The hunger of Samer Issawi– and Bobby Sands

Writer/activist Miko Peled stood over the grave site of Irish Nationalist revolutionary hero and hunger-striker Bobby Sands at Milltown Cemetery in Belfast and read the finale of Samer Issawi’s ‘Hunger Speech’ to Israelis.

Peled: I’m going to read a few words by Samer Issawi, a Palestinian hero. A Palestinian hero hunger striker, and it sadly looks like he is going to be the next victim of the Israeli occupation…..

Do not listen to those generals and those dusty myths, for the defeated will not remain defeated, and the victor will not remain a victor. History isn’t only measured by battles, massacres and prisons, but by peace with the Other and the self.

This is being written and this is being said by a man who is willingly dying for freedom and unwilling to compromise his freedom and his independence. So let’s hope that he, by some miracle, survives and doesn’t have to join Bobby Sands and the others as another victim of this horrific horrific brutality.

bobby sands 15
Freedom, “Inspired by the genius of Banksy and the perpetual,

revolutionary words of Bobby Sands” by Jafar Alam

Issawi’s words about history being  measured by “peace with the Other and the self” remind me of Sands’s iconic words:  “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children.”

The stature of Sands has only grown since his death at 27 in 1981; for his martyrdom, and those of 9 other hunger strikers over the next seven months, (foolishly dubbed by Thatcher as “the IRA’s last card“) energized and impassioned Irish republicanism; recruits multiplied.

My heart warms to visit the Bobby Sands Trust and see a photo of Samer’s sister Shireen holding a poster of her brother accompanied by an article about Palestinian Hunger Strikers on the front page. And please check out the Sands Trust page, Laughter Of Our Children, and a 2010 post by Canadian blogger Jafar Alam where Sands famous words segue, both graphically and literally, into the companion struggle of our time.

‘“They will not criminalise us, rob us of our true identity, steal our individualism, depoliticise us, churn us out as systemised, institutionalised, decent law-abiding robots. We refuse to lie here in dishonor! We are not criminals, but Irishmen! This is the crime of which we stand accused. Never will they label our liberation struggle as criminal…Our revenge will be the laughter of our children” – Bobby Sands

‘We refuse to lie here in dishonor! We are not terrorists, but Palestinians. This is the crime of which we stand accused. Our crime remains that we were born Palestinian.’

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 61 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Cliff says:

    During an Irish Palestinian solidarity event during the Israeli massacre in Gaza in 2008, an Irish protestor was recalling that during Bobby Sand’s hunger strike – the protestors back then received letters of support from Palestinian prisoners.

    There’s been a common struggle between these two peoples against colonial oppression.

    link to irishfriendsofpalestine.org

  2. gamal says:

    Christy Moore sings “I Wish I was Back Home in Derry” words by the great Bobby Sands,

    link to youtu.be

    only posting because its you Annie, reading all the S Lavie i can find, she wrote the Poetics of Occupation i read it years ago my copy is in London i think, bleeding on borders seems to have become my life, damn I never remember authors names, i sat in a room with 6 others listening to her and i never would have remembered that it was her work if wasnt on her site, its a great book well worth the effort of finding a copy.

  3. seafoid says:

    “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children” is such an impressive statement.

    22 years after Bobby Sands died the first ever all Ireland football final between 2 teams from the 6 counties of Northern Ireland happened. Tyrone won for the first time. Cue a mass outpouring of joy .

    Tyrone never won anything significant during the period 1969-1992.

    • lysias says:

      For those who may not want to or be able to look at the Youtube, you’re talking about the 2003 final between Tyrone and Armagh.

      • seafoid says:

        Armagh won the year before for the first time ever.

        From 93 to 2003, 3 out of 6 teams from Northern Ireland won the competition for the first time. The end of the war/”troubles” changed a lot of things for the better.

        This was my favourite comment from the link :

        Wendy Taylor 3 years ago
        “I watched it in hospital, I had my pregnancy confirmed that day, when he was born we called him sam his twin is Freya”

        The cup is called the Sam Maguire.

  4. K Renner says:

    If/when Issawi dies and stands before his God he will be seen as a martyr and hero as Sands was.

  5. lysias says:

    The U.S. military admits that 43 of the 166 detainees at Guantanamo are on hunger strike. I have heard allegations on RT television that a majority of the detainees are now on hunger strike.

  6. Shadows of giants in the valley of the damned.

  7. HarryLaw says:

    Bobby Sands died because both the Labour and the conservative parties refused to recognize him or his colleagues as political prisoners, but it must be remembered that he was an IRA man dedicated to Irish unification through the use of force [the armalite in one hand, the ballot box in the other] Sinn Fein [IRA] now realize the armed struggle could never achieve Irish unity, and have agreed that the unification of Ireland can only come about with the consent of a majority of people of Northern Ireland freely voting in a referendum. That’s why a majority of people in the Irish Republic voted to change articles 2 and 3 of its constitution which inter alia claimed jurisdiction over the whole island of Ireland and its territorial seas. So the majority of Irish people North and South including Sinn Fein have agreed to reject violence and the irredentist claim to Northern Ireland, now Gerry Adams and Martin Mcguinness have joined hands with Ian Paisleys hard line Unionists to govern Northern Ireland in a power sharing arrangement within the constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom until a majority votes otherwise, not the perfect solution of uniting Protestants and Catholics, [ I would prefer Protestants and Catholics coming together in non sectarian parties] but still preferable to sectarian warfare which both sides agree could never be won by either side.

    • lysias says:

      Although I am an Irish-American of Catholic background, I was very much opposed to the IRA’s violence while the troubles continued. But I have to admit that the IRA’s violence worked in the end. Without it, I very much doubt there would have been such concessions to the Catholics of Northern Ireland. And I am pretty sure they would never have happened so soon.

