Palestine and Ireland 

The first British military governor of Palestine, Ronald Storrs, wrote that the purpose of the 1917 Balfour Decleration was to create a “loyal Jewish Ulster in a sea of potentially hostile Arabism.” The settler-colony of Israel was created by the same imperialist interests which colonised Ireland and brutalised our people. However, the same anti-imperialism motivates Irish people to take to the streets every week in steady numbers to show solidarity with the people of Palestine. 

Lord Balfour, whose 1917 Declaration committed the British state to establishing the Israeli state, was known in Ireland as “Bloody Balfour” because of his order to the RIC to open fire on a land reform protest in Co. Cork in 1887, while he was chief secretary for Ireland. The British high commissioner for Palestine, who ordered air strikes on Palestinians in 1921, Herbert Samuel, oversaw the internment of Irish republicans after the Easter Rising and signed off on the execution of Roger Casement. Indeed, Sir Winston Churchill came up with the idea to deploy veterans of the Black and Tans to Palestine, confident that their terrorist tactics would work as successfully in Palestine as they did in Ireland. Later, the Palestinian struggle developed strong support for the Irish struggle for self-determination and national unity. 

There are countless examples of support between Provisional IRA and PLO prisoners, or murals in republican heartlands in the north of Ireland declaring the Irish and Palestinian struggle to be one and the same. To be clear, the support of the Irish people for Palestine is not reciprocated by the Irish government. While the government has been forced by popular pressure to take relatively sympathethic positions relating to Gaza, we should not accept this as being devoid of self-interest. 

In reality, the government’s expressions of support are kept tightly controlled by the EU and USA. The talk about Israel’s crimes is just that, talk. The government still has diplomatic and economic relations with the Zionist state. The Israeli Ambassador is given regular airtime on RTE to defend the genocide her government is carrying out. Fine Gael have indicated support for Ursula Von Der Leyen’s bid for a second term as head of the EU Commission, despite her uncritical support for Israel’s genocide. 

In 2023, the Irish state exported 70 million euro worth of dual-use items to Israel, which can be used for military purposes. RTÉ have requested people to remove badges supporting Palestine when appearing on-air. This is to say nothing of the St. Patrick’s Day visit to the US where the Irish government, and Sinn Féin, will meet with Genocide Joe himself. On a recent appearance on the Late Late Show, Sinn Féin’s new First Minister in the northern statelet, Michelle O’Neill, stated that the US “has always been a strong partner for peace”. 

This will certainly be news to the people of Gaza being bombed by a military funded by the US, as it will be news to the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, the Cuban, Nicaraguan, Iranian, and Venezeulan people living under the effects of US sanctions. The fact that the current government parties refused to withdraw aid for the UNRWA, as well as the fact that Sinn Féin changed their position of silence on calling for the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador, are clear signs that public pressure is working. It has led many activists to see the reality of how popular organising can deliver change, and how the Irish ruling class is ultimately beholden to Brussels, London and Washington, regardless of which party is in government. 

The support for Palestine from sports stars, GAA clubs, musicians, celebrities, and above all, from the Irish people in general, for Palestine, has meant that the issue is not just one relegated to the already politically involved. Whether it be attending the huge protests up and down the country or the growth of the BDS campaign, we can say that we are on the right side of history in this struggle. 

The reality of our experience with a settler-colony in the north-east of Ireland is what leads our people to take a stand in support of those suffering from the colonisation of Palestine. Just as Israeli military jets bombard Gaza, we are reminded, for example, of when the Black and Tans burned down Cork City in 1920. As we see Palestinian children murdered by the Zionist military, we remember the Irish children murdered by the British military, such as Majella O’Hare, aged 12, murdered by a British paratrooper in Co. Armagh in 1976. 

We can also use as an example Blinne Ni Ghralaigh, the Irish lawyer who spoke so eloquently at the Hague for South Africa. She has said that she was inspired to take up law after learning about the British murder of Majella O’Hare. It can be clearly seen that for all the death and destruction created by imperialism, it also creates its own gravediggers. Saoirse don Phailistín!