheid state? As evident in its Basic Law amended in 2018 (or 2019)…

      1. John Jones

        Oh, I’m just an old man, less taken by false comparisons of apples & lemons per Israel & the NI peace process.

        I’m firmly of the belief that it’s going to be more a case of ‘Surgeon heal thyself’ – the Arab states themselves have a large part to play in this – until such time Egypt, Saudi, Lebanon & Syria & Jordan let these tragic Palestinians wallow in their current situation – it’s likely that the current war will just go on & on.

      2. Alice X

        >Israel over-reaching beyond its recognized 1967 international borders.

        Those borders are far from universally recognized. Some only recognize the borders of 1947, when there was only Palestine.

    2. furnace

      You agree with the occupation? Under what, pray tell, argument? I sure hope it isn’t biblical, cause the Muslims got just as good an argument with such bases.

  11. Aurelien

    The problem with this kind of article (and I’ve seen many) is the fixation with technique rather than content. After all, in what ways is the conflict in Gaza supposed to be similar to the conflict in Northern Ireland? Offhand, I can’t think of two conflicts that are more different. What are the similarities between the parties in each case? Who is the equivalent of the Ulster Protestants or the government in Dublin? And how are the outcomes supposed to be similar? A power-sharing government in Jerusalem perhaps? Demilitarisation of Hamas? All the article is really saying is that there should be peace through negotiations facilitated by foreigners. But negotiations about what? Between whom? In any case, if there’s a lesson from Northern Ireland, I don’t think that’s it.

    Consider. The struggle was between the IRA, whose objective was a united Socialist Ireland, which involved first expelling the British (and de facto probably the majority Ulster Protestants) and then overthrowing the government in Dublin, and on the other side the British government across the water. The British were not concerned about NI as such, and would happily have nuked the place, but them giving up the province was not only unthinkable politically, it would have sparked a bloody civil war with the Protestant majority, which the British would not have been able to control. The IRA had the active support of perhaps ten per cent of the Catholic population, whilst the Protestant majority was fervently pro-Union, and spawned a number of near-psychopathic militia groups with a worrying number of sympathisers in the security forces. Just like Gaza, in fact.

    What the British opted for was a long and patient, low-intensity campaign to convince the IRA they couldn’t win, whilst trying to sideline them politically, by talking to “mainstream” Catholic parties, representative of a wider opinion which was angry about institutionalised discrimination, but believed in working through the political process. After a lot of mistakes and near disasters, the British had effectively won by the early 1990s, when the IRA realised that what it was seeking was simply impossible, and the armed struggle was pointless. Up to this point, international involvement had either meant supplying the IRA with weapons (from Libya, and a few privately from the US) or providing support for Irish nationalists (especially the US.) International involvement was helpful when negotiations got to the stage of decommissioning of weapons etc. but fundamentally the conflict ended when the IRA gave up. The lessons for Gaza are …?

    Perhaps the real conclusion is that we shouldn’t assume that processes we’ve been involved in or know about have any wider applicability. In South Africa, which the author mentions, foreign involvement was almost nonexistent in the peace negotiations, which was a good thing. In the 1980s, by contrast, both the French and the US refused to put the kind of pressure on Pretoria that might actually have been useful. Oh, and if the author has worked in Angola, he will realise that the war was kept going primarily by western support for UNITA, and that the tide turned when South African mercenaries trained the MPLA forces, and the war finished with the assassination of Savimbi by the MPLA with help from the US. The lessons for Gaza being ….

    1. John Jones

      “…The problem with this kind of article (and I’ve seen many) is the fixation with technique rather than content.. ”

      Yes, it’s one of false comparisons – 101 basic, apples v pears.

      I’m surprised it passed moderation.

  12. curlydan

    I think the author’s central point is key: stop taking sides at this point and focus on stopping the killing.

    The West and some big Middle East players would be best if they could sit Israeli and Palestinian sides down and say, “Are you ready to eat a sh!+ sandwich? Would you rather eat a sh!+ sandwich or continue to watch your children die?” People will eat a sh!+ sandwich if it can keep their children alive.

