So what can Northern Ireland offer Israel/Palestine by way of a positive example?

So Seanad Eireann is be recalled for the second summer in a row. It’s tempting to see it only in domestic terms of the battle for supremacy on the opposition benches with Sinn Fein calling for debate in the Dail (the Irish lower house) and failing, and Fianna Fail calling for it in the upper house (and succeeding).

The debate itself, or the Gaza end of it will likely focus on the Irish government’s abstention (along with all eight other EU countries) from a vote in the UN Human Rights Council to set up a committee of inquiry on the grounds that the omitting of the mention of Hamas’s incursions into Israel was “unbalanced, inaccurate and prejudges the outcome of the investigation”.

How much anyone outside the country, or even outside Leinster House pays attention to the debate may only be dictated by the quality of that debate, and that depends on how realistic and focused it turns out to be.

In the case of Gaza, the timing of Israel’s attack is notable. It comes at a time when the whole region is subsumed in chaos. On Gaza’s southern borders, Egypt’s new government is aggressively anti Islamic, and has no time, sympathy, mindspace for Hamas.

To the north Syria, normally a powerful player in Israeli military formulations, is subsumed in a civil war which is killing many more times the numbers we’re seeing in Gaza.

The spillover into Iraq has seen the wiping out of some of the longest established Christian communities anywhere in the world, with ISIS also opening up a civil war with both Shiites and Kurds.

To top it all that other beneficiary of western interventionism, Libya has also kicked off into the very ungovernable civil war their late dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi always warned it would.

Few if any of these humanitarian catastrophes has created any media excitement or public sympathy in Ireland, let alone provoked a parliamentary debate.

It’s at this tumultuous time in the middle east that the Israel’s ruthless and aggressive military action against Hamas takes place: ie at the very moment when strategically it is at its weakest, most political isolated and apart from it own presumably limited resources, utterly defenceless.

As the Arab world rips itself apart, the Israelis have taken the law, international and humanitarian into their own hands. Given Israel’s geopolitical position, right in the centre of this tumult, it is highly unlikely that they (or even the Palestinians) will listen anything to that neutral little Ireland might have to say, in the shorter term at least.

Within a longer frame, they might, perhaps: but probably only if we are prepared to be great deal more honest and a lot less equivocal about our own fitful journey towards peace and reconciliation.

The relevance of our peace process is underlined by the centrality of John Kerry’s long diplomatic intervention. If you want to get to grips with that you should take the time to read Ben Birnbaum and Amir Tibon’s long and beautifully researched account of the Good Friday Agreement that wasn’t…

The failure of those talks which careened off the rails after a number of petty defaults on both sides led eventually to the Palestinian’s finally declared a ‘technical’ Unity Government with Hamas. The political vacuum that followed has facilitated Israel’s aggressive military action in Gaza.

So what can Northern Ireland offer by way of a positive example?

Perhaps that…

  1. In the longer term, political problems need political solutions. In the case of Northern Ireland the solution only came after all sides recognised that a military action could not deliver desired political aims.
  2. Which leads to Paul Arthur’s seminal advice  on the need also to rise above the fatalism generated by your own “sui generis” conflict…
  3. ‘Agreement is only a beginning but the mere agreement to stop killing can create a space for the evolution of a new more inclusive  society.
  4. And finally that the real gains will only come in the longer term, with the substantiation of a strong middle ground capable of realising beneficial common goals.

Considering that we are still some way short of 4. Northern Ireland also offers proof that cessation of war is not the same peace.

In a final note, tomorrow’s debate also concerns current events in Ukraine where Ireland through the European Union has a much stronger national interest to defend. Russian proxy action in shooting down a passenger plane flying overhead by international agreement to which both Ireland and Russia are bound is a serious matter that in reality cannot be shuffled off into a tame diplomatic press release.

But as ever, perhaps for oddly taboo reasons, it is the Gaza story is the one that’s more likely to predominate the debate…

PS, the Seanad debate opens at 2pm tomorrow. We’ll have a live blog going with the debate embedded here from about 1.30pm..

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  • Eamon Davis Delaney

    Excellent assessment and parallel. The chances of a Good Friday type Agreement for Israel/Palestine was with Oslo 1 or even Oslo 2. Now very remote, alas

  • mickfealty

    Yep, I should have said ‘latest’ Eamon. It’s an utterly depressing story but with all sorts of interesting questions for us to consider seriously at the furthest periphery of western Europe.

    I hope tomorrow will allow serious debate and that some will eschew the usual cheap point scoring. I put this piece together in hopes that someone, hey anyone, might give the broader picture a moment’s uncynical thought before entering the chamber.