      Just as, for Gandhi’s nonviolent campaign for Indian independence to succeed so quickly, there also had to be violence, in particular from Bose’s Indian National Army.

      • Bumblebye says:

        From that time, I remember when hearing/reading criticism of the UK in Northern Ireland from abroad a feeling of automatic knee-jerk defensiveness which is something I now notice in Israelis and zionists who comment here. The only ‘action’ I took was to examine where that feeling came from and to put an end to it. I wish some of the zios here could do that, and stop being so irrational in their endless defense of the indefensible. Which will be first, Irish unity, or Palestinian freedom and justice?

    • Tobias says:

      Harry, with respect – your history here is a bit sketchy. Bobby Sands died because Margret Thatcher and her conservative government refused to grant the IRA prisoners’ five demands;

      1. The right not to wear a prison uniform;
      2. The right not to do prison work;
      3. The right of free association with other prisoners, and to organize educational and recreational pursuits;
      4. The right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week;
      5. Full restoration of remission lost through the protest

      The hunger strike he died on was the second in twelve months – the earlier one having been called off in October 1980 – after 53 days – when those striking had been tricked into believing that their protest demands had been met.

      Trouble started in 1976 where Britain began phasing out a Special Category Status (this having been granted to IRA prisoners following a mass IRA prison hunger strike in 1972) to introduce a new “criminalization” policy, whereby IRA prisoners would now be treated, as ordinary criminals who would be required to wear prison uniforms and perform prison work.

      The protest began when, under the changed status, an incoming new prisoner refused to don his prison uniform. He was instead given a blanket and thus began the blanket protest, which over the next five years became increasingly bitter as both sides refused to budge. The prisoner’s ultimate weapon to press their claim was a hunger strike, which incidentally the IRA leadership on the outside initially opposed.

      The rest is unfortunate history but let’s not forget that two of the ten hunger strikers that died, were elected to the UK and Irish parliament during their hunger strikes. Bobby Sands to Westminster and Kieran Doherty to the Dail, more or less making their claim that they were political prisoners.

      As regards your mention of the 1973 border poll that gave a 98.9% result in favor of remaining to stay in the UK. The nationalist community in Northern Ireland boycotted this poll en mass, some 41.34% of the voting population. So the 98.9% number is meaningless and it was the SDLP party who urged the boycott not Sinn Fein who were not a political factor in 1973.

      In fact, the success of the hunger striker candidates and their backers in parliamentary by- elections and assembly elections that followed the 1980/81 strikes, demonstrated to the constitutional element of the IRA – and the wider world – that the IRA had substantial political support in the catholic community.

  8. Ecru says:

    From the “Ballad of Joe McDonnell” by Brian Warfield

    And you dare to call me a terrorist
    While you look down your gun
    When I think of all the deeds that you have done
    You have plundered many nations, divided many lands
    You have terrorized their peoples, you rule with an iron hand
    And you brought this reign of terror to my land.

    Seems to fit what the Israelis are up to quite well.

  9. RE: “The hunger of Samer Issawi– and Bobby Sands”

    AN EXCELLENT FILM: “Hunger”, 2008, NR, 96 minutes
    Acclaimed visual artist [and it shows in this film] Steve McQueen makes his feature film debut with this gripping drama (and Independent Spirit Award Best Foreign Film contender) that depicts the events surrounding a hunger strike staged by a group of IRA prisoners during their 1981 incarceration in Britain’s Prison Maze. Led by IRA volunteer-poet Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender [who is phenominal in this film]), the strikers waged their six-week-long protest in an attempt to be acknowledged as political prisoners and to improve the prison’s conditions.
    Netflix Availability: Streaming, DVD and Blu-ray
    • Netflix Listing – link to dvd.netflix.com
    • IMDb listing – link to imdb.com
    • HUNGER Trailer (2008) – The Criterion Collection (VIDEO, 01:53) – link to youtube.com

    P.S. IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not watch this film anywhere near mealtime. To say the least, it does not “whet the appetite”. At least, not for food! Also, a ‘barf bag’ might be advisable when viewing this film.

  10. HarryLaw says:

    Many people say wait till the Catholics outnumber the Protestants in Northern Ireland, to those people I say the two communities are almost equal in numbers now, but as was always the case not all Catholics favor a united Ireland, if they did there would be a united Ireland today. A large percentage of Northern Irish Catholics really do not mind being part of the United Kingdom provided they are treated fairly and no one tries to wrap a Union Jack around them. When a referendum[ Border poll 1973] was held on whether Northern Ireland should join with the Republic, and although Sinn Fein told Catholics not to vote, the result was 98.9% to stay part of UK 1.1% opposed. I really do not think Palestinians should align themselves to provisional IRA, they will be marginalized or even treated with contempt in all the important International venues of the world.

    • RoHa says:

      Northern Ireland used to have a strong Protestant majority who most decidedly did not want to be part of a Catholic dominated Republic of Ireland. They damaged their moral standing by discriminating against Catholics in NI. In spite of the discrimination, Catholics migrated from the Republic to NI. (As well as the rest of Britain.)

  11. miriam6 says:

    Lysias,
    link to rt.com/news/Guantanamo-bay-hunger-strike-399

    link to rt.com

    It is a link featuring on many online blogs about the Guantanamo naval base hunger strikers.

    I think because it is so informative and up-to-date.

    The story has been all over the media.

    There are hunger strikes happening right now, on your own American doorstop, in one of your very (many, worldwide) own imperial outposts, Guantanamo naval base.