    Neither side here is going to get what they really want no matter how persuasive, emotional, or even (to them) logical their arguments are. Palestinians need some land or government that gives them autonomy and rights. The Israelis need land, too. The West and the Middle East oil economies can throw $100 billion to make this happen, but nobody really gets all of what they want. So eat that sh!+ sandwich and get some longer term (eventual) peace. If not, the land and people will remain cursed.

    1. nippersdad

      How many times have we seen that very thing happen and the results always accrue to the occupying power? I think that the “been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, wore the T-shirt out washing the car, threw away the T-shirt and………..” meme has about played out.

      One of them has to win or no one will. It is existential for both sides this time, and it may be time to consider that there is a rump state in Ukraine that will need a population that the remaining Nazis there can at least try to get along with. Israel has overreached, and it would be ironic were they to have to find peace with those who they sought to flee.

  13. nothing but the truth

    the western establishment is incorrigibly racist.

    whatever they say especially about human rights has to be taken with a spoon of salt.

    it is about time their hegemony is ending.

  14. Feral Finster

    “They made a desert and called it ‘peace'”.

    That is the desired and anticipated Israeli and, by extension, American outcome. Whether this is the result of ethnic cleansing or outright genocide is of no matter, except whichever is quicker and cheaper.

  15. Bill Malcolm

    My takeaway from the article is simply that militarily attacking any culturally semi-unified people is a complete waste of time. Once you try to move a population out of its home by force, or try to change its internal politics by force to the way you want it, you automatically meet resistance. Determined resistance that essentially lasts forever on an individual human’s time scale.

    The Brits shipped Scots to Northern Ireland to try to drown out the local Catholics. Didn’t work. The Israelis rounded up Palestinians and forced them to live in prescribed areas. Hasn’t worked. The Americans literally levelled North Korea to get them to submit. Didn’t work. The Americans invaded Viet Nam to change peoples’ minds. Didn’t work. The Americans invaded Afghanistan to change the people’s governance by the Taliban. Didn’t work. The Americans invaded Iraq and killed millions, figuring that hell, DEEMOCRACY is a self-evident truth and that Iraqis would love them. Didn’t work. The Russians invaded Ukraine figuring “reasonable” people there would understand why, but turned the population against them.

    I agree with the author. No matter how awful one’s own government might be, the population will band together and fight the invader eventually because it’s no damn business of an invader to interfere with a group’s internal affairs.

    In simplified terms, that’s the thesis I got from the article. If you want to create an enemy, physically attack them or try to take their land and move them on. It doesn’t work.

    1. Eclair

      I think that what you are talking about, Bill, (Ireland, Palestine, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan) are instances of what John Mearsheimer calls ‘crusader states,’ invading, themselves or using proxies, non-contiguous territories inhabited by ‘indigenous,’ people, albeit deemed ‘culturally inferior’ if not outright ‘barbaric.’ Just think how we would feel if our state or town, was overrun by, say, an army of Chinese, not speaking our language (although, being Chinese, they probably would have had crash courses in English, or French, or Spanish, or Norwegian, before being sent to invade.)

      The Europeans crusaded into what were called ‘the Holy Lands,’ beginning in the 1000’s, then continued crusading into North and South America. As well as India, Africa, and assorted island territories, both small and large. Unfortunately for the indigenous Americans, their immune systems were helpless against the superior microbes carried by the invaders, and they fell like flies. Leaving those lands, with all their riches, wide open for extraction and resulting wealth creation. And, thus the powerful United States of America was born.

      Some author I was reading recently remarked that we should not be judgmental about the Brits or the French or other historic colonial invader nations, because ‘colonial conquest’ was the accepted mind-set at that time. It’s what one did; like owning slaves.

      But we are now in the 21st century. (Not for long, the way things are going!) There really are no more ’empty lands without people.; Even though we increasingly will have ‘people without lands.’ The early 20th century Zionist movement, encouraging European Jews to emigrate to the ’empty land’ that comprised the British administered Palestine Territory, was perhaps the dying gasp of the British Empire, an attempt to colonize an alien land, current inhabitants-be-damned.’ Using Jews, but they’re ‘our Jews,’ so to speak, as proxy.