    I tend to travel in hope if not expectation… 😉

  • Eamon Davis Delaney

    Totally agree, Mick, and one has to be optimistic. The Republic has often led the EU in initiatives on this dispute, so there is a special responsibility on Senators. I must say it is disappointing that the skills of the conflict resolution model developed over the course of the NI peace process were never applied elsewhere, as we were promised by the Irish Government and other parties that they would be.

  • Roy Walsh

    I just listened to an Hamas representative on C4 news, yesterday it was the former Israeli ambassador and, having listened to both I would have to say, nothing, we’re just the same, or at least out political elite are, be they in Dail Dundonald or Dail Éireann, loads of whinging, batching and blaming but no positive attempt to progress matters on behalf of those they serve.
    If you’re going on holiday this weekend I’d suggest Gaza, you’ll feel at home and the weather’s better. You’ll get the same crap from your politicians there and a suntan, and a good chance of being killed, so it’s Belfast in the 80’s
    Sorry for the rant but let’s get real, Hamas nor the Kenneset are going to listen for fear of undermining their lowest common denominator which, so long as the powerful allies maintain the weapon flow, will be the main motivation, remember what I pointed out before every time IDF fire the iron shield it costs £80,000 that’s a lot of money for the people who actually run the US.

  • barnshee

    The NI situation has been “parked” –the way ahead is far from clear There are no lessons from NI for GAZA.

    Israel has no intention of allowing a Palestine state It has herded the Palestinians into open air prisons and is now murdering them and whining when the fight back
    Until the occupation is ended and appropriate reparation made for the crimes against the Palestinians is made their will be no peace.

    All deliveries to Gaza have to be “inspected” by Israel before they are “allowed” in
    1 Inspection has to be paid for
    2 Deliveries are subject to pilferage
    3 Items are damaged “accidentally” on the way past

    The Nazis would be proud of them

  • Nothing. Gaza is a self-governing territory which wishes to see a neighbouring territory utterly destroyed. No parallel. This debate is rhetorical and self-serving – all about Ireland and bugger all impact on the situation in the Middle-East – FF just trying to out-grandstand end of term capers by SF. All the moralising, but basically crass electioneering.

  • mickfealty

    Two thoughts on that Eamon… ..

    One, I’ll cheat and quote from Jay Rosen, but we are talking here about wicked problems, and…

    Every wicked problem is unique, so in a sense there is no prior art and solving one won’t help you with the others. No one has “the right to be wrong,” meaning enough legitimacy and stakeholder support to try things that will almost certainly fail, at first. Instead failure is savaged, and the trier is deemed unsuitable for another try. The problem keeps changing on us. It is never definitely resolved. Instead, we just run out of patience, or time, or money, or political will. It’s not possible to understand the problem first, then solve it. Rather, attempts to solve it reveal further dimensions of the problem.

    Two, rather further investing in the process of conflict resolution, we sold (largely on the false premise that the major work was complete) some of the main personalities…

  • Michael Henry

    Maybe no one in GAZA will care much about Fianna Fáil succeeding in getting a debate in a upper house whilst the rockets / Shells still drop-maybe some Palestinians who live in Ireland will appreciate Sinn Fein trying to get a debate going in the Dail during the holidays-it’s all open to interpretation –

    Israel is not interested in talking whilst they get away with the killings- Russia must wonder what Israel has got that they have not whilst the Russian people get dragged down with sanction after sanction-

  • Comrade Stalin

    I don’t understand why people think that the NI “model” can simply be applied in other places.

    There is not a lot to our “model”. The IRA worked out that it couldn’t win by military or political means; and that if it wanted to take power in Ireland it would have to accept something significantly short of its objectives. The British government was ready and waiting when the IRA made that decision (having played no small part in coercing it there).

    In the Middle East Hamas intend to fight to the death and they don’t care how many civilians they take with them. Israel are equally unconcerned with how they can win Palestinian – or world – support for a negotiated settlement. So saying “hello lads, why not just do what they did in Ireland ?” is little different from “why can’t you just stop fighting and get along?”.

  • Michael Henry

    The Palestinian Irish ambassador is speaking at the Hunger- Strike Commemoration this Sunday in Derrylin co Fermanagh Sinn Fein says tonight-the ambassador will speak of the horrors his people are going through and about the sacrifice ten Volunteers made in 1981 to get the 5 demands for their Comrades-

  • Billy Smith

    I agree with your four ‘lessons’. Another is that peace will come only when the other nations with a stake in the outcome prioritize it above their other strategic and tactical objectives. Thus the USA, the Saudis, Iran, Egypt et al must stop fueling and encouraging the conflict and instead firmly require their fighting friends to desist. Northern Ireland (a much lighter and simpler problem) got its agreement only after Britain and Ireland had agreed a common position, built mutual respect and worked hard for years to bring it about.

