In 1972 the British government suspended the Northern Irish Assembly in Belfast. This was a massive strategic victory for the I.R.A. No longer could the situation be viewed as a problem between Catholics and Protestants in the province and it became plain to all but the most myopic that what we had here was an occupation by the British. It was a strategic victory that has not been without its consequences, for while the national question has not yet been solved in Ireland, we no longer have a fascist unionist state in the north but rather an all inclusive entity where all identities are respected.
There are not always parallels between Ireland and Palestine but there is an interesting one here. During the first intifada from 1987 to 1993, the nature of the occupation was obvious to all and sundry and then we had the signing of the ‘Oslo Accords’ and the return to Palestine of an already senile Arafat and what happened afterward? An enfeebled Palestinian Authority was made responsible for the actions of its citizens who were imprisoned in “Bantustans” in the West Bank and Gaza, while the settler colonialisation speeded up. The mainstream media can now apportion, almost all of the blame for Israel’s actions on the Hamas “government” in Gaza and the Palestinian “Authority” in Ramallah. It is almost as if, we hadn’t had over thirty years of illegal occupation and that we had some sort of level playing field between the colonial opressor and the opressed.
One wonders how Martin McGuiness, as the Chief Negotiator for the ‘Sinn Fein’ would have reacted if the British and the Unionists had offered the Nationalist community in Ireland self-government in West Belfast, the Bogside, Crossmaglen and a few other isolated towns with a nationalist majority, while the Unionists and the British supervised who went into and left those areas, while they stole land from the Nationalist community to build loyalist settlements and while they made the I.R.A. responsible for policing “their” people and collectively punishing the whole of the Nationalist community for any attacks on loyalist and British institutions. Think about it, because that is what, in fact, happened and is happening in Palestine. Of course, the comparison shouldn’t be exagerrated and we shouldn’t forget the array of historical and political constraints that have mitigated against the Palestinians since the beginning of their struggle. Nevertheless, it would appear that when it comes to strategy and negotiating there is a lesson to be learned from Ireland.
The picture above was shot during the first intifada.