It may come as a surprise to some to see the Palestinian flag flying beside the Irish flag atop Dublin City Council. However, for the Irish people, or those familiar with Irish history, it is no surprise. The raising of the Palestinian flag is a statement. A symbol.
Though separated by over 4,000 kilometres, Ireland stands in solidarity with Palestine for their right to self-determination, and an end to an occupation which our small country of five million is all too familiar with.
Gaza is a strip of land, measuring 365 square kilometres, and is inhabited by 2.2 million people. Gaza, under occupation by the State of Israel, is going through what many consider to be a genocide and ethnic cleansing.
Standing in the wreckage of bombed out homes, digging through the rubble with bare hands for buried, dead, and missing loved ones and crying out to Allah for an end to this relentless nightmare, are the Palestinians. They are the ones who suffer this collective punishment and barbarity by the Israeli government.
Of course, there is no denying the horror of October 7 2023, where the murders and hostage taking of innocent Israeli civilians by Hamas took place. People across the globe have come together to mourn the young lives lost, as the Jewish community marked this event as another dark chapter in their history in the attempt to find a safe haven from Anti-Semitism.
However, Israel’s response to the attack has left the world watching in object horror, and, in a society where many chose to remain silent, a voice of support and an unsurprising emergence of solidarity with Palestine can be heard from the country of Ireland.
To understand Ireland’s support of Palestine, we have to take a glance at our shared history. By definition, under international law, Israel is an apartheid state, denying the same equal rights and freedoms to Palestinians that Israeli citizens are entitled to.
This has been occurring since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 which resulted in the displacement of currently over two million Palestinians, an event known as the Nakba (the Catastrophe). What was the ultimate goal? A Jewish nation on Palestinian land controlled and beneficial to Western powers. However, this could only happen at the expense of the native Palestinian population.
For those who say the situation in Ireland and Palestine cannot be compared, that is a mistake. It brings up strong resemblance to the Ulster Plantations where English settlers took away native Irish lands, and the 1916 Easter Rising – the uprising for an independent Ireland free from British rule, and the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the conflict for a two-state solution; and perhaps most significantly, was the sending of the Black and Tans to British Mandate Palestine.
The Black and Tans existed as a police force set to collectively punish Irish civilians over the actions of the IRA. However, after the War of Independence and creation of the Irish Free State Constitution Act of 1922, there was no more use of the Black and Tans in Ireland. Thereafter, under Winston Churchill’s instruction, they continued their reign of terror over Palestine, inflicting the same violence done to the Irish.
That is why it is no shock that Ireland was the first EU country to endorse Palestinian statehood in 1980, stated by the Guardian through literal shared histories of the Palestinian Arab nation and Ireland.
Niall Holohan, former representative for the Irish government to the Palestinian Authority explains how “sympathy for Palestinians is rooted in Ireland’s history” and “we [the Irish] feel we have been victimized over the centuries. It’s part of our psyche – underneath it all we side with the underdog.”
As support for Israel from western countries continue to pour in and pro-Israel supporters repeatedly declare how civilians should not be blamed for their government’s actions, they are right, innocent civilians should not be blamed.
But where are the same standards when it comes to Palestinians? The underdogs. Where is this accountability when the United States is aiding Israel with white phosphorus, targeting civilian populations which is illegal under international law reported by Al Jazeera news.
Where is the accountability during the attacks against Palestine (the occupied territory) being targeted by Israel (the occupying power), which is also illegal?
The international community saying the situation is ‘complex’ is an echo from the past, heard time and time again. This ‘complex’ situation is a struggle over land, once shared by Palestinians and Jews together, over the past 2,000 years.
However, even after a cease-fire has been approved with Ireland voting in favour, it was 65 days too late. Since October 7, the death toll of Palestinians nears 28,000 with over 10,000 of them being children and nearly 70% of Gaza’s infrastructure has been destroyed described Al Jazeera.
Despite South Africa’s ICJ hearing against Israel for participating in genocidal acts against the Palestinians and the court ruling in favour, there seems to be no end in sight to this onslaught.
While the court ruled that Israel must do what they can to prevent further civilian harm, this ruling has fallen on deaf ears. Fears for Palestinians have grown considerably as Netanyahu has declared a military operation in the city of Rafah, a declared safety zone, where almost two million Palestinians have now fled.
This ongoing catastrophe is not going unnoticed, even as many western countries continue to turn a blind eye. Ireland is one country that took a stand, and the protesting of a Free Palestine throughout Ireland is reminiscent of the Good Friday Agreement.
It gives optimism that, one day, the saying will ring true. “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, because as we have seen in Ireland, there is always hope.