AS the Israeli ‘Defence’ Forces (IDF) continue the slaughter of the innocent, other countries either side with Israel (US, UK) or rage/weep as the indiscriminate bombing goes on. Is there any way a permanent settlement to the enmity between Palestinians and Israelis can be arrived at? Let’s first dig into the origins of the problem.
Some months before the end of World War One, British troops commanded by General Sir Edmund 'the Bull' Allenby marched into Jerusalem and the League of Nations effectively said, “OK, Britain, Palestine is yours." The British ran things in Palestine until 1948, when they withdrew. The British recommendation was (you’ve guessed it) that Palestine should be partitioned. The United Nations acted on the suggestion.
Palestine was split in two in 1948, one part to go to Palestinians, one part to form the new state of Israel. Those Palestinians living in what was now deemed Israel were dispossessed of their land, had to leave their homes and try to live in the part of Palestine kindly allocated to Palestinians. Think the plantation of Ulster, with the native Irish being told to go to “Hell or Connacht” and you’ve pretty well nailed it. It’s reckoned that over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled to make way for the new state of Israel. That kind of thing – dispossession and partition – tends to scar the national soul.
Israel today seems intent on inflicting further scars. Since October 7, some estimates say over 3,000 children have been killed by Israeli forces. Can you imagine the reaction of the outside world if in, say, County Louth, hundreds of children were put to death each day, and this went on for weeks? Maybe Israel should check some recent Irish history and beware: after fourteen innocent people were shot dead by the British army in Derry, the queues to join the IRA stretched around the block.
But Israel, blind to history, continues to justify the slaughter. On TV we regularly see the handsome face (think a younger Hugh Grant) of Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, explaining why the slaughter of Palestinian children is necessary: Israel has a right to self-defence, the figures of casualties are coming from Hamas sources which can’t be trusted, Hamas is using the Palestinian people as a shield and must not be allowed to escape. The deaths of any innocent Palestinians are not on the conscience of Israel; the guilty party is Hamas.
Joe Biden and Britain’s Tory party are so focused on re-election they dismiss Israeli cruelty. For them, it all started one October 7, when Hamas killed innocent Israelis, disembowelling, beheading, torturing. On the BBC’s Question Time last Thursday, one Tory Minister insisted that the source of the conflict was the incursion of Hamas and the killing of innocent Israelis on October 7. The decades before that, when the Palestinian people, over two million of them, were confined to a strip of land smaller than County Louth, the illegal building of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, the shooting dead of Palestinians – all that was nothing. The brutal assault of October 7 was everything.
People who pride themselves on their fair-mindedness, like the British Labour Party, repeatedly voice support for Israel and recommend a two-nation solution. How about instead one state?
One secular state where no religion dominates, where government is democratic and orderly, where Israelis live among and respect Palestinians, and vice versa. Partitioning, as we in Ireland know, separates people, creates notions of ‘themuns’ and ‘usuns’. Is a peaceful Palestine, with Jews and Arabs living alongside each other in respect and dignity, too much to ask?