A Republican Perspective On The Palestinian Uprising

The second I heard someone had been killed in ‘crossfire’ I knew it meant someone had just been murdered in broad daylight. ‘Crossfire’ is one military euphemism for cold-blooded murder, ‘ricochet’ is another.

I was present at a Republican ‘riot’ in west Belfast when Sean Downes was killed by just such a ‘ricochet’. The plastic bullet that killed him, was fired point blank into his chest by an RUC man from a distance of six feet. Within hours the media were happily regurgitating that ‘ricochet story’, giving short shrift in the process to ‘Republican allegations’. Nothing more might have come of it were it not for footage shot by a Canadian camera team being released. Similarly with the 12-year old Palestinian deliberately targeted by Israeli security forces. There too, cold-blooded murder was captured on film. In the same way too, when the two undercover Israeli soldiers were captured by Palestinians and killed on camera, it drew instant reminders of the killing of the two British soldiers by Republicans after they too took a ‘wrong turning’. Indeed as one commentator remarked, the public explanation by the Israeli and British authorities as to how they came to be in the vicinity at all were ‘practically identical’.

In much the same way as Republicans believed the undercover unit were SAS and up to no good, the Palestinians were insistent that the Israelis were also specially trained undercover assassins. By the time the counter-spin of the authorities had been given a good airing, far from being assassins, the victims had been reduced to pacifistic non-combatants, who with hindsight, ought not really to have been allowed out on their own. How the Israelis could ‘stumble’ through so many of their own road blocks, or how the Brits could possibly have been unaware of a high profile IRA funeral, the subject of international media coverage, remains a mystery. Just how mysterious largely depends on how you view the respective national liberation struggles.

On that score, to say opinion is divided is an understatement. For those like Danny Morrison, who see the Palestinian cause through the prism of Irish Republicanism, partisanship comes easy. "For this past two weeks I have watched the news about the Middle East on television but even in middle age I want to kill Israeli soldiers. Are they not the biggest cowards in the world? They shot dead a kid with his schoolbag on his back.." Opposite is the view presented by the Jerusalem Post who opinioned that, "The gruesome televised pictures of the deaths of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy and an ambulance driver who tried to save him indicate the depths to which the Palestinian use of violence for political gain will sink"

As if in rejoinder. Morrisson counters "Don’t get me wrong. The IRA have killed people. Have killed men, women and children. Caused grief. We caused grief and pain and unlimited pain. But we were held to account by our consciences, our community, and by a thing called humanity. These restraints and considerations are completely missing from the conceited and arrogant Israelis, whose conceitedness and arrogance is only made possible because the USA finance the bridgehead in the Middle East and intimidate us with the Holocaust to try and make us feel guilty."

In war as in politics, perception is everything. So in the midst of the slaughter, victimhood is the most sought after of prizes. Which is why with a killing ratio of over 20-1, Israeli propaganda began to refer to its enemies not as Palestinians but as ‘Arabs’. As the Palestinians are few and without a pot to piss in, and the Arabs deemed numerous and rich, the Israeli state with the fourth largest standing army in the world, saw advantage in inverting the David and Goliath nature of the contest. Proving that while aggression is prized in military terms, it is largely frowned upon diplomatically. And so, if it is only the enemy that is dying, it is only because like the IRA hunger strikers they are ‘fanatics’, or because like the Palestinians they “actively invite casualties”.

Alex Brummer, City Editor of the Daily Mail, expanded on that point when he asked: "what kind of people is it that sends out its young people with stones, bottles and whatever weapons can be mustered against a modern army? This is the behaviour of those who would sacrifice their children for hollow propaganda" Then again what kind of people is it that sends out a modern army that responds to stones with bullets, and to bullets with artillery, and happily sacrifices other people’s children for hollow propaganda? People who would buy a paper like the Jerusalem Post which recently ran a feature on child victims with the imperishable headline: “Child sacrifice is Palestinian Paganism”, presumably.

With one propaganda flourish worthy of Goebbells, the Palestinian is depicted not only as aggressor but as Anti-Christ. Anti-Christ is also how the Pope is depicted by Protestant fundamentalism too. Arrogance and conceitedness are also features of Unionism. Or were. For unlike Israel who are sure of the continued backing of their US sponsor, Unionism has grave doubts about the fealty of Britain and so are as divided on strategy as the cocksure Israelis are united. Until America stops believing that what happens in Israel influences the domestic policies of the United States, Israel will never feel compelled to act with ‘restraint’, to act like a democracy. Until that happens Israel will, as the Sun reminded us, remain ‘our friend’. US policy may of course some day change, but if it does ‘conscience and humanity’ will have nothing to do with it.

Reproduced from RA Bulletin Volume 4, Issue 9, November/December '00