year, Henry McDonald, writing in the Observer,
made the following claim. 'A huge manhunt was underway
last night for an Irish republican bomb-maker who
is believed to be training Palestinian terrorists
in Israel.' As it transpired, the 'bombmaker' eventually
arrested was a member of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity
Campaign (IPSC). His business in the Middle East was
exclusively humanitarian. The Israeli authorities
accepted this and released him. Yesterday, in the same
outlet, Henry McDonald ran with a further article
entitled, Republican says Zionists will hijack
Holocaust Day. Its substance, unfortunately,
was as tenuous as the earlier piece.
is without doubt, genuinely interested in the promotion
of a human rights culture. He has also done much to
push back the encroachment of censorship. But when
addressing matters germane to Palestine related human
rights activity in Ireland, his view that Israel is
a democratic island in an otherwise totalitarian Middle
East, distorts his perspective to the point of illogicality.
In the article, it was claimed that the chairperson
of the Belfast Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign,
Feilim O hAdhmaill, denounced Belfast's Holocaust
claimed that the
Holocaust commemoration would be used by local Zionists.
It was also claimed that in his communiqué
to pro-Palestinian activists, he tried to make direct
comparisons between Nazism and Israeli policies on
the West Bank and Gaza.
supposed denunciation of Holocaust Day was said to
be contained within a private e-mail sent by Feilim
O hAdhmaill to his colleagues within the IPSC and
which the Observer managed to obtain a copy
of. So what did O hAdhmaill actually say that would
amount to a denunciation of Holocaust
Day? Absolutely nothing; in fact, far from denouncing
Holocaust Day, he stated, we should urge the
population to remember the Holocaust, but we should
also urge them to learn the lesson of the Holocaust.'
In what way is this different from the comments of
Ronnie Appleton that, we must learn from the
fact that these events happened?
at no point did O hAdhmaill claim that the Holocaust
commemoration would be used by the organisers.
But as part of a wider debate within the IPSC he suggested
that it may be used by the organisers
- and in particular by the chair, Ronnie Appleton
- 'to justify the establishment of an apartheid state
in the Middle East and the racist policies it adopts
towards the local Palestinian population both within
Israel and in the illegally occupied territories.'
Such is the nature of brainstorming that happens privately
in every group as members try to distill their ideas
and formulate policy. Hardly controversial and certainly
not diabolical. That Ronnie Appleton might not even
entertain any notion of using the Holocaust memorial
is readily accepted by Feilim OhAdhmaill, who,
outside of the e-mail, but in public, has stated that,
'as far as I am concerned there has been no evidence
of any attempt to use the Holocaust memorial to further
a political objective. And that is to his credit.'
were the direct comparisons made by O hAdhmaill between
Nazism and Israeli policies as applied to the Palestinians?
attempted extermination of a whole group (and in
fact groups) of people by the Nazis, for openly
racist reasons, is something that the world should
never be allowed to forget. However, this massive
injustice was used to justify another massive injustice
(and one that is ongoing) against the Palestinian
people. People have to challenge the current orthodoxy
which urges them to keep quiet when it comes to
commenting on the lessons of the Holocaust.
was entirely appropriate for O hAdhmaill to mention
the Nazis in relation to the Holocaust; they, afterall,
inflicted it. But it was equally appropriate for him
to mention the Palestinians in terms of the lessons
to be learned from the Holocaust. Was not Sabra and
Shatilla genocide overseen by Israel and for which
the present prime minister, Ariel Sharon, was stated
by the Israeli appointed Khan Commission, to bear
the tendentious nature of the Observer piece
is to be found in the columnist's attention to O hAdhmaills
past conviction for involvement in armed republican
activity. At no point did he mention that Ronnie Appleton
performed a crucial function within the British states
repressive apparatus in the North; that he endlessly
prosecuted people in no-jury courts and in many cases
secured convictions solely on the basis of signed
statements obtained in RUC interrogation centres.
The RUC on whose behalf he prosecuted was involved
in the murder of civilians, the torture of those in
its custody, the fabrication of evidence, collusion
with loyalist killers, and shoot-to-kill.
problem with this one-eyed approach is that it reveals
an underlying assumption that republican anti-state
violence was wholly wrong and that state violence
was wholly right. The readership is thus invited to
follow a pathological thread which leads from the
wrongfulness of republican armed force
into the exclusively peaceful activity O hAdhmaill
and others conduct on behalf of Palestinian human
rights. McDonald did not sully the activities of the
Holocaust Commemoration because of Ronnie Appletons
past activities. Nor should he have. But he did seek
to craft from Feilim O hAdhmaill's past, a backdrop
that would cast a sinister shadow over his involvement
in the IPSC. The outcome of such imbalance is simply
that the suffering of one group of people acquires
an elevated status vis a vis others. From such seeds
does racism grow. O hAdhmaill's alertness to this
is captured in his comment, not reported in the Observer,
that the fight to ensure there are no more Holocausts
means 'confronting the BNP and Combat 18 and their
loyalist paramilitaries supporters on the streets
on Belfast and Portadown. It also means confronting
the 'little Irelanders' who want a 'racially pure'
Ireland, whatever that would be!'
order to conjure a story out of a very ordinary e-mail,
two of yesterdays newspapers - the Sunday
Independent as well as the Observer - had
to join apples with pears and present them as fruit
of the same vine. The very opposite of what O hAdhmaill
advocated was somehow transmogrified into a story
of news value. The incongruity was so protuberant
that it was impossible not to see the awkward joints.
It amounted to a tabloid type sensationalism, where
style was meant to compensate for a dearth of substance.
And unfortunately, it takes us close to a position
outlined by the Palestinian Foreign Minister, Dr Shaath,
where any criticism of Israel is regarded as
an anti-Semitic crime, which is really blackmail.
estimated 600 Jewish people live in the North of Ireland
today. Most if not all will remember the victims of
Nazi atrocities on Holocaust Day. Many pro-Palestinian
activists will stand alongside them, shoulder to shoulder,
determined that never again will Jewish people be
the victims of genocide. Feilim O hAdhmail is one
of them. That he rejects the notion of a hierarchy
of victims and is thus concerned with protecting all
peoples from racism and genocide - including Palestinians
- is to his credit. It is a stance that should be
emulated, rather than being made the basis of a falsification
that depicts Israeli policy towards the Palestinians
as being somehow not shaped in any way by supremacist,
apartheid and racist considerations.
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