‘NYT’ says Irish ethnic solidarity is problematic

on 24 Comments

NYT today has an article saying that ethnic solidarity across nations is problematic. The piece is about Ireland’s support for the Breezy Point neighborhood of Queens, which is heavily Irish-American and was socked by Sandy. But that’s not altogether a good thing:

But complicating the current embrace from abroad is the gated community’s extreme insularity. Breezy Point is the whitest neighborhood in the city, a demographic makeup that critics say illustrates the enclave’s entrenched xenophobia, a dark flip side, perhaps, to all that ethnic pride. The consul general of Ireland, Noel Kilkenny, said he and others had made special efforts to avoid the impression of “the Irish looking after their own.”..

[Breezy Point’s] ethnic and racial makeup has also been a source of controversy. It was once called an “an apartheid village” by the Rev. Al Sharpton during a protest. Steve Greenberg, the former chairman of the Breezy Point cooperative’s board, said that to his knowledge, no black family had ever held a share in the private community.

The author of the piece is Sarah Maslin Nir. She surely knows about the problems of ethnic solidarity. Her father went from being an Israeli to being American. As we reported a couple years ago:

Nir’s father Yehuda served in the Israeli Defense Forces in 1948 and after moving on to the U.S., sought to rejoin the Israeli army in ’67 and ’73. “I had to fight our enemies and rejoin the Israeli army,” he writes  of the second war in his autobiography. Huh; I wonder how Sarah Maslin Nir feels about Israel…

I bet Sarah Maslin Nir knows a lot about the xenophobia of ethnic pride, the racism inherent in trans-national ethnic claims. Maybe one day she’ll write about the American Jewish relationship to Israel.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

Other posts by .

Posted In:

24 Responses

  1. American
    February 18, 2013, 1:42 pm

    Who knew the Irish were a tribe.
    Since we are now a nation of tribes I think I’ll join the Irish one, they have the best whiskey.

    • W.Jones
      February 18, 2013, 4:14 pm

      Weren’t there a number of Irish tribes?

      • American
        February 19, 2013, 12:22 pm

        @ W. Jones

        There were five Irish tribes based on which Irish kingdom or region they lived in. But they all came from the ancient Celts tribe originally—who evidently were real bad asses.


        The people who made up the various tribes of concern were called Galli by the Romans and Galatai or Keltoi by the Greeks, terms meaning barbarian. It is from the greek Keltoi that Celt is derived.

        The original wave of Celtic immigrants to the British Isles are called the q-Celts and spoke Goidelic. It is not known exactly when this immigration occurred but it may be placed sometime in the window of 2000 to 1200 BC.

        The Celts had many dealings with other cultures that bordered the lands occupied by these peoples, and even though there is no written record of the Celts stemming from their own documents, we can piece together a fair picture of them from archeological evidence as well as historical accounts from other cultures.

        The first historical recorded encounter of a people displaying the cultural traits associated with the Celts comes from northern Italy around 400 BC, when a previously unknown group of barbarians came down from the Alps and displaced the Etruscans from the fertile Po valley, a displacment that helped to push the Etruscans from history’s limelight. The next encounter with the Celts came with the still young Roman Empire, directly to the south of the Po. The Romans in fact had sent three envoys to the besieged Etruscans to study this new force. We know from Livy’s The Early History of Rome that this first encounter with Rome was quite civilized:

