Choosing sides between Irish and British, Jews and Palestinians

The Israeli and the Irish governments are wrestling on the international stage, and it's not good for the Irish.

The media drama between the nations was set on the high seas when the Irish arm of the Free Gaza Movement stocked a harmless cargo boat with food supplies and famous Irish Civil Rights activists, including Nobel Peace prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire and set sail.

The purpose was to bring relief and attention to a civilian population enduring collective punishment in order that they "be persuaded" to "change their minds" as New York Senator Chuck Schumer recently put it so chillingly.

The supply ship was named MV Rachel Corrie and carried a consignment of aid with 19 crew, among them five Irish nationals, and the Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen's blessing. He gave stern warning to Israel "If any harm comes to any of our citizens it will have the most serious consequences."

The ship was named for the 23-year-old American who was killed in Gaza in 2003 while trying to prevent an Israeli bulldozer demolishing a Palestinian home. No meaningful consequences have resulted in that case, and the distinction assumed between western citizens and Palestinians blurs as international law becomes blatantly inconsequential to the Israeli government and more and more civilians die without fallout.


The Irish government is calling now for an Israeli diplomat to be bounced from Dublin for her involvement in a scandal where Irish passports were forged and used by assassins who killed Palestinian leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.

The entire message sent over and over by Israel is that it will not be bound by international law. The list is long and macabre, but very clear--the murder of Rachel Corrie, the murder of American crewmen on the USS Liberty, the use of forged Irish passports to wage assassination campaigns, the murder of nine activists on May 31st, the civilian massacres in Qana, the crippling infrastructure-targeting of Lebanon and Palestine, the boldly illegal settlement constructions in East Jerusalem--Israel will not be bound by international law.

The media cycle of late has given coverage to three truth tribunal stories that are being woven together and so are weaving together the Irish/British and Jewish/Palestinian problems in the public mind.


1) Bloody Sunday has finally been declared a crime of unquestionable massacre. 2) As that story is circulating, the British government has successfully won big cash settlements from Libya for its role in supplying the IRA. 3) And now Israel has appointed Ulster Unionist David Trimble to be its foreign observer at the UN investigations into what happened on the flotilla on May 31st that led to the deaths of nine civilian Turks.

My worry is that Israel's disregard for international law gives it freedom to do as it pleases and punish countries that threaten it, and that Ireland would now be on that enemy list. Ireland would do well to remember what happened to Lebanon. David Trimble's appointment is just more indication of an old alliance between Ulster Unionism, British royalism and Greater Israel Zionism.

When Israel destroyed Lebanon, first in 1981, and then in 2006, it did so brutally, and with maximum damage to Lebanon's infrastructure, including oil spills in their harbor and mass slayings of citizens, including children, famously at Sabra and Shatila in 1981, and then at Qana in 1996 and again there in 2006. The brutality puts Bloody Sunday in sickening perspective.

And that is just what the Irish government is decrying. Instead of the world coming to terms and learning to accept more and more slaughter and outrage as the new standard, the benchmark should be Bloody Sunday, where any civilian casualty is an outrage, never excused by lame soldier stories, and investigated rigorously until justice is achieved with punishment.

The Irish faith that their human rights are somehow better protected than Palestinians and Lebanese is so far substantiated. For whatever reason, we still turn a blind eye to civilian murders by invasive state armies into the Arab world, but not so for westerners. Turkey is especially vocal in its demand that its nine murdered citizens be treated as westerners at the flotilla investigation. The fine line between those citizens that matter and those that don't is crossed and double-crossed in this world and is by no means clearly defined.

Such a fact is what made Taoiseach Brian Cowen's threat that Israel had better not harm any of Ireland's citizens aboard MV Rachel Corrie or face "most serious consequences" seem at least violable.

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