Understanding Zionism through "smiling Irish eyes" in America


President Obama's choice of George Mitchell to ump the Israel/Palestine peace talks draws on Irish lessons for the Middle East.

The choice of Mitchell means Irish people are going to feel that the Middle East Peace Process is somehow their business too. [Irish Americans already feel that way, because of the American tax waterfall that pours into Israel each year.]

With the Irish involved on the outside looking-in, you'll see more Flotillas teeming with angry Irish mothers demanding medicine for the Palestinians.

One can imagine blushing Israeli soldiers with ears ringing after a good scolding from Nobel Prize winner Mairéad Corrigan.

That's why the Flotillas happen, so the press in America will react, and something can get-done by the leverage of public outrage.

Irish Americans and Jewish Americans get compared in all this, because it's about the "pull" we have in America.

Irish Americans are accused of doing for Ireland what Jewish Americans do for Israel. We are accused of meddling from arm chairs on behalf of a delusional romance.

With Mitchell and Clinton pulling an Irish déjà vu in Jerusalem, there is the temptation to continue comparing the Zionist cause in America and the Irish cause here. And there is the temptation to contrast them.

The Irish and Jews have been comparing each other to each other ever since the hordes of us started coming to the Emerald City.

The romances of Ireland and Israel have long been woven together in America, especially in New York, where the secularization of Jews and Catholics produced a kind of post-religious "typical New Yorker."

Or as Lenny Bruce put it "If you live in New York, even if you're Catholic, you're Jewish."

Despite hard-core assimilation, the Irish have continued to feel about Ireland, the way the Jews feel about Israel.

When the Irish American is tempted to identify with the Palestinians, it's the same way the Jewish American identifies with the Palestinians.

Through the riling eyes of Palestinians, Jewish and Irish American liberals can see Jewish migration from Europe to Palestine as a great injustice that dislocated native Palestinians from their land without compensation. The most vocal advocates of that interpretation are often morally-focused (self-critical) Jewish Americans.

But the Jewish exodus from Europe after World War II is also like modern mass migration today--normal and acceptable everywhere. It's hard to get outraged at Jews for migrating, when everyone does it. Getting mad at them for fleeing Germany, is like getting mad at Mexicans for crossing the border.

Israelis understand that a nation-state is a tool of survival for a tiny people in a planet of huge institutions.

If a people cannot have a homeland for themselves, they cannot steer their own destiny.

In that way, I wish Ireland were more committed to its language and culture, the way Israel is so committed, because, of the two people, the Irish seem the less likely to survive the future as a distinct people.

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