        [The Celts told the Roman envoys that] this was indeed the first time they had heard of them, but they assumed the Romans must be a courageous people because it was to them that the [Etruscans] had turned to in their hour of need. And since the Romans had tried to help with an embassy and not with arms, they themselves would not reject the offer of peace, provided the [Etruscans] ceded part of their superfluous agricultural land; that was what they, the Celts, wanted…. If it were not given, they would launch an attack before the Romans’ eyes, so that the Romans could report back how superior the Gauls were in battle to all others….The Romans then asked whether it was right to demand land from its owners on pain of war, indeed what were the Celts going in Etruria in the first place? The latter defiantly retorted that their right lay in their arms: To the brave belong all things.
        The Roman envoys then preceded to break their good faith and helped the Etruscans in their fight; in fact, one of the envoys, Quintas Fabius killed one of the Celtic tribal leaders. The Celts then sent their own envoys to Rome in protest and demand the Romans hand over all members of the Fabian family, to which all three of the original Roman envoys belonged, be given over to the Celts, a move completely in line with current Roman protocol. This of course presented problems for the Roman senate, since the Fabian family was quite powerful in Rome. Indeed, Livy says that:

        The party structure would allow no resolution to be made against such nobleman as justice would have required. The Senate…therefore passed examination of the Celts’ request to the popular assembly, in which power and influence naturally counted for more. So it happened that those who ought to have been punished were instead appointed for the coming year military tribunes with consular powers (the highest that could be granted).
        The Celts saw this as a mortal insult and marched south to Rome. The Celts tore through the countryside and several battalions of Roman soldiers to lay siege to the Capitol of the Roman Empire. Seven months of siege led to negotiations whereby the Celts promised to leave their siege for a tribute of one thousand pounds of gold, which the historian Pliny tells was very difficult for the entire city to muster. When the gold was being weighed, the Romans claimed the Celts were cheating with faulty weights. It was then that the Celts’ leader, Brennus, threw his sword into the balance and and uttered the words vae victis “woe to the Defeated”. Rome never withstood another more humiliating defeat.

        Other Roman historians tell us more of the Celts. Diodorus notes that:

        ”Their aspect is terrifying…They are very tall in stature, with rippling muscles under clear white skin. Their hair is blond, but not naturally so: they bleach it, to this day, artificially, washing it in lime and combing it back from their foreheads. They look like wood-demons, their hair thick and shaggy like a horse’s mane. Some of them are clean-shaven, but others – especially those of high rank, shave their cheeks but leave a moustache that covers the whole mouth and, when they eat and drink, acts like a sieve, trapping particles of food…The way they dress is astonishing: they wear brightly coloured and embroidered shirts, with trousers called bracae and cloaks fastened at the shoulder with a brooch, heavy in winter, light in summer. These cloaks are striped or checkered in design, with the seperate checks close together and in various colours.
        [The Celts] wear bronze helmets with figures picked out on them, even horns, which made them look even taller than they already are…while others cover themselves with breast-armour made out of chains. But most content themselves with the weapons nature gave them: they go naked into battle…Weird, discordant horns were sounded, [they shouted in chorus with their] deep and harsh voices, they beat their swords rhythmically against their shields.

        Diodorus also describes how the Celts cut off their enemies’ heads and nailed them over the doors of their huts, as Diodorus states:

        In exactly the same way as hunters do with their skulls of the animals they have slain…they preserved the heads of their most high-ranking victims in cedar oil, keeping them carefully in wooden boxes. ”

      • Ellen
        February 19, 2013, 3:56 pm

        Dang American, you were going way back. I was just referencing those clans around the 15-16th century.

        The Celts came much later and then later the Gaels, Vikings, Normans….

        There were groups of people living in Ireland before they were “civilized” out of tribal ways with the Celtic invasion from central Europe and the north. The island was primarily settled at the end of the last major ice age and it is believed (seems reliably) that the big (sort of) migration was from the Iberian peninsula – to the west coast of Ireland. That is why the locals in Dingle have very dark hair. :)

        And then there were the Firbolgs.
        The Firbolg were an ancient race of people that ruled Ireland before the Tuatha de Danaan and the Melesians.
        I guess you could call those groups tribes!

        I think even the Irish admit that the whiskey came with the Northern Celts, but will insist they improved on it!

