RYLE DWYER: Military behaving badly – don’t think it’s just an Israeli problem

WITH the World Cup about to start, people will inevitably regret that Ireland are not there. “France are going to the World Cup,” as Roy Keane rather infamously said, “get over it!”

Hitler and the Nazis persecuted the Jews more than a half-century ago. They killed six million. It seems some of the media are saying to them, “get over it.”

Of course, it is not that simple. How long did it take us to get over Cromwell? After more than 360 years, you could hardly be blamed for thinking Ollie is still causing problems in the North.

The Israelis lives constantly with a variant of the Nazi threat, but that does not justify their behaviour towards the Palestinians. Israel offered to deliver relief material to Gaza after examining the cargo. Surely, as long as Hamas insists it has a right to fire rockets into Israel, the Israeli government has not only the right but also a duty to protect its people.

The Auxiliaries lost two of their men in Dublin on the morning of Bloody Sunday in November 1920, but the crowd at the football match at Croke Park that afternoon had nothing to do with the killings. The Auxiliaries essentially went in to teach the Paddies a lesson. They fired indiscriminately at the spectators.

Fifteen people were killed, including 10 year-old Jeremiah O’Leary and 14-year-old John Scott, along with Jane Boyle, who went to the game with her fiancée. They were due to marry five days later.

For decades we decried the behaviour of the Black and Tans, but our own soldiers and government behaved as badly. In 1923, Irish troops took nine prisoners from the jail in Tralee, tied them to a mine at Ballyseedy and blew them up. Colleagues took five prisoners from Killarney and blew them up at Countessbridge the same day. In each instance one man survived to tell the story. The following week Free State troops shot five prisoners from Caherciveen in each leg to ensure none escaped after they blew them up.

The Israelis have been trying to teach the Palestinians a similar brutal lesson over the years. History indicates that such conduct is counterproductive. At My Lai in March 1968, the Americans murdered more than 500 Vietnamese civilians.

Wartime depravity was not confined to the Nazis, the British, the Americans, or the Israelis. We were just as capable of barbarity. This is part of war and human nature.

The Israelis contend they were willing to forward humanitarian aid to Gaza, but the ships in the flotilla were unwilling to comply because the Israelis have been withholding various supplies of an economic nature. Yet sending the Turks in first smacked of a cynical publicity stunt, and Israel went for it, hook, line and sinker.

The people of Gaza are, however, being treated like Jewish people in the Warsaw Ghetto back in the early 1940s. The Israelis should find that particularly reprehensible.

It is time for the international community to get together and put pressure on the Israelis to ensure that all non-war material is forwarded to Gaza.

Israel’s Ambassador to Ireland, Zion Evrony, reportedly said cement could help build up the infrastructure for Hamas. What is his aim – to keep the Palestinians in the gutter, or protect Israel?

During the slavery era in the US, there were concerted efforts to keep black people illiterate because they might be dangerous with an education. We had evidence of this kind of thinking in Ireland as late at the 1950s.

When the postmistress in a Co Galway town put up a petition calling for a local secondary school in the 1950s, she was told to take it down by the parish priest who said young people would make better Catholics without a secondary education. Maybe he thought they would remain gullible enough to heed an idiot like himself. Fortunately Mrs O’Sullivan was made of sterner stuff than so many of the politicians of her era. She pressed ahead and the town got the secondary school. Her son is now a state solicitor.

“If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence,” Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu contends. People may be highly sceptical about that, especially while Palestinians are being shamelessly mistreated, but many would probably agree with Netanyahu when he added: “If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.”

People on the Rachel Corrie should demonstrate that their mission is one of love for Palestinians, not of hate against the Israelis. They can do this by inviting the Israelis to assure themselves that there are no weapons on board, and the Israelis must accept that medicine, food, cement, toys and educational material are not offensive weapons.

Well-meaning people should not allow themselves to be used as tools by those with ulterior motives. This applies to both the Israeli supporters and their critics.

In 1956 the British and French hatched a secret plan to get the Israelis to start a war with Egypt, so that Britain could seize the Suez Canal on the pretext of protecting the waterway by keeping the two warring sides apart. British prime minister Anthony Eden lied shamelessly to the House of Commons about his outrageous behaviour.

John Foster Dulles, the secretary of state under US president Dwight Eisenhower pulled the rug from under the British. The Americans threatened to undermine the British pound if Britain did not stop the aggression.

The British backed off. The implications for the Middle East were long term, but there were reverberations in Ireland, too. The future British prime minister Ted Heath was the chief whip of the Eden government in 1956.

EDEN and company should have been charged with war crimes for starting that conflict in the Middle East. He was forced out of politics, but Heath stayed on to become prime minister and preside over the government that was responsible for the Bloody Sunday massacre in Northern Ireland in January 1972.

If those responsible for the Suez debacle had been held accountable, would Ted Heath have survived politically and would the second Bloody Sunday have happened?

Confrontation breeds conflict which takes on a life of its own.

The EU could play a major role in persuading the Israelis that it is in their own interest to ensure the mistreatment of the Palestinians is stopped. If it requires an international boycott of all Israeli exports to bring them to their senses, so be it.

John Foster Dulles was reputed to have said he could not understand why the Arabs and Israelis could not settle their differences in a Christian spirit. On this island, we had Christians at each other throats in Northern Ireland.

As the Rachael Corrie was heading for Gaza on Thursday, Ian Paisley was in the Distinguished Visitors Gallery in Dáil. That would have been unthinkable 10 years ago.

George Mitchell, who played a vital role in the Northern Ireland peace process, should be supported in his efforts in the Middle East. And we should be particularly suspicious of anyone who would try to use events in that troubled area to divert attention from our own difficulties here. There is too much posturing.


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