    The latest news about the Guantanamo prisoners is that a visit was made by the Red Cross to check out the men’s plight in early April this year.

    On the 13th of April, clashes broke out between inmates and their guards over attempt authorities made to move inmates on hunger strike out of communal cell-blocks. These protests are on-going.

    A growing number of “War on Terror” detainees, 31 out of 166 prisoners at Guantanamo are now on hunger strike.

    ( as of early April, I think the number is 40+? at the present time 16th April)

    The figure has roughly doubled from the week before as more and more prisoners have joined in the protest.
    The number of detainees involved has been growing since the hunger strike began on February the 6th, nine weeks ago.
    U.S. media has reported in early April that 11 of the prisoners were on feeding tubes, while 3 of those had to be hospitalised.

    Carlos Warner a public defender representing 11 of the detainees, told CNN that conditions at the prison were dire.

    He said one prisoner told him ,

    “America should take off it’s mask and kill us.”

    Lawyers have said the strike is a protest against the prisoners indefinite detention without charge and the diminishing prospects that the infamous site will be closed.

    Mr Warner said,
    “It leaves them with the prospect that the only way to leave Guantanamo is death, and unfortunately I think the men are ready to embrace that.”

    link to talkingpointsmemo.com Guantanamo- bay-hunger-strikes.

    Guantanamo Naval Base was opened in January 2002 to imprison “war on terror” suspects.

    Obama promised to close it, but since he took power, Obama and the Congress have actually toughened living conditions for inmates considerably.

    Release and transfers’ of prisoners at Guantanamo have virtually stopped altogether.

    Hunger Strikes have been one method of protest used by inmates held without trial in Guantanamo before in 2005.

    On the subject of Bobby Sands two recollections of the event and meaning of the Maze Prison Hunger Strikes is available in this link.

    Steve McQueen’s movie about Bobby Sands “Hunger” was an opportunity to reassess and remember the Irish republican hunger strikes.

    link to sixties-l.blogspot.co.uk

  12. HarryLaw says:

    The Israeli state occupies the West Bank/Gaza, and [ just like the Republic of Ireland’s constitutional claim to the whole island of Ireland in articles 2 and 3] claims sovereignty over all the West Bank, do the Palestinians [like the majority in Northern Ireland] have the right not to be incorporated in a Greater Israel or a united Ireland against their will? Of course they do, it’s called self determination, if on the other hand the UK state tried to force one and a half million people into a united Ireland against their will, something even a banana Republic would not do, then the last thing there would be, would be a united Ireland, the UK even at the height of its imperial grandeur balked at doing such a thing nearly a century ago. The similarity between Israel/Palestine and UK/Irish situations is not a good one. Just as the Irish Republics claim to sovereignty over Northern Ireland has now been repudiated by an overwhelming majority of the Irish people, that claim of course gave the armed struggle legitimacy in the war against the majority in Northern Ireland Catholic and Protestant alike. So the Israeli claim to sovereignty over the West Bank in the face of Palestinian resistance will prove futile.
    Here I am not against a united Ireland at some time in the future nor a one state solution to the Israel/Palestine problem, only against one involving the use of force in both situations to achieve it. Something which could not be achieved that way in any case, and something the provisional IRA realized 25 years and many thousands of deaths too late.

    • seafoid says:

      There are many parallels between.NI.and IP. Settler colonialism, the absence of law, the catholics/palestinians driven off their land in the valleys and into the mountains, legal discrimination, security obsession at the expense of social progress, polarisation, parallel education systems, 2 distinct cultures, political dysfunction. NI is at least 25 years ahead of Israel. Huge progress over the last 2 decades but there remains much to do. It will always be ‘special needs’. But nobody has to die for it. Settler colonialism is the political problem that keeps on giving.

    • amigo says:

      “Just as the Irish Republics claim to sovereignty over Northern Ireland has now been repudiated by an overwhelming majority of the Irish people,”HL

      Repudiated is a strong word.It was more a temporary suspension of that claim.

      England/Israel, peas in a pod.

      People who espouse the virtues of negotiating without the threat of force are deluding themselves.The UK would still be controlling a Northern Ireland where Catholics are treated as 2nd class citizens and Unionists ran the show.

      Unfortunately, it took the force of terror to get the UK to the table.Israel is no different.They too will have to be dragged to the table , only I hope it will be through BDS efforts that it comes about.

      • libra says:

        Unfortunately, it took the force of terror to get the UK to the table.

        Care to give us any details on what exactly “the force of terror” entailed, amigo?

        • seafoid says:

          Baltic exchange, Manchester Deansgate mean anything to you ?
          Guildford pub bombings went down quite badly too.

          The City didn’t like the Baltic Exchange incident at all .

        • amigo says:

          Libra—I did not say I support Terror.My statement on the preference for BDS should make that clear.I am simply saying that Terror is quite often the only way to get attention, as terror begets terror.

          Consult Irgun/Lehi history.

        • libra says:

          amigo: Libra—I did not say I support Terror.

          But you justified it, didn’t you?

          Unfortunately, it took the force of terror to get the UK to the table.

          Whilst the truth is all the shootings and bombings just held up political progress for years.

          Consult Irgun/Lehi history.

          Well those terrorist gangs (or should I say “freedom fighters”?) were the equivalent of the IRA, weren’t they? Shooting and bombing the British. But before you were saying England and Israel are “peas in a pod”. Seems to me you’re all over the place, amigo.

        • Consult Irgun/Lehi history…..Shooting and bombing the British.

          and massacring plenty of palestinian civilians. who’s all over the place calling the ethnic cleansers freedom fighters? pleeeease.