      • Ellen
        February 19, 2013, 1:32 pm

        No. Clans. And clans were a sort of family based “corporations” in that they were in constant flux, merged with other clans or groups when needed for survival or combining of resources. They were not tribes in any sense.

        Under English rule the social organization of clans (as in Scotland) was destroyed. Today, the word” clan” in Ireland or for Irish is interchangeable with” family” and extended family.

        As for the article: What is the basis of the characterization, “But complicating the current embrace from abroad is the gated community’s extreme insularity. Breezy Point is the whitest neighborhood in the city, a demographic makeup that critics say illustrates the enclave’s entrenched xenophobia, …”

        I’ve never been there, but have met people who grew up there. (They were working in Romania and in Bosnia.) Is it a gated community? What goes on there to make it xenophobic?

        And what’s with the bag pipes in that photo?

    • Hostage
      February 18, 2013, 8:47 pm

      Fantastic! Who knew the Irish were a tribe.

      Not everyone changes their funny sounding names from Mileikowsky to Netanyahu. There were certainly some of my tribe who adopted Irish sounding monikers when they immigrated to the USA (Kahana + Dei or Dio becomes Canaday or Kennedy;-)

  2. pabelmont
    February 18, 2013, 1:46 pm

    Oh, Phil! The (foolish) desire for consistency (from the NYT in particular) is the hobgoblin of small minds.

    The NYT, of course, has higher adn better things to do than being consistent. It has the duty to protect “my mother, drunk or sober, my country, right or wrong.”

    No, sorry, you guessed wrong, didn’t you? “My country” is not the USA (bless her twisted governance), but little, beleaguered Israel (which live in a a dangerous neighborhood — true — the most dangerous element of which is — ta da! — Israel).

    • MK_Ultra
      February 19, 2013, 12:58 pm

      “…but little, beleaguered Israel (which live in a a dangerous neighborhood…”

      A Kosher turd precariously floating in a sea of Arabs. :)

  3. Krauss
    February 18, 2013, 2:10 pm

    Exactly my thoughts.

    I was thinking even before I clicked the link; “Oh, I know what kind of ethnocentrism is bad. European gentile ethnocentrism. Actually I think European gentile ethnocentrism is bad too. But the difference is that I think that all kinds of ethnocentrisms are bad”.

    I opened the piece and voilá. I also chuckled to myself while thinking, would the NYT run a piece on the problematic nature of Jewish ethnocentrism? No, it celebrates it.

    There’s still an inconsistency among liberals. But I’m an optimist. I think in due time, these kinks will be ironed out. But they won’t until someone broaches the topic, and I think we’ll all know what kinds of excuses we will hear why their ethnocentrism is problematic, but not ours, you see.

    Well, go ask any Palestinian about that. You might get another answer. Oh, I forgot. They aren’t allowed into the debate, even by the ‘liberal’ J Street. Wrong bloodline.

  4. Cliff
    February 18, 2013, 2:55 pm

    This is our intellectual culture.

    Open, shameless, lying.

    The NYT, with an Israeli author whose father was a soldier in the 48′ war and eager to fight again and again, talks about Irish identity politics and Irish people doing whats best for Irish people.

    Yet, the NYT won’t dare say the same, in the same investigative tone, for Jews and Jewish identity politics/Israel Firsters/tribal politics.

    • W.Jones
      February 18, 2013, 4:20 pm


      Good point. The journalist “talks about Irish identity politics and Irish people doing whats best for Irish people.”

      I think this would be alot different if Irish people were dispossessing “native” black neighborhoods. The article is just saying that an Irish neighborhood doesn’t want people of different ethnicities moving in. I think this dislike isn’t all bad- cohesion is one of the attractive things of an ethnic neighborhood, but diversity is also an important value. Certainly, they shouldn’t abuse people or violate their civil rights though if other groups move in. This is like a sooty iron pot calling a dark steel kettle “black.”