      The US, believing itself to be the inheritor of the British Empire, is still trying to emulate its colonial successes, not realizing that with the internet and social media, the world can watch ethnic cleansing in real time. And those blasted ‘inferior’ races have all mastered social media and can control the narrative on TikTok and X, formerly known as Twitter. For better or worse, The Big Hug of Biden and Netanyahu is burned into our memory banks. As well as the small, white-shrouded corpses.

      The leaderships of both China and Russia seem to realize that living in the 21st century’s newly multi-polar world, requires attitude adjustments. No more crusader, colonial, bring-civilization-to-the-natives mentality.
      We work to keep the delicate balance among powers, tolerate differences in religion, government, language, philosophy, spend billions on training diplomats rather than building WMD’s.

      What does all this have to do with a peace process in the Israel-Palestine conflict? Well, a cease-fire would be an excellent and necessary first step. Then all the principles must go to their rooms (or the nearest corner) for a time-out! And, then we can bring in the Diplomats.

      You will notice that I left out Ukraine-Russia. That’s a different kettle of fish, and deserves a comment of its own, but I written too much already.

  16. Not Qualified to Comment

    The article merely makes the obvious point that genocide and/or ethnic cleansing of Gaza can only be avoided via a compromise between the sides, and the only party capable of even designing a workable compromise is someone with no investment in either side.

    It worked in NI because the side with the power, Britain, was sick of the ‘running sore’ that was Northern Ireland and wanted/needed a face-saving way out. The Republicans were wise enough to recognise that a compromise at that post Bloody-Sunday moment was a step in the right direction and better at that point than nothing. The US was generally seen as having a foot in neither camp – if anything its sympathies due to the Irish vote in the US itself were thought to be more with the Republicans – and thus a workable compromise could be cobbled together.

    In the Middle East the side with the military power, Israel, is driven by Bible-thumping lunatics for whom any compromise would draw God’s wrath on their heads, Hamas representing the Palestinians – whether they want them to or not – knows from historical precedent that any compromise wouldn’t be worth the paper it’s written on as long as the US ‘guarantees’ it and the US is all too patently on one side to ever be acceptable as a third party broker.

    Yes, Israel has the power to ethnically cleanse Gaza – at the price of a life-time of terrorist attacks with its new borders – and only a compromise imposed from above – by which I mean the UN rather than some boogyman in the sky – and enforced with a big stick is going to avoid it. For this to happen the US is going to have to be given a bloody nose – figuratively if not militarily – and put in its place, and with the current manoeuvring in the UN by China and Russia, the coalescing of their power by the Arab world and the support of a horrified world outside the West I actually have hope it might happen.

    1. Daniil Adamov

      “at the price of a life-time of terrorist attacks with its new borders”

      1) Having lived there: Israel is well-accustomed to terrorist attacks and I don’t think anyone expects that to end any time soon. (Maybe if they do this and that, attacks will end. If most Israelis don’t believe that, this is beside the point.) In other words, this isn’t a “price” so much as continuation of the status quo that most are used to, making it bearable.

      2) I suspect a lot of people in the current Israeli leadership are not merely used to a life-time of terrorist attacks, but see it as politically beneficial for themselves. So it is not so much a price for those decision-makers as it is a bonus. Of course, October 7 was probably more excitement than they wanted – it made them look weak and stupid. But the usual intensity of attacks is fine.

      Otherwise more or less agreed, though I don’t see much evidence of the Arab world coalescing. And the support of a horrified world – does this support really amount to much we have not seen before, in material terms? Outrage alone is not enough.

  17. VietnamVet

    The Troubles were basically intra-island tribal religious conflict that UK kept isolated from other world conflicts from 1968 to 1998. Since then, sovereign nation states have been superseded by corporate states that conduct endless wars for profit with mercenaries. Since China and Russia are breaking away from this New World Order, the Ukraine and Gaza fronts have erupted into WWIII.

    Ending the wars requires deconstruction of the supra-state institutions like the EU, NATO and the Imperial Deep State to return to sovereign nation states that can cease funding the never-ending world war. Without pay, mercenaries stop fighting. Then like Northern Ireland, if good government is restored, DMZs built, law and order established, this will stop the spreading violence. It also would prevent a nuclear war which is one mistake or bad decision away from the Apocalypse, right now.

