I am reprinting below a brilliant article published by Tony Connelly on the RTE website.

It deserves to read and read over again.  It brings out how difficult it will to resolve the present conflict. As he did on Brexit, Tony  sets out the history fairly, and gets to the heart of the problem.  The work Tony does is a powerful argument for public service broadcasting.

I am putting a few comments of my own on the issue before the full text of Tony’s article. When I was EU Ambassador in Washington from 2004 to 2009, I met as many as I could of the Think Tanks focussed on the Middle East. Serious efforts were being made to resolve the issue at that time. But, in private, the prevailing stance was one of passive pessimism.

IRISH ATTITUDES

Like everyone else, I have been thinking and worrying about the atrocious war that is going on in Gaza following the attack by Hamas on innocent civilians in Southern  Israel. 

It is difficult to say anything useful about a solution to the present situation without first having studied the history of the area going back at least as far as the Balfour Declaration on 1917. But history can also become a resource from which one can draw,   to feed one’s own prejudices. 

Irish nationalists of all hues tend to sympathise with the Palestinians. This is because a shared feeling of having been dispossessed . This happened to Palestinians in the first half of the  20th century. Something similar happened to Irish Catholics in the Seventeenth Century.. Both  jobs were done by a combination of military conquest and  legal artifices. 

Less convincingly, Anti British feeling also influences Irish Nationalist feeling on the issue , because the British are accused of favouring Jewish  over Palestinian interests in the inter war period.In fact, by the late 1930s the British leant more towards the Palestinian side.

ASK HARD QUESTION OF ONES OWN SIDE

Identity politics is also playing a part. 

People can wave their personal flag as being “pro Palestinian rights” or “pro Israel”. Once having comfortably taken a side, they often  absolve themselves from thinking about what might solve the problem, a more fifficult exercise because it would involve making or supporting concessions by ones own  “side”.

I would ask pro Israeli demonstrators the question 

    “What do you think Israel should do to give Palestinians  peace , security and freedom?”

I would ask pro Palestinian demonstrators a similar question

    “What do you think Palestinians should do to offer Israeli Jews peace, security and freedom?”

These are hard questions. But they are not trick questions. It is only by thinking oneself into the mind of one’s adversary that one can turn an adversary into a partner.  

There is an added difficulty in this case. That is that Israel wants to be a Jewish State. Palestinians, on the other hand, would accept a secular state, or an Arab state.  

A one state solution would be difficult for Israel to accept because Jews might not be a majority within such a state. There would have to be very robust minority protections in any one state system and these could prove to be difficult to enforce, in the wake of recent atrocities.

RTE.IE

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