      I don’t think it would even be bad if there were 2 States in the Holy Land, as long as they would divide it based on where the two populations lived (esp. in 1947), rather than forcing the population to live based on where they want to draw the lines, which is what is happening.(ie. one side gets only 22% of the land)

  5. HRK
    February 18, 2013, 2:58 pm

    Tribalism for me but not for thee, I suppose, is the attitude.

    How about no one be tribal? Even of the inner-circles-of-caring model in which one doesn’t actually hateothers . . . one just loves one’s own ethnicity a wee little bit more.

    • HRK
      February 18, 2013, 3:11 pm

      Tribalism for me but not for thee, I suppose, is the attitude. The attitude at the NYT, I should clarify (not necessarily her attitude).

  6. Don
    February 18, 2013, 6:11 pm

    Rachmaninoff variations on a theme by Paganini…

    from Antony Loewenstein’s article today…

    “What the Zionist lobby and its political and media courtiers don’t want to discuss is their complicity in this affair. They all believe that young Jews have the right to move, fight or spy for Israel, including during wars against Lebanon and Gaza, while Muslims who want to join their brethren in Syria, Lebanon or Palestine are labelled terrorists for doing the same thing.”

  7. HRK
    February 18, 2013, 7:49 pm

    I do think in the interest of honesty I should say that, in a sense, the decision to align with individualism in contrast to an ethnic collective probably means more of a sacrifice for Jews than gentiles. Jews have 4,000 years of improbable/amazing history behind them during which thinking about themselves as a collective was (and still is today) widespread.

    I do want to be sensitive to this. I mentioned before that I, myself, can feel the tug of tribalism: It feels good to be part of a collective–to fit in for no other reason than your ethnicity (which obviously can’t be changed). It’s a bit like (though ultimately far from equal to) the love of God: God loves you no matter what. So it’s an awesome feeling: To be loved for something you can’t ever screw up. It’s very close to being loved simply for being “you.”

    It’s rather amazing to me how many Jews have chosen individualism. I’ll admit, given my conservative nature I could see myself turning my back on individualism if I were part of a group with a strong, viable collective tradition.

    But, ultimately, all of us–Jews and gentiles–face the same question: Is it a good thing to decide to care about someone more than another simply because he or she is of your ethnic group? Having a natural affinity for people who share one’s own cultural background or even physical appearance (or age, etc.)–that’s understandable. But the decision, unleashing the force of will, to love another more because they’re of your ethnicity . . . if I adopted that approach, I certainly couldn’t expect others outside my in-group to treat me as an individual (or I would be expecting far too much–expecting from others what I have no intention of reciprocating).

    And then where would this lead us?

    How do we treat people who don’t want to be individuals but instead part of strong ethnic collectives? I say we continue to treat them as individuals, even if they don’t reciprocate. That’s the loving thing to do. And, anyway, we stand the best chance of changing their minds in the long run once they realize we’re waiting patiently.

    • Woody Tanaka
      February 19, 2013, 10:53 am

      “I do think in the interest of honesty I should say that, in a sense, the decision to align with individualism in contrast to an ethnic collective probably means more of a sacrifice for Jews than gentiles. Jews have 4,000 years of improbable/amazing history behind them during which thinking about themselves as a collective was (and still is today) widespread.”

      The “ethnic collectivism” you talk about regarding Jews is neither particularly unique nor even rare. Rather, it’s the common default for probably the majority of humanity. Most of the worlds peoples have thousands upon thousands of years of amazing history (like the Jews, both mythic and actual). Indeed, most of the world’s people have multiple strains of such histories. (For example, an American Roman Catholic of Italian descent probably sees himself as being heir to a number of multi-thousand year-old traditions: Christianity (with its four-thousand-year-old roots planted in the dawn of the Jewish religion, and two-thousands years of existence of itself); Italian civilization, (with a physical history beginning in the upper Paleolithic 34,000 years ago, with a cultural history stretching back to the beginning of recorded history among the pre-Roman Italian tribes); and Western Culture (drawn from the influences of, among other things, Rome, Greece, and the Northern and Eastern European peoples))

      And Jewish history, as interesting as it is, really isn’t particularly improbable, at least not any more than what can be expected of a group of equivalent size. In fact, given certain cultural elements within the religion and culture, and the fact that much of that history played out in Christiandom and the Islamic world — two civiliazations which were borne out of the Jewish religion and for which Judaism was different but not wholly alien — it was fairly well set up to endure by avoiding absorbtion and supplantation.

