29 January 2009

The other side of the Northern Ireland Analogy

Ben Cohen publishes in Z-Word Blog a series of three articles under a common title "The Limits of the Northern Ireland Analogy" by Henry McDonald, who has covered Irish politics for the Observer and Guardian newspapers. It is a compelling read for an outsider, and I am waiting for the last, the third installment.

So far Henry McDonald is "examining the flaws in the frequently-drawn comparison between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Islamist terror groups like Hamas." There is another side of the NI conflict that could be examined, although I know that it irks all my British friends who, quite rightly, point out the inherent danger of looking for analogies in history. But what the heck - there aren't that many other good ways to learn from history.

Anyway, at least at first glance and, I dare say, also at second glance there are too many common features in the NI history and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to be easily disregarded.

To start with, about 400 years ago the enforced population of Northern Ireland (already populated by Irish Catholics) by Protestant settlers was initiated by Britain. It continued for a long time, resistance notwithstanding. The conflict ended (hopefully) only recently by an enforced peace agreement, and it's good that the centuries of the mutual bloodletting are over.

So: we have a foreign colonial power, we have the settlers, we have the land grab, we have four centuries of killing and, eventually, we have some semblance of peace - brought forth under enormous international pressure.

There is one slight catch: you see, the settlers and the settlements in NI, after all, remained where they were planted...

Now explain this away, please.

Cross-posted on Yourish.com.