          Whilst the truth is all the shootings and bombings just held up political progress for years.

          seriously, after 100′s of years you think the truth is the IRA held things up? you don’t know that.

        • libra says:

          annie: who’s all over the place calling the ethnic cleansers freedom fighters?

          annie, did you really think my comment on “freedom fighters’ was anything other than sarcasm? I guess you just don’t do irony.

          But let’s have a closer look at all those hundreds of years of colonial history. The English and Scottish settlement in Ireland goes back to before the English settlement of North America. Indeed, you could even stretch it back to the Normans who colonized all of England and Wales and parts of Ireland. Yes, we really could blame it all on the French.

          And across the full sweep of history, you as an American colonist in the Mexican territory of Alta California are closer in time to an Israeli colonist in the West Bank than a Protestant colonist in Northern Ireland. Now that’s an irony I’m sure you won’t get.

        • gamal says:

          The Northern Irish statelet had a very specific history and constitution.
          N.I. was a democracy, as long as you had property, and there was employment at Harland and Wolff as long as you were Protestant.
          The struggle of the Catholic community was a civil rights struggle. It was the state who opted for war, and the period after the Battle of the Bogside and Bloody Sunday that counter violence of the Provisional IRA escalated.

          From Carson and the B specials to the repressive violence of UDF and UVF, targeted at Catholic civilians, the UDF and UVF, with state security connivance, always had a far higher civilian toll than the IRA.
          The actual history of this struggle is worth looking into.

          The idea that violent resistance prolonged the injustice of the state is an argument that can be made, but its not been made here as yet, other than asserted. I doubt it can be made persuasively.

          One of the reasons that the political parties of the mother country avoided participation in the North was precisely because the constitution of the statelet was at variance with the political ethos of the mother country, with open discrimination against the Catholic minority, such provisions would have been illegal according to UK law. It was the fact that the NI Catholic’s were insulated from any political avenues to redress contemporaneous injustices rather than any historical grievances that was the issue.

          Some things you may wish to look into would be, the Diplock courts and interment, the Widgery tribunal, the assassination of Pat Finucane, the attempted one of Bernadette Macliskey (nee Devlin), Heaths suspension of Stormont and the institution of direct rule, etc.
          Whatever ones feelings about violence the assertion that absent IRA violence the situation of NI Catholics would have been resolved sooner can be argued, in the same manner that one could argue that Palestinian violence has forestalled a just settlement, I would be interested in what evidence could be adduced to this argument. It was the British state that instituted the discriminatory constitution of the North and maintained it with ferocious repression against all opposition.
          As to Libyan arms it was Thatcher herself who complained about Noraid, a USA group, providing the financing.

        • HarryLaw says:

          gamal, @ “One of the reasons that the political parties of the mother country avoided participation in the North was precisely because the constitution of the statelet was at variance with the political ethos of the mother country, with open discrimination against the Catholic minority, such provisions would have been illegal according to UK law. It was the fact that the NI Catholic’s were insulated from any political avenues to redress contemporaneous injustices rather than any historical grievances that was the issue.”
          When Northern Ireland came into being, the Unionist’s only wanted to be governed like the rest of the UK, their leaders knew well that it would be seen as Protestants governing Catholics and wanted no part of it, a sort of “Factory of Grievances ” but the British government thought they Knew best and forced Stormont on the Northern Irish people, hoping that the two parts of Ireland would merge together, this did not happen but the arrangement hobbled along for the next 40 years with Stormont rubber stamping Westminster Legislation, where possible, until what the Unionists said was inevitably going to happen, did happen,with explosive results. When the Stormont “experiment” was suspended in 1972, Westminster took over and governed directly from London, all major UK political parties refused to put up candidates to contest those Westminster seats, they did this even though they should have been obligated to fight seats in every part of the UK, the Labour party constitution for instance actually said ” it’s aim was ” To establish in the country and in every constituency, a political Labour party” the party did not take this seriously when it came to Northern Ireland, any application for membership from Catholics or Protestants or socialists and Trade unionists [most TU in NI were in UK based unions] resident in NI were thrown in the bin. Many spurious excuses were given for this discrimination, one of them ” we do not have a constituency organization in NI and that is the only way to join” so a group of socialists got together and formed the ” South Belfast Constituency association ” and applied to affiliate with the party. No dice, more excuses. Then a court case at the Westminster Industrial Tribunal found the Labour party guilty of discriminating against residents of NI by refusing them membership of the party, under the terms of the 1968 Race Relations Act, later overturned on appeal on a technicality, now with more threats of legal action the LP has agreed to set up a Province wide Labour Forum with a view to contesting seats in all NI constituencies. The clear issue here is if you cannot vote for the party that governs you and it is the Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem ones that ultimately Govern NI, then you effectively have no vote. Catholic and Protestant socialists and Trade Unionists had been told you can only vote for your local sectarian parties and we will make sure you cannot breakout of that straightjacket and vote with your class instincts and make decisions with like minded citizens in the rest of the UK, at Westminster.

        • amigo says:

          “But you justified it, didn’t you? ” Libra.

          Don,t put words in my Mouth.

          You don,t do reality–do you.

          “Whilst the truth is all the shootings and bombings just held up political progress for years. “Libra.

          Do elaborate.

          “Well those terrorist gangs (or should I say “freedom fighters”?) were the equivalent of the IRA, weren’t they?” Libra

          There you go again , putting words in my mouth.

          “England/Israel, peas in a pod.” Libra.

          They are two sides of the same coin–repression/colonialism/land theft/theft of natural resources , for example.

        • amigo says:

          “Guildford pub bombings went down quite badly too.”

          Yeah , it went down so badly, the British Gov went to the trouble of framing 4 people and they spent 15 years in prison.And in true British fashion, not one of the perpetrators spent a night in jail.

