The atrocious Hamas massacre and hostage -taking in Israel was intended to have the exact outcome which is now unfolding before our eyes. Their evil calculus was, and is, that Israel would unleash a mighty retribution on the entire people and territory of the Gaza strip. What else could they have expected and hoped for? It was intended as a polarising event.
We cannot, at this stage, predict its exact longterm consequences. Could Netanyahu have stayed his hand? Could he have survived politically staying his hand? Would he choose to do so if it meant his loss of office? To Hamas, the answers were obvious. They want him to do his worst. And in all probability, he will attempt to achieve what his defence minister has predicted – making Gaza a “tent city”.
How has the western alliance allowed things to get to the point where all of this seems not only possible but inevitable, barring a miracle? Why did the European Union for so long appear to condone the creeping annexation by the Israeli right of the West Bank? It had no such doubts in relation to Russian annexation of eastern Ukraine?
Why has Europe not struggled free from the dominance of the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) in Washington’s approach to the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
When a majority of Irish parliamentarians in both Houses of the Oireachtas backed the Seanad’s passage of the Occupied Territories bill, our then Government told us that its enactment would be unlawful as a matter of EU law and then scandalously tried to use the withholding of a “money message” as a constitutional means to prevent Dáil Éireann from passing the Seanad bill.
Why did a relatively minor legal measure meant as a gesture to uphold the territorial integrity of the boundaries of Israel in accordance with Resolution 242 of the United Nations find itself foot-tripped and the rights of Palestinians under international law frustrated by an Irish government and its Department of Foreign Affairs? Were we that concerned to keep rank with the EU’s policy of squeaking appeasement?
Did we not sense where the Netanyahu regime was driving things? Where in our newspapers is there a trace of Ireland doing anything seriously noticeable or effective at EU level to halt the Israeli policy of West Bank settlement – a policy clearly intended to make a two-state solution impossible and thereby extinguish any hope for Palestinian nationhood?
There is no point in having policy in a shoebox in Iveagh House. Irish people, in the overwhelming majority, support Israel’s right to exist and to security in its internationally recognised borders. The Irish people have the right to expect some degree of assertiveness on the part of the Irish Government - the executive power in the Irish state – to uphold international law in relation to those boundaries. Successive Irish governments have failed us by acquiescing in the EU’s acquiescence over creeping annexation of the West Bank.
When Netanyahu’s government described the supporters of the Occupied Territories Bill passed in the Seanad as “anti-semites”, and called in the Irish ambassador to Israel for a formal dressing down, those of us -including Ivana Bacik, David Norris, myself, and others wondered just what excuses were offered on our behalf by our envoy? Was there an assurance that the Bill would be allowed die?
Hamas is a terrorist, extreme Islamist organisation which won an election 18 years ago in Gaza – and none since. As a faction, it was tolerated by the occupying Israeli regime in Gaza because it seemed to weaken PLO/ Fatah influence on the West Bank. Hamas no more equates to the Palestinian people today than the Provisional IRA equated to Catholic nationalists in Northern Ireland throughout the Troubles. Like the IRA, Hamas thrives on repression and brutal force deployed against the population which is its political habitat.
There is now no question of reversing the mass clearance of Arab people from the lands they occupied in 1948 at the end of the British League of Nations mandate.
Any settlement of the conflict will have to be based on a two-state solution. Illegal post 1967 Israeli settlements on the West Bank are reversable – even if the Netanyahu’s ideology denies this. Massive international economic backing for a peaceful settlement could create lasting security for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Irish people know that the Palestinians, however terribly misled, have been massively let down by the international community and by their Arab allies.
Describing such sympathy for the Palestinians as redolent of the Third Reich in Ireland, as was unfortunately done this week by a former member of the Irish Government, is not merely offensive and deluded, but gravely damaging to any of us who consider themselves friends of both Israelis and of Palestinians.
Photo credit: Tasnim News Agency