  • Olivia Anderson

    Now, now. It’s much more complex than that don’t you know? Oh, right, you actually don’t, well then. Read the respected Israeli historian’s book, ‘The ethnic cleansing of Palestine’ for a non biased account of the Nakba, the underlying cause of the conflict

  • mickfealty

    As a Northern Californian might say, thanks for engaging (with the text) Billy…

  • John Ó Néill

    Mick, I think you have to heavily cover a discussion like this with caveats – particularly since the intensity, the structure and likely solutioning are very, very different.
    I’m not sure your points about a new more inclusive society and a strong middle ground are entirely relevant to Israel-Palestine unless you are predicating solely one-state solutions or talking at a very macro-level.
    If there are any other positive learning outcomes from the north I think they are things like:
    A recognition that change is a process not an event (although Gaza clearly needs an event not a prolonged process).
    Leadership that openly discusses change and negotiates it with their constituency are more likely to bring stability than leaderships that only engage in a negative way with change.
    There is genuine goodwill out there among public figures (nationally and globally) for an outcome that appears peaceful and supported (everyone wants to be part of a good news story). It is only short-term but you have a window in which to draw down momentum from that.
    Be more holistic than seeking change to emerge from your political and military communities, sports, industry and the arts are just as significant stakeholders and less weighed down with history.

  • Gareth Murray

    I hear he’s going to be introduced as the ambassador for the 2nd most oppressed people ever.

  • Michael Henry

    He will be introduced as a ambassador of a people fighting a empire at the moment whilst that empire kills his people-plenty of oppressed complaining about the 100 anniversary of life in the trenches- I never heard crying like it-

  • George Fleming

    The Israeli embassy in Ireland has insisted there was no intention “to cause insult or offense” over its controversial depiction of the famous Dublin statue of Molly Malone wearing a Muslim headscarf.

  • mickfealty

    I’m not predicating it on anything but our experience. Without falling into the trap of ‘both as bad as each other’, both sides are suffering from the fatalism generated since 1948.

    Whether the outcome is one state or two states, there will be no ‘peace’ (and I think the qualification I’ve lodged above is an important one) unless there is some commonality of interest found.

    To be deliberately trite about it, the cost to Israel of facilitating the building rather than destroying schools, hospitals and other forms of social infrastructure far outweighs the costs of even this short bloody offensive in the longer term.

    That would require a compassionate and convivially clever approach that is rarely in evidence today.

    But if they continue down this track, what is there for Palestinian kids but to get their hands on weapons, and kill more Israelis as and when they can? What is there for Israelis but endless war and uncertainty?

  • John Ó Néill

    I did ask if you meant that they applied at a macro-level. I’d add other states in the region to finding commonality (as others have mentioned here).

  • mickfealty

    Can you share some examples for us John?

  • John Ó Néill

    I’d have though the more adjoining states and other states in the region that could be convinced to see themselves as stakeholders in a solution, the better? Here, outside Britain and Ireland, the US and, to some extent, the EU expended some political capital on engaging with a process. I’m not sure anyone has articulated a clear regional vision (think of the Strands approach as a mechanism).
    Whether any of that is remotely portable as far as the eastern Mediterranean and the Arabian peninsula is a moot point, though.

  • mickfealty

    I’d like to see some material sense of this EU angle emerging in the debate today, realistically it is one of the few places where Ireland might have a direct impact…

  • AMS2013

    Did they cause offence when they cloned Irish passports to do their dirty work?
    And put Irish citizens travelling in the Middle East at risk?
    The fact that the Irish didn’t kick them out of their embassy after that affair speaks volumes.

  • chrisjones2

    Where did all those Hammas rockets come from then?

    Why do the Egyptians so tightly control their end of the strip too?

    There are two sides to this and Gaza is a terroristy statelet

  • chrisjones2

    …and the IRA leadership realised it was being defeated

  • chrisjones2

    …I am sure he has great affinity for the Palestinians old comrades in arms even if they didn’t resort to hijacking airliners like the Palestinians did

    ….as for sacrifice will he condemn the refusal to pass on the Thatcher offer that saw 5 more Hunger Strikers die for the narrow political ambitions of some in SF?

  • chrisjones2

    “a people fighting a empire”

    Just where is the Israeli empire? Or are you back to Protocols of Zion days?