          There is another parallel with Israel.

        • gamal says:

          ok Harry, we clearly have different versions of this history, i am not trying win an argument.

          “When Northern Ireland came into being, the Unionist’s only wanted to be governed like the rest of the UK.”

          Yet some of the most determined anti-colonialist Irish during the Ascendancy were protestants, Wolfetone and Parnell being but two of the better known, Michael Collins accepted the 26 county state over the objections of some his comrades, including Tom Barry and Eamon De Valera and a vicious civil war ensued during which Collins was killed, between the Free Staters and the IRA, 3 counties were ceded to Ireland Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan, because they were deemed detrimental to Protestant domination of the Statelet.

          After the formation of the NI state workers both Protestant and Catholics rioted in mutual solidarity against the cuts of ’32 famously the Protestants of Sandy Row and Catholics of Lower Falls were comrades in anti-Government riots.

          It was the Costello government that in 1948 made Eire fully independent of the UK, previously they had been less than fully independent. I have lived in the republic and been involved in Politics there, with asylum seekers and in the “integration” business and have no illusions as to the malign influence of the Church there, but there were always conflicts between the Marxian IRA and the 26 county state. In the 50′s and early 60′s both the UVF was disbanded, i think, and the IRA a bit earlier or later due to lack of interest. None the less the troubles, so called were still a civil rights struggle and the sectarianisation of that struggle must be laid at the door of the NI oligarchy, frankly no one would want to be ruled in the way the wonderful southern Irish people are ruled, by an utterly corrupt and feudal system as pertains in Eire.

          i have a link which i should have read first as it may expose my faulty memory but i know the people involved and am sure it gives an informative and factual history.
          all the best etc.

          link to wesleyjohnston.com

          I would contend that the notion that the struggle for freedom in Ireland is not a sectarian war but rather that it has been given that appearance for those who profit from the “Catholic” 26 county state and the 6 county statelet, and perhaps the romantic notions of some in the Catholic community, some of my mothers (distaff) relatives were O’sullivans from Cork and staunch Union men from the East End Docks in London, Stevedores and Shipwrights , having emigrated some decades before first to Scotland, Fife, and then finally to the East End.

          My mothers father married a Protestant and never saw or spoke to his family afterwards though they all lived within a few minutes walk of each other, she died before i was born but he entertained a life long hatred of the Irish, though being part Irish himself, and Catholics, though being of Catholic origin.

        • HarryLaw says:

          gamal “ok Harry, we clearly have different versions of this history, i am not trying win an argument.” My argument is that in International Law, Northern Ireland is recognized as being part of the United Kingdom, and that any change in that status can only come about with the agreement of the Northern Irish people concerned, The Irish Government now agree with this position by dropping articles 2 and 3 in their constitution.
          Similarly the Israeli state has been recognized in International Law within the boundaries agreed between the Israeli Government and the United Nations in 1947/8 and that these boundaries cannot be changed without the agreement of the Israeli Government. The Israeli Government, like the Irish Government before it dropped it’s claim, is acting outside International Law and there can be no agreement until it ends the occupation and recognizes the Palestinian state as decided at the UN last year.

  13. Do you really think it is fair to equate British policy in Northern Ireland with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians? British government spokespeople have repeatedly said that they are willing to let go of Northern Ireland as soon as a majority of the province’s voters show that that is what they want. In fact, many in the British establishment take the informal view that Britain would be well rid of the place.

    The heroes of the IRA operated a reign of terror in the areas under their control. People who behaved in a way they disapproved had their kneecaps smashed.

    • seafoid says:

      Current UK policy in NI is a world away from that of the 1970s. Part of the switch was due to to the fact that the shared culture that linked Ulster’s unionists with the “mainland” weakened over time as UK society evolved. Unionists professed their loyalty to Queen and Flag and culture in Britain drifted away from that, innit.
      British culture changed, in certain respects it became more open, more confident and the old memes got lost. Shepherds pie gave way to chicken tikka masala.

      It will be the same long term with the Diaspora and the Shtetl. Zionism is too limiting. It isn’t tolerant enough. It shoots itself in the foot.

      Generational change is probably one of the biggest risks to Israel. You just can’t expect people to buy that shoddy ideology indefinitely. 65 years on, it looks very tattered.

  14. HarryLaw says:

    Lysias @ “Although I am an Irish-American of Catholic background, I was very much opposed to the IRA’s violence while the troubles continued. But I have to admit that the IRA’s violence worked in the end”
    I cannot agree, if the aim of the violence was a united Ireland, [the provisional IRA made no secret of that fact,] then it was a miserable failure, if when embarking on the armed struggle someone had said to them “would you settle for seats, sharing power with Unionists in a provincial government firmly within the constitutional framework of the United Kingdom”, they would have thought you mad, but that prospect was offered by Brian Faulkner to the SDLP in the early seventies, they refused. In the early seventies Northern Ireland did need reforms and the Labour government at the time was committed to forcing their implementation at Stormont.
    One of the slogans at the time was “one man one vote” this was the entitlement to vote at local government level, these reforms had been implemented in GB in 1948, those local government elections had different entitlements to vote based on property ownership, business ownership and such like, mainly in the inner cities, strangely because of the greater number of working class Protestants in these areas slated for reform, more Protestants than Catholics were disenfranchised, but in my opinion the greatest act of discrimination against all citizens of Northern Ireland was the refusal of the major political parties in GB to contest elections in NI, particularly the UK Labour party who steadfastly refused to accept membership applications from Catholic and Protestant workers alike resident in NI, it was a fact that British people resident in any part of the world could become a member of the British Labour party, except anyone resident in NI. At the time the British Labour party was uniquely placed to help end sectarianism in NI just as they had done in UK cities such as Glasgow and Liverpool, but they refused, not wanting to dirty their hands by getting involved with the working classes of both religions, but more importantly to keep NI at arms length from the politics of the rest of the UK, so workers could only vote for the local sectarian parties, but that’s another story.

