One of the things about the Israel/Palestine conflict is that you cannot really get to discuss it in rational terms. Many of my efforts to do so have ended in rancour and hostility. I have been smeared and called all kinds of terrible things; Nazi, dupe, Commie, idiot, Terrorist and anti-Semitic—even by those who advocate against Arabs. I might be guilty of some of those, some of the time, but not all of them. I do, however, admit to being Irish and while that might make me suspect in some eyes, it does grant me a certain perspective.
Many people have found similarities between the Irish and the Jewish people—in their suffering and their endurance. Recently, I read that at least some of the Irish may be descended from the lost tribe of Israel. The Tuatha Dé Danann are usually referred to as the people of the Goddess Danu but now some educated class of individual is professing that they might in fact be the tribe of Dan who, we have been told, vanished from the pages of history. Regardless, the Tuatha Dé Danann are listed in our ancient Leabhar Gabhála – The Book of Invasions which chronicles all the tribes that came over and subjugated Ireland and the decent savages that lived there before them, only to be subjugated in turn by newer arrivals – not unlike the Middle East.
I hope for the sake of Jewish people everywhere that it is not true because the Irish can be the most foolish race on the face of the Earth. Even after a millennium of occupation, oppression, being sold off as slaves and finally being starved off a land that was overflowing with food; we turned around and put ourselves in the hands of sleveens and gombeens who demanded our unquestioning allegiance to the good, Catholic State that our sacrifices, great and small, had paid for.
Not for us was it to ponder on the fact that it was the pope himself—albeit an English one—who had signed us over, lock, stock and barrel. Nor was it for us to listen to the likes of James Connolly who warned us that the real fight would begin when the English were gone. No, the possibility that our ancient quest for freedom, and a place to call our own, might be finally over left us dumb and blind and, as the great bank robbery of a few years ago—and the revelation that some of our clergy had been buggering us, literally and figuratively, for years—suggests, subjugated to a new breed of masters.
A clever bunch they were too. They called-out dissenters from the pulpits and derided them in front of their friends and neighbours. Questioning the actions of Church or State was not tolerated as the two institutions were now firmly hand-in-glove. And when it was time to declare ourselves a Republic, guided by the wishes of the people, didn’t our own President send our sacred Constitution off to the Vatican for vetting, even before the people got to accept it.
Hand in glove they were, guiding us like sheep and keeping our little country good and Catholic against all the evils of the world. And those who fell by the wayside; the unmarried mothers; the victims of buggery and abuse; those infected with Socialism and any who dared to question, were shipped off to England.
For what died the son of Roisin then? You may well ask. Only don’t be expecting to get the answer from our political leaders—or the media. What after Assange and Snowden? Who in their right mind can believe a single thing that governments and media say? Who, indeed, you might ask.
Well, it seems that there are lots of us still bound by the prejudices that we learned as children; still believing that by virtue of our history that we will always have right on our side, still willing to huddle under the wings of those who want us to see enemies in any that don’t agree with us.
In Ireland, we learned to ‘litanize’ all the terrible things that were done to us. We learned to idolize our martyrs and to not question those that had picked up the sputtering torch of freedom from their dying hands. And when the fighting flared up again in the North, when the descendants of those who were sent as settlers refused to acknowledge the legal right of the indigenous and let loose their mobs on the Civil Rights marchers and called in the old enemy, the Boys struck back killing and maiming people in the shops and the bars. We shook our heads and blessed ourselves. “Tis the only way,” we told ourselves. “It’s the only language they understand.” But when the other side struck back and killed some of ours, we counted them out on our rosary beads and wrote songs and swore vengeance for each and every one. Martyrs, they were, martyrs for the cause. Didn’t we have the weight of history behind us? Hadn’t the other side let loose their convicts and savages to murder and pillage and burn our homes around us? And then have the gall to call us the terrorists. But after a millennium, even the Irish grow tired of fighting and an uneasy peace has lingered far longer than many a betting man would have wagered. It’s not perfect but it will have to do. At the very least we have stopped murdering each other—for the most part.
What has all of this got to do with what’s going on in the ‘Accursed Land?’ Well, being Irish, I can understand the importance of a homeland to the Jewish people. But also by virtue of being Irish, I can understand the Palestinian point of view. Being overrun and occupied can induce even the most docile into resistance. I can understand both points of view. I can understand them but I cannot agree with what passes for the ‘narrative.’ You see, just like in Ireland, the past is awful murky—something I began to glimpse when I realised that my parents’ families had been on opposite sides during our civil war. (Now that was an interesting turn of events when our own government used arms supplied by our former oppressor to defeat those who opposed the partition of the country.) And we still haven’t gotten to the bottom of what was true and what were the lies of State. Even talking about it could still get you nearly-killed in some parts of the country, not unlike if you go poking you nose into the pages of recent history when those who sought to create a Jewish homeland may have had reason to sit and talk with one of the most dreadful regimes the world has seen.
The older I get the more I realise that we, the ordinary people, have far more in common with those that our masters would have us call enemies. This, I believe, is a reason to hope that we might yet avoid the great catastrophe that some of our ancient texts predicted.And let’s hope that the Jewish people can avoid the trap the Irish fell into.