Living in the USA and approaching the subject of either Northern Ireland or Israel provokes an avalanche of visceral partisan responses.
Mention Northern Ireland, and the blame for the cause of the violence is leveled squarely at England.
Mention Israel and the cause of the violence is leveled entirely at the Palestinians.
Most people who have strong opinions about either or both do not know what it is that both these countries have in common that has led to decades of violence.
The problems with Ireland pretty much started back in Henry VIII’s time when he decided to split with the Roman Catholic Church over the question of divorce. He wanted one, they said no, so in a fit of rage he told them where they could stick the Vatican, and started the Church of England with himself as the head. But that was only the beginning. What Henry started was a violent purge of Roman Catholics in England, Wales and Scotland. This extended to Ireland where Irish landowners were robbed of their lands by Protestant Scots and English, who were ‘Planted’ by successive Kings and Parliament in order to create a country that was loyal to England and its Religion. The “Plantations” of Ireland are at the root cause of all the problems that have occurred there throughout the centuries.
So what does that have in common with Israel?
The Zionist movement was created in the late 1800s, its most vocal leader, Theodor Herzl, an Austro-Hungarian journalist wrote “Der Judenstaat” in which he proclaimed the need for a “Jewish State” to be established in Argentina or Palestine, and how this could be accomplished by persuading the most powerful countries in the world to simply steal a large portion of either Palestine (which he preferred) or Argentina and give it to immigrant European Jews.
This is of course a precis of Herzl’s idea which you can read for yourself, but what is of no doubt is that in 1946 two years before the creation of the State of Israel, over 80% of the land of Palestine was owned by Arabs.
The common thread with both Northern Ireland and Israel is “The Plantation” of foreign immigrants into an existing country with the purpose of displacing the long established population and society and establishing a new one.
President Harry Truman backed the creation of the State of Israel overriding objections by Secretary of State George Marshall who considered it a move that would hurt relations between the US and Arab State. Truman, at a meeting in the White House with envoys from Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria in November 1945 said, “I am sorry, gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism: I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.”
In 1948 Israel was created and David ben Gurion wrote about the Palestinians “….We have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”
In the Northern Counties of Ireland, the majority of the land was owned by people who could trace their ancestry and land ownership back thousands of years, and they were dispossessed by the English because of a King wanting a divorce. In Palestine, the landowners who could also trace their ancestry and landownership back two thousand years, were dispossessed by Western Politicians who considered their Zionist political supporters more important than the legal owners of Palestine.
The contradiction in Americans’ view of both countries, is that they think the causes of the violence are different. In the case of Israel, US citizens seem to be oblivious to the fact that the Palestinians were dispossessed of their lands, homes and social structure then driven into exile by European Jews (an argument they steadfastly refuse to accept) in much the same way as the Irish of the 16th and 17th centuries were dispossessed and driven into exile by the English.
My passionate interest in this subject stems from my experiences as an officer in the Parachute Regiment when I served two tours in Northern Ireland in the 1970s where I saw the results of “The Plantations” and my childhood growing up in the Middle East where Arabs were treated with contempt by Americans working in the Oil companies. As a result of my experiences curiosity and passion searching for the truth, I wrote AN UNQUIET AMERICAN into which I have recounted many of my experiences.
How does this help the current situation in both places? Probably not much, but it seems to me that knowing history correctly will go a long way toward a deeper understanding of the views of different cultures, and may well avoid more wars and further bloodshed.
Don’t forget that the current problems in Iran stem from the CIA constructed downfall of the Democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953, because he nationalized the Iranian Oil Industry thereby reducing the British and US oil companies profits of Iranian owned resources from 80% to 60%.
Having been a soldier I have seen first hand the results of war.
It is not pretty.