Ireland and Palestine: A Historical Solidarity

Activists gather in solidarity with Palestine on Bedford Row. Image: Gemma Good
Activists gather in solidarity with Palestine on Bedford Row. Image: Gemma Good

“There was never a good war or a bad peace” – Benjamin Franklin

On Saturday, October 7, a Palestinian militant group by the name of Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel. It was the worst attack that the region had seen in decades. What’s followed has been chaos – mass destruction and trauma that will last a lifetime, for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Since then, Palestinians have witnessed the annexation of more and more of their land, as well as the mass arrest of their citizens, with one in five Palestinians being imprisoned by the Israeli state without trial. Israel has retaliated against Gaza for Saturday morning’s attacks with a full siege – cutting off electricity, food and medical supplies to Palestinians.

As the world watches this war escalate, Ireland is one of few Western countries to stand up for Palestine. News broke on October 9 that Ireland rejected the European Union’s suspension of aid to Palestine. Irish politicians have spoken out about the conflict, showing support to the Palestinian civilians.

Ireland and Palestine have a long-standing relationship. In 1980, Ireland was the first European Union member state to recognise the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and have continuously scrutinised and condemned Israel’s policies against Palestine. This can be explained by a close historical connection between the two places.

Irish Republicans have developed a connection between the Irish fight for freedom under British rule and Palestine’s fight for freedom under Israel. During the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the IRA received arms from the PLO and also trained alongside them in Libya. Paramilitary groups such as the Provisional IRA are widely condemned nowadays in Ireland and they do not speak for the majority of Irish people anymore. However, it is an irrevocable part of our history and it is undeniable that many Irish people recognise their struggle and empathise with the Palestinians.

People Before Profit held an ‘Emergency Solidarity Rally’ outside the Dáil on October 9 and protests are also being carried out in Limerick, Naas, Belfast and Waterford. The sheer amount of solidarity rallies shows the close relationship Ireland and Palestine have with one another.

At the Dublin demonstration, Richard Boyd Barrett TD said: “What we are witnessing from Israel, the United States and the European Union, and sadly from our own government, are utterly shocking, indefensible double standards,” referencing funding given by Ireland to Ukraine.

“The Palestinian people haven’t asked for missiles or weapons from NATO, all they have asked is for the US and the Western world to acknowledge that Israel is an apartheid state that is built on the systematic, ongoing ethnic cleansing, oppression and persecution of the Palestinian people since the day it was founded,” he continued.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is long, complicated and has been fuelled by propaganda. The origins of the conflict lie more than 100 years ago with the Balfour Declaration. Former UK foreign minister Arthur Balfour wrote a letter in 1917 declaring the UK government’s commitment to establish Palestine as the national home for Jewish people. A mandate created in 1923 then allowed for mass Jewish immigration to Palestine from Britain, creating a threatening atmosphere for the Palestinian people on their changing land.

Whilst Ireland will never be a prominent international power, the Western world can follow our empathetic approach to Gaza, that most of the world readily showed to Ukraine. This war is particularly controversial, but no one should shy away from speaking out for the benefit of other people.

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