    • gamal says:

      “would you settle for seats, sharing power with Unionists in a provincial government firmly within the constitutional framework of the United Kingdom”, they would have thought you mad, but that prospect was offered by Brian Faulkner to the SDLP in the early seventies, they refused”

      Harry thats a complete misrepresentation of the failure of power sharing which was instituted and then brought down by militant unionists!

      link to news.bbc.co.uk

      any comment?

      • HarryLaw says:

        gamal, “Harry thats a complete misrepresentation of the failure of power sharing which was instituted and then brought down by militant unionists!”
        The power sharing arrangements brought about by the Sunningdale agreements envisaged a power sharing between the Unionist parties and the SDLP with a council of Ireland where Southern politicians could have a say in Northern Irish affairs, the power sharing element was acceptable to most Unionists, the Republics having a say in the affairs of NI was not, the Ulster workers council strike was called opposing this interference, Len Murry chairman of the British Trade Union Congress tried to lead strikebreakers into Harland and Wolf shipyards which I think employed 10,000 at the time only about 100 people joined him, that strike brought the province to a standstill, strikers representatives said they were not against power sharing per se only the council of Ireland element, at this time the result of a court case was revealed when Kevin Boland an Irish Republican politician, had accused the Irish government of breaking the Irish Republics written constitution, which laid claim to the whole island of Ireland and it’s territorial seas in articles 2 and 3, the Irish governments defence was, at Sunningdale they had not recognized Northern Ireland as part of the UK and that it’s claim was not compromised by that agreement. That statement by the Irish government galvanized the strikers, confirming everything they suspected, the strikers won and the executive fell, parties who opposed the council of Ireland went on to win 11 of the 12 seats at the next General election. There were in fact two agreements the Irish version published in Dublin was different than the official UK publication

        Both sides tried to ignore articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution which claimed sovereignty over the whole island of Ireland and its territorial seas, and the British who said that in International Law that Northern Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom.
        Here is how the agreement was sold to their respective electorates, the Irish version published in Dublin said:
        “Agreement between the government of Ireland and the government of the United Kingdom”. See here:- link to docs.google.com

        The British version published by her Majesty,s stationary office said “Agreement between the government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the Republic of Ireland”. see here:- link to cain.ulst.ac.uk

        Notice the difference…

        The Irish version excludes Northern Ireland as part of the UK which is the officially designated name of the state and although in practice the Irish government recognized Northern Irelands de facto position as part of the UK it was precluded from recognizing its de jure status (this was established in the Kevin Boland case in the Irish supreme court in 1973/74). The Irish government said in effect that they had never recognized Northern Ireland as a de jure part of the UK and so the Anglo-Irish agreement 1985 tried again to deceive the electorates of both states with the Machiavellian disappearance of Northern Ireland from the heading of the agreement. The electorates were not fooled and the Anglo-Irish agreement was dead in the water, it was only when the Irish government amended the constitution that an agreement with the Unionist community was made possible.

        • HarryLaw says:

          gamal, more on the Boland case… In mid January 1974 Kevin Boland, [a former Cabinet Minister who had resigned from Fienna Fail in 1970 on Republican grounds] appealed to the High court to rule the Governments signature of the Sunningdale Agreement invalid. Boland was legally represented in court by Sean MacBride- IRA Chief of staff in the thirties, Minister in the post-war Government which declared Southern Ireland a Republic, now a leading member of Amnesty International, and recently the recipient of a Nobel Peace prize.
          The Government pleaded that it’s Sunningdale declaration was not in conflict with and did not in any way prejudice the sovereignty claim in the constitution, the High court agreed.
          This meant that the Sunningdale declaration did not mean what it appeared to say, and what it had been represented as saying. It was not a rejection of the sovereignty claim. It was a mear statement that it was not the policy of that particular Government to enforce the sovereignty claim against the wishes of a majority in the North.
          The matter was further clarified in late February at the hearing of Boland’s appeal to the Supreme court to overturn the finding of the High court, where the Attorney General, TK Liston, submitted on behalf of the Government that: ” Any person living in this island and knowing our history could not possibly construe the declaration [in Paragraph 5 [of Sunningdale as meaning that we did not claim lay claim over the six counties… The President of the High court said it was very carelessly drafted, or very carefully drafted, to avoid saying what the claim of the state was. Mr Liston said that they presumably knew what the claim of the state was. Irish Times Feb 22. My reference to two agreements in my above comment refers to the later 1985 Anglo Irish Agreement, the Sunningdale Agreement was the confusing statement by the Irish Government, deliberately so, which the Boland case exposed as duplicitous. Both agreements tried unsuccessfully to dupe the Northern Irish electorates both failed.

        • gamal says:

          thanks Harry have skimmed and will now with a dram of Bowmore will read at my leisure, there are things here i didnt recall or have never known. I do recall the articles 2 and 3 being a problem but thought that they had been disavowed.

        • gamal says:

          right i went through them line by line and until i read your final paragraph i missed it, i must never represent myself in court, it is obvious once you pointed it out.

          Cool i get what you are saying though no doubt we have differences, i really learned something Harry thanks its been a privilege. Never had much time for the Irish Government that they could be both so blatant and stupid does not surprise me, the only two Irish politicians i have had a postivish experience with were Kathleen Lynch and Ivana Bacik, both with many caveats but still admirable in their own ways, thanks man it was a gas.