      Jews, no more or less than anybody else, have the challenge of individual- and group-identity. There is nothing wrong with seeing themselves as part of a larger group, so long as that is tempered with principles leading to a view of the equality of humanity.

  8. Reds
    February 18, 2013, 9:48 pm

    Amazing that Ms. Nir wouldn’t even realize this.

  9. Avi_G.
    February 19, 2013, 12:31 am

    To see the daughter of an Israeli Zionist who emigrated to the US lecture the Irish about their — alleged — tribalism is par for the course for these hypocrites.

    At least the Irish have honor and dignity. I can’t say the same about Zionists, whether Christian, Jewish or otherwise.

  10. flyod
    February 19, 2013, 6:17 am

    that’s it!
    the American Irish Public Affairs Committee

  11. amigo
    February 19, 2013, 6:44 am

    Try as I did, I could not find one reference to any of My tribe occupying or dispossessing any other tribe.

    As to ethnic solidarity,allow me to point out that A certain Alan Shatter who is a proud Zionist Jew and apologist extrordinaire for Israel,s crimes, is Ireland,s Minister of Defence and Justice.

    Try as I might,I was unable to find any Israeli minister,s by the name Murphy or Guinness or Hennessy or Darby O Gill.

  12. Philip Munger
    February 19, 2013, 9:12 am

    Tribalism is as tribalism does.

    Living in Alaska and working occasionally with Alaska Native artists, having Alaska Native college students, and having a wife who travels to tiny Native villages in the Alaska bush to mentor young teachers, I see tribes struggling to keep what little they have in terms of culture and identity.

    Tribes attempting to keep their languages from dying out, their kids from committing suicide at appalling rates, their young women from being raped (mostly by Whites) at 3rd world levels. Their subsistence lifestyles from being transferred to trophy hunters, their resources plundered by global energy and mining corporations.

    At the same time, I sometimes witness young, brilliant Native thinkers reach into their tribal legacy to suggest solutions to environmental problems that threaten to overwhelm not just their own tribes, but humanity itself.

  13. Nevada Ned
    February 19, 2013, 12:13 pm

    Speaking of the Irish:

    The late actor (and dancer) Gene Kelly (Singing in the Rain, Anchors Aweigh) was of Irish descent. He was also an important funder of the IRA, and even left the IRA some money in his will.
    This is similar (but on a much smaller scale) to support for Israel by American Jews.

    One important difference is that there are two reasons for US support for Israel: one is the influence of the Israel Lobby, and the other is Israel is viewed as a strategic asset to the US control of the Middle East. (The US and Israel share a common enemy: Arab nationalism).

    In the case of the Irish, I don’t see any important US strategic interests involved. If there is one, it’s the US relationship with the UK. And support of the IRA is contrary to the “special relationship” between the US and the UK.

    Another example that is brought up by Walt and Mearshimer is the Cuban-American lobby. And no doubt it is a factor. But even if the Cuban Lobby didn’t exist, there would be plenty of reasons for conflict between the US (a capitalist country) and its former colony, Cuba, now a socialist country. In other words, the Cuban lobby does not act alone.

  14. MK_Ultra
    February 19, 2013, 12:49 pm

    So…the Zionist-owned NYT has an issue with (Irish) racial unity. What else can be expected from the best corporate rag that Zionist recycled American tax dollars can buy?

Leave a Reply