A recurring theme we in Ireland hear from BDSers, self-styled Palestinian solidarity activists and other such groups is that Irish people should support Hamas and Fatah because the Palestinian desire for a state parallels our struggle for self-determination. Sadly, far too many Irish people have fallen for this line but that doesn’t make it true in any way.
The most obvious (perhaps only) parallel is terrorism. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) did target and murder thousands, including large numbers of civilians in an evil campaign. It did huge damage to the name of Irish Nationalism and almost certainly set back prospects for a united Ireland by decades, such was the divisive effect it had on Northern Irish society. Evil though the campaign was however, at no point was there a desire to wipe out the United Kingdom. Nor was there ever a stated desire to commit genocide against British people. By contrast, Hamas and Fatah regularly try to outdo each in other in calling for Israel to be wiped off the map. Even the supposedly more moderate Fatah is quite open about its desire to see Jews killed.
Those who drew up the Irish Constitution enshrined in it anti-sectarian and democratic principles.
Far more importantly, the IRA never attracted more than a derisory level of support from Irish people and its political wing (Sinn Féin) struggled to get much above one percent in elections. The vast majority of Irish people regarded them as untouchable and it was only when they abandoned their murderous campaign that they started to see some success at the polls. Hamas and Fatah have monolithic levels of support amongst Palestinians and use violence to win more support.
The government of the Republic of Ireland might have had sharp and open differences with the UK government over its policy in Northern Ireland. However, they both agreed on one thing: terrorism was wrong and had to be defeated. Terrorism (both republican and loyalist) would never have been quelled were it not for cooperation between Dublin and London. It’s for this reason that Israel has no actual peace partner on the Palestinian side. How can there be cooperation against terrorism when both main Palestinian groups regularly incite it?
This is where the equation of Irish Nationalism with these Palestinian groups gets particularly insulting. Both Hamas and Fatah regularly use their media to promote hatred and violence against Jews. You’ll see the vilest anti-Jewishness, children praising Hitler, Holocaust denial, claims that the Jews (not Israel, the Jews) murdered Yasser Arafat, and so much more.
Not even Sinn Féin has ever adopted such a nakedly sectarian agenda and the mainstream Irish political parties have always been avowedly anti-sectarian. In response to the growing tide of fascism in Europe, the 1937 Irish Constitution (Bunreacht na hÉireann) gave specific recognition to Judaism and other minority religions. It also has a peculiarly democratic character. While the constitution of many European countries can be changed by a vote of two-thirds of parliamentarians, all amendments to the Bunreacht must be approved by a public referendum.
The national flag – even if it was since hijacked by the IRA – was specifically meant to be a symbol for communal unity: orange standing for Irish Protestants, green signifying Irish Catholics and the republican cause, and white representing the hope for peace between them.
It’s perhaps not the fault of ordinary Palestinian people that they’re represented by the likes of Hamas and Fatah. After all, it’s been over a decade since they have had a chance to vote on their anti-democratic, terrorism-inciting, hate-filled, sectarian leaders. The mystery is why any Irish Republican or Nationalist would want to associate their ideology with such odious groups.