  15. HarryLaw says:

    Tobias @ “As regards your mention of the 1973 border poll that gave a 98.9% result in favor of remaining to stay in the UK. The nationalist community in Northern Ireland boycotted this poll en mass, some 41.34% of the voting population. So the 98.9% number is meaningless and it was the SDLP party who urged the boycott not Sinn Fein who were not a political factor in 1973.” You are correct, the Nationalist parties did encourage their supporters to boycott the poll, and for the good reason that they knew what a disaster the poll results would be for them.
    “In fact, the success of the hunger striker candidates and their backers in parliamentary by- elections and assembly elections that followed the 1980/81 strikes, demonstrated to the constitutional element of the IRA – and the wider world – that the IRA had substantial political support in the catholic community.”
    Yes the provisional IRA had considerable support in the Nationalist community at the time of the hunger strikes, but never more than 10% of the NI electorate, not a sufficient mandate to wage war on the scale they did, they even waged war on the official IRA, who at least were only committed to a united Ireland with the consent of the Protestant working class and utterly repudiated the Provisionals “sectarian ” agenda.

    • seafoid says:

      “Yes the provisional IRA had considerable support in the Nationalist community at the time of the hunger strikes, but never more than 10% of the NI electorate, not a sufficient mandate to wage war on the scale they did”

      It took 2 to tango. The British response was a joke. I think all that right wing security knee jerk bang them up all we need is more soldiers and police shtick is crap. There is no zero sum game in Erez Israel either.
      The RUC was just a trough at which policemen got rich in the end. So many people earned their crust from the dysfunction. It is the same in Israel of course.

      Most civil disturbances arise from genuine grievances. Pretending they don’t exist is counterproductive in the long run. NI is only 60% self funding I think. London pays the rest.

      By the time the war ended Belfast didn’t have more than a handful of downtown cafes. Nobody hung around more than was necessary. And Sinn Fein displaced the SDLP as the DUP displaced the UUP. Sunningdale for slow learners.

      NI is still very challenging though. Politics is still very messy.

      • HarryLaw says:

        Seafoid “Most civil disturbances arise from genuine grievances. Pretending they don’t exist is counterproductive in the long run. NI is only 60% self funding I think. London pays the rest”. Could not agree more, fortunately in the United Kingdom areas of deprivation are funded by the more prosperous ones, its possible the North East negatively impinges financially on the Home Counties, but then the roles could well be reversed. One of the arguments against a United Ireland in the sixties was that the Republic could not afford the generous welfare state available to the Northern Irish, one piece of encouragement was the way Paisley and Mcguinness became genuine firm friends, [they became known as the chuckle brothers] which goes to show how enemies can be reconciled, who knows what the future may bring, but a recognition of each others different histories can go a long way to bringing Irish people of whatever tradition together.

        • seafoid says:

          NI doesn’t have much private economic activity. The old protestant only industries like shipbuilding and linen all went into decline. Catholics were.not allowed to work on these pre 69. Today the biggest problem is the protestant working class. Their traditional status jobs have all gone and education.levels in their communities are way lower so they can’t compete with catholics for public sector jobs. There is also an identity crisis . Their symbolism of queen and loyalty to a white UK is very oldfashioned. Another challenge is emigration of the educated protestant middle class.

          NI will always struggle to.win inward investment because the politics are so complex.

          I think.the NI protestants are an example to Israel of the challenges that crop up when the old certainties break down and the memes die. Israel will have similar questions around identity.

    • Tobias says:

      Harry, the British argument was that the IRA was a bunch of thugs, mindless godfathers of violence without support in their community. The hunger strikes and their political aftermath put paid to this. Not sure about the 10% you cite – I would say it was closer to a figure of 15 or 16% (about the same in percentage terms of the nationalist population who lined the route of Bobby Sands funeral). Given that that support could only come from the nationalist community it equated to more like 40% of their community backing the hard men. I am no IRA apologist by the way – always found them much too fascist and while we could spend all day debating the size of their mandate, my view is that the Libyan weaponry they received in the 80’s and the leadership decision (read Adams) to take their fight to English economic targets on the mainland causing enormous damage to the UK economy, is what ended things. There had been backdoor channels between the British government and the IRA but at any time Britain could have crushed the IRA. It is to their credit that as a liberal democracy they never really had the stomach to suspend civil liberties to the extent this would have entailed. This is the area that deserves comparative studies between the two situations and indeed how the British army dealt with trouble compared to how the IDF does today. Bad and all as the British army behaved from time to time in Northern Ireland compared to the purity of the IDF they were perfect gentlemen.

      • the British argument was that the IRA was a bunch of thugs

        it was revealed a few years ago the thuggist of the thugs wasa UK undercover. sorry, can’t remember the details other than it was very big news when it broke.

        • libra says:

          The IRA were a terrorist organization, annie. Do you think setting off bombs in public places, killing and maiming civilians, is just thuggery?

          By the way, you’re normally strict on people not backing up allegations without links.

        • link to guardian.co.uk

          Revealed: five British spies inside IRA

          Enforcer Stakeknife was just one key infiltrator of the terror group, reports Henry McDonald. Ex-Special Branch men are threatening to name them all

          He is the British spy who operated at the heart of the IRA’s most brutal enforcement team. Yet Stakeknife was only one of five highly- placed agents working inside the republican terror group, The Observer has discovered.

          In the wake of the controversy that has rocked the IRA and the British security services, it has emerged that four more senior Provisionals, including Stakeknife’s deputy, were double agents.