    And the people don’t have any choice – they are used as human shields whether they like it or not

  • chrisjones2

    ….absolutely ….they could have bribed an Irish passport official at £200 a pop and got them that way

  • chrisjones2

    “the skills of the conflict resolution model”

    I am sorry but that really is drivel. The conflict has not ‘been resolved’ in the minds of the majority of protagonists here. They still hate each other – just look at some of the Slugger posts

  • chrisjones2

    Spot on Comrade!!!

  • AMS2013

    Well I dunno Chris.
    I shall email Mark Thatcher and ask him about his £10 million house. The Times of London seem to think his mother’s deal with Saudi Arabia had something to do with it.
    But you wrapping yourself up in the Union Jack wouldn’t recognize English corruption I suppose?

  • chrisjones2

    Reading just one book on an issue like this is generally not a good idea

  • chrisjones2

    Look you really need to think about all these zero sum sectarian comments you make. Pointing out the holes in an argument is not wrapping oneself in the flag of the opposing argument – the work is much more complex It also makes you look – well a tad sectarian and stupid. Sorry but I do mean that in a measured and kindly way!

  • chrisjones2

    PS THatcher is a twat and but for the risk of bankrupting Slugger in a libel case I would be more expansive on what i think

  • Olivia Anderson

    Firstly, apologies for my sarcasm. It was unnecessary and unhelpful. Like so many other people I am distraught and outraged by the killings of so many innocents in Gaza, especially little children. My point in referencing Ilan Pappe is that the underlying reasons for this conflict must be addressed. This is the parallel with Northern Ireland. Of course Ilan Pappe is widely criticised in Israel. He is an Israeli historian accusing his own country of ethnic cleansing. A tad controversial. Whether you believe his account or not, the fact remains that the Palestinians have a different narrative regarding the 1948 nakba/ israeli war of independence. We need to hear this viewpoint as well as Israels. The right of return for refugees, the continued illegal settlement building in the west bank, the inhumane conditions that Gazans live in are some of the issues which must be addressed as with Israeli security concerns. Hate exists very deeply and widely on both sides but as we know from our conflict, the trauma currently being inflicted on Gazans is not fostering peace in the minds and hearts of Palestinians. I wish with all my heart that the International community helps Israeli see it has ‘lost the plot’. A palestinian life is equal to that of an Israeli. The killing of small innocent children is never justified

  • Olivia Anderson

    Absolutely agree but this book is a good place to start. There are so many ironies in this conflict, one being the denial of massacres and ethnic cleansing carried out by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians in 1948. I hasten to add that there were atrocities carried out by Arabs also. But the point is that history is written by the winners, but what is the truth..? I am by no means arguing that the current conflict is about good guy, bad guy, but Israel cannot be allowed to continue to collectively punish a whole population with such blatant disregard for human life. Anyone with a heart has to protest the deaths of little children. No matter what happens now, we can never bring them back. Please use your resources to stop this madness.

  • gunterprien

    Is it not the Times of London to have those concers. They have run the story.

  • “The New Republic is led by its Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Chris Hughes. A Facebook co-founder and digital campaign strategist for the 2008 Obama Campaign, Hughes purchased The New Republic in March, 2012 to help build a future for substantive journalism in a digital age.” hardly criticism from Israel or the ‘right’.

  • Cal Murray

    “So what can Northern Ireland offer Israel/Palestine by way of a positive example?”

    Well today Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi has resigned from the government, saying its policy on the crisis in Gaza is “morally indefensible”

    Meanwhile back in 1690 unionism launched their ‘Friends of Israel’ group at Stormont last week

    So I don’t know the answer to your question, but as the old joke goes “I wouldn’t start from here”

  • Olivia Anderson

    This article was written in 2011 before Chris Huges purchase of The New Republic when it was still regarded as undeniably pro-Israel

  • Olivia Anderson

    Back to your origimal point about Gaza seeking the destruction of Israel, thereby implying that all Gazans are terrorists? Let’s cross over to the other side of the fence and hear from an Israeli member of government, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset on what he thought on 15th July about the existence and solution for Gaza ://

  • a) article still there.
    b) the question was political in respect of state so Gaza was used. Though ruling Party of Gaza is Hamas so…. while a minority may not agree, the leadership of the territory still lies with a terrorist-led Government.

  • npbinni

    An independent, courageous press would be a good start…

  • Olivia Anderson

    a) Mainly unreferenced critique by a staunchly pro Israeli publication which is beginning to move away from this position by allowing SOME critical articles against Israel through. Was not when article first published and certainly still not unbiased
    b) Your position is that as a majority of Gazans voted for Hamas, terrorists, all Gazans should suffer the consequences? Is that your position? I would argue terrorism is the weapon of choice of Israel also, in fact moreso