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Sunday, February 08, 2009

The 'Palestinians' and Sinn Fein/IRA

In Sunday's JPost, Sean Gannon urges Israelis to resist the 'Irish model' that we all expect George Mitchell, President Hopenchange's 'middle east envoy' to try to foist on us.
Rarely acknowledged in this regard is that the fundamental feature of this model was the drawing by the British and Irish political establishments of a wholly dubious distinction between the Republican movement's political and military wings, Sinn Fein and the IRA, which despite separate organizational structures, had overlapping membership and frequently shared command. This allowed the Republican movement to make progress in the political arena while continuing to prosecute its terrorist campaign through what it called its "tactical use of armed strategy." Indeed, it explicitly stated that it would "take power in Ireland with a ballot paper in one hand and an Armalite in the other." Consequently, some of the worst IRA atrocities were committed in the 1980s and early 1990s, as Sinn Fein's political star ascended.

Despite Sinn Fein's entry into official negotiations being conditioned on its acceptance of the Mitchell Principles on the adoption of "democratic and exclusively peaceful means" and a commitment to future disarmament, the IRA continued (even after the signing of the Belfast Agreement) to engage in military recruitment and training, target surveillance and intelligence gathering. It was implicated in dozens of murders, most notoriously that of Robert McCartney in January 2005. It also continued inflicting brutal "punishment beatings" on what it considered wayward members of the Catholic community, and raising funds through protection rackets, smuggling and bank robberies, including the $50 million Northern Bank heist which took place as the political leadership conducted final-status-type talks in December 2004.

Although the IRA formally announced the end of its terrorist campaign in July 2005 and the complete destruction of its arsenal two months later, the Independent Monitoring Commission (while acknowledging that the Republican movement had taken "a strategic decision to follow a political path" and did not "present a terrorist threat") was still reporting paramilitary and criminal activity throughout much of 2006. The ongoing controversy surrounding the brutal murder of Paul Quinn in October 2007 demonstrates that there is still something rotten in the Republican "state."

GIVEN THAT US complicity played a major role in legitimizing the spurious Sinn Fein/IRA divide, Washington's insistence that Hamas cannot "have one foot in politics and the other in terror" should be treated with caution. While it does not currently differentiate between Hamas's political and military wings, future acceptance of a semi-fictional distinction between a political "Change and Reform Movement"' and a military "Izzadin al-Kassam Brigades" which would permit Khaled Mashaal, Mahmoud al-Zahar and Ismail Haniyeh a Gerry Adams-style strut on the international stage cannot be entirely discounted, particularly given last year's reports that advisers to Barack Obama had met with Hamas. This is precisely what OC Intelligence Corps Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze'evi-Farkash had in mind when he told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in March 2005 that "Hamas [was] examining ways to adopt the Irish model."

This must be resisted at all costs. The Irish model's toleration of a level of terrorist activity in the interests of reaching an agreement was barely supportable in a situation where IRA attacks were by then seldom indiscriminate (limited largely to military and economic targets) and not intended to cause mass slaughter. But this "Irish solution to an Irish problem" is unthinkable in the case of Hamas, which makes every possible effort to inflict maximum casualties and whose demands are, in any case (unlike those of Republicans), not amenable to political accommodation.

If Northern Ireland has a lesson for the Middle East conflict it is this: Terrorists will not lay down their weapons until they feel they are left with no choice. Sinn Fein/IRA's decision to renounce violence was largely the result of exhaustion, an exhaustion born both of repeated military reversals and increasing pressure to end its campaign from elements of its own wider community, from Irish constitutional nationalists and the Catholic Church to the Dublin government and, latterly, Irish America.
Gannon misses a far more important reason why the Irish model is inapplicable to Israel. Sinn Fein's goal was to bring about the withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland, and in the long run to reunite Northern Ireland with Ireland. It did not seek to dislodge the British from the United Kingdom, nor did it seek to expel Protestants who were willing to live in peace from Northern Ireland.

The 'Palestinians' goal is to expel Israel from all of 'Palestine' - 'from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea.' They have been offered nearly all of Judea and Samaria and they turned it down. They didn't just decline the offer because it was 'only' 98% of Judea and Samaria (and all of Gaza) with land from what would remain of Israel to make up the 'missing' 2%. They declined the offer because no Israeli government has been willing to allow the mass migration of third and fourth generation 'refugees' into what would remain of Israel after such a 'settlement.' What the 'Palestinians' call the 'right of return' ought to negate any notion that the 'Palestinian' dispute with Israel is anything like Sinn Fein's dispute with the United Kingdom.


At 6:26 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The two disputes are completely different. No Israeli government is willing to commit national suicide for the Palestinians and although most Israeli Jews have accepted a two state solution, it is also quite clear to them it will never happen because that is not enough for the Palestinians. In any event, the debate in Israel is not about the spurious "right of return" but rather about to deal with the 20% Arab minority in Israel. And the proposed solutions to that question are about as removed from the fantasy of destroying Israel as Israel's enemies could imagine. In view of Arab intransigence, the Northern Ireland model is inapplicable to the Middle East conflict.


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