  18. eg

    I’m not sure of the applicability of the Irish situation to that in the Levant. I suspect that the US was keen on a resolution on the former due at least in part to domestic diaspora politics which favoured the occupied rather than the occupiers — pretty much the reverse of what is happening in Gaza.

    And the US had already given the UK an object lesson in Suez. I see no evidence whatsoever that it is prepared to bring anything like serious pressure on Israel.

  19. Razor

    The US did not father the Good Friday agreement. That was a process birthed by John Hume and nurtured tirelessly by him over years, campaigning in the US, UK and EEC. he was joined by Godparents Charlie Haughey, John Major, Albert Reynolds, Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair under Humes leadership. It was Hume, who thanklessly liberated Sinn Fein/IRA away from the armed struggle. Clinton came in towards the end, giving Gerry Adams a visa, very much against British lobbying, to rally supporters in the US. To be fair to Clinton, when things were difficult towards the end, he gave things the push to get the agreement over the line. An honourable mention of course should also go to George Mitchell. But without Hume, it would never have got off the ground. Success has many father’s, while failure is an orphan.

  20. Tom Stone

    When BHO said “You can’t overstate Joe’s ability to fuck things up” he hit the nail on the head.
    He and his team are desperate, overtly cheering Apartheid and ethnic cleansing that they might please AIPAC, but it has a price.
    And not just for Joe Biden, the vast majority of our ( Our?) politicians are also part of the cheering squad.
    AIPAC’s announcement that they were going to spend $100MM to defeat the “Squad” is a remarkably open threat.
    You and I might think being such obviously craven, corrupt hypocrites would reduce their chances of being reelected, but they clearly do not.
    Like BiBi, Genocide Joe has serious legal problems
    They have been kept on ice by the FBI and DoJ since Mid 2019 when the contents of the “Laptop from Hell” were confirmed to be genuine by the fibbies.
    Who were just fine having leverage on the next Prez, which is nothing new.
    Since then testimony has been given, documents have been produced and there’s no doubt at all that Joe personally benefitted from at least two instances of influence peddling.
    In both of these cases (CEFC and Americore) family members Jim and Sara Biden and Hunter Biden openly promised to use their family connections and influence to “Help” these firms in return for $.
    In both cases the $ went from Corporation to Family Member to Joe, with the memo line showing “Loan Repayment”.
    Then there’s Ukraine, The ongoing “It’s not a Pandemic”, the economy…
    Joe needs something big, based on Nordstream and his other decisions there is nothing too irresponsible, reckless or stupid that can be ruled out as his next brilliant move.

  21. Rasmus

    The vile rhetoric of the Hamas leadership after its crimes on 7 October, which saw 1,200 people murdered, was replete with the hateful language of eliminating Israel. Not to be outdone, the Israeli defence minister described Palestinians as “human animals” before launching a full out attack on Gaza. Israel’s military action has so far claimed 11,000 lives, including 4,500 children and 3,000 women, according to the UN and the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

    Israelis gets “murdered” whereas Palestinians simply has their lives “claimed”. Funny how one group of dead is worthy of a morally charged moniker indicating a crime whereas another group of dead only gets euphemism. Murder indicates a clearly morally reprehensive act as well as the existence of a murderer who bears full responsibility for the murder. On the other hand having your life claimed does not imply the presence of any moral wrongdoing, your life can be claimed by cancer, a shipwreck or a tornado just as well as it can by deliberate illegitimate killing.

    When someone is in the business of applying different grades of moral outrage to two categories of killings one would assume that they would use the most morally charged rhetoric to describe the killings with the largest bodycounts. Or the killings with the largest proportion of innocent civilian victims to legitimate combattant targets. Or maybe to the killings carried out by the killers who had plenty of viable alternatives to kill. But no, not in this case.

    I’m not suggesting that the writer harbors deliberate bigotry towards Palestinians and the call for a just political settlement as an alternative to violence is as commendable as it is likely to be rejected by the Israeli/US side but even the best intentioned person can inadvertently end up reproducing prejudice against colonised non-western people that still lingers in western culture.

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