          Stakeknife, who worked inside the IRA’s internal security department, is rated as only fifth in importance, say former RUC Special Branch officers and senior members of the Garda Siochana.

          The disclosure of more British spies working in the IRA will raise its internal tensions, and it further highlights the remarkable culture of secrecy and suspicion in Ulster’s terrorist groups.

          Freddie Scappaticci, the west Belfast man accused of being Stakeknife, continues to deny he ever worked for British intelligence. In the latest twist to his story, former intelligence officer Martin Ingrams has threatened to produce documents he claims prove the denials are untrue.

          Ingrams has been a source of leaks that have embarrassed the Government and the security services. The former warrant officer, who has revealed the extent of links between the Army and Special Branch and loyalist terrorists, has been arrested under the Official Secrets Act and his house has been burgled by MI5.

          In a dramatic development yesterday Kevin Fulton, a former Army agent who once operated inside the IRA, was arrested in London by officers from the Metropolitan Police.

          Fulton, whose real name is Peter Keeley, infiltrated the IRA for the Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU) in the late Seventies. He is the source of the allegation that the RUC and Garda Special Branch failed to act on a tip-off that could have prevented the Omagh bomb massacre in August 1998. He has also given evidence to reporters about the existence of Stakeknife. The reasons for Fulton’s arrest are not clear.

          In a separate development, senior members of the Garda Siochana told The Observer this weekend that Scappaticci’s second in command during the Eighties, the late IRA veteran John Joe Magee, worked for the security forces on both sides of the border.

          Magee, a former British soldier, interrogated and shot alleged informers in the Eighties and early Nineties. He is understood to have ‘wrecked’ a number of IRA units in Belfast and Co Tyrone, as well as sabotaging IRA guns and explosives.

          Retired RUC Special Branch officers, meanwhile, have threatened to name more agents in the IRA. Their motive is revenge against the Government, which they believe laid them off to appease the terrorists.

          ‘Some of the boys who left the force were angry and took some of the dynamite with them. This is their payback,’ one former RUC officer said last night.

          Sunday Herald: Neil Mackay

          Original Link: link to sundayherald.com

          HE was one of the most feared men inside the Provisional IRA. To rank-and-file ‘volunteers’, a knock on the door from John Joe Magee was the equivalent of a visit from the Angel of Death.

          However, court documents leaked to the Sunday Herald show that Magee, head of the IRA’s infamous ‘internal security unit’, was trained as a member of Britain’s special forces. The IRA’s ‘torturer-in-chief’ was in reality one of the UK’s most elite soldiers.

          The documents, lodged as part of a court action being taken against the British government by a disgruntled military intelligence agent, name Magee as a ‘former member of the Special Boat Squadron’.

          The SBS is the marine equivalent to the SAS, with many in its ranks drafted from the Royal Marines, as in Magee’s case. IRA sources say that Magee had left the SBS by the time he joined the Provisionals. However, the public disclosure of his time as a member of the special forces will fuel speculation that Magee was an informer for the British.

          Magee died recently in Dundalk, Ireland, from a heart condition. Since his death, the IRA has been embroiled in a catalogue of disclosures that some of its most respected members were working for British military intelligence.

          Magee led the IRA’s internal security unit for more than a decade up to the mid-90s — most of those he investigated were usually executed.

          it wasn’t exactly a secret

          Do you think setting off bombs in public places, killing and maiming civilians, is just thuggery?

          thuggery wasn’t my framing, you know that because i copied and pasted tobias’s text.

      • HarryLaw says:

        Tobias @ “Not sure about the 10% you cite – I would say it was closer to a figure of 15 or 16% (about the same in percentage terms of the nationalist population who lined the route of Bobby Sands funeral)”. I drew my guess from the Northern Ireland Assembly elections after the hunger strikes which was Sinn Fein 10.1% which increased at the Westminster election in 1983 to Sinn Fein 13.4% then down again at the Local Government elections in 1985 to 11.8%. Of course many people voted Sinn Fein for all sorts of reasons, many taken in by their so called “socialist pretensions” which were just “tactics” they were always the hard cutting edge of Irish Nationalism.

      • seafoid says:

        Tobias, I think it was more like a stalemate in the end. Neither side could impose their will on the other. There was a lot of pointless violence as well directed at soft targets in the NI working class that revulsed the people.

        Eg Margaret Wright was a protestant alcoholic who needed a drink one evening and ended up in a loyalist drinking den. She was beaten to death because they thought she was catholic. People got tired of the nihilism.

        • Tobias says:

          Seafoid, yes I agree, so much of the violence was just tribal savagery. I suppose war weariness allowed both sides to be seen to be fought to a draw as it were. My view is that it was after the IRA went ‘economic’ with spectaculars like, Bishopsgate and the Baltic bombs – which nearly bankrupted Lloyds after all – that the ruling class got serious about ending it. The British and Irish governments earnest peace negotiations towards the end was more of a kabuki show. The real game changer and the man who brought the IRA in from the cold was Clinton – when he granted Adams a visa to come to the US and get the Irish American hardliners onside. Life on the run is a young mans game – limo’s, Gucci loafers and white house visits have a more mature middle-aged appeal.

  16. HarryLaw says:

    amigo @ “Repudiated is a strong word.It was more a temporary suspension of that claim” No, the Republic of Ireland electorate voted 94.39% to 5.6% to drop the claim to sovereignty over Northern Ireland enshrined in articles 2 and 3 of its constitution, it was not a temporary measure, they [the Irish Republic] promise to work towards Irish unity in a peaceful manner, and acknowledge that no change can come about without the consent of the majority in Northern Ireland. Nobody can complain about that perfectly reasonable agreement.
    On the issue of the Border poll conducted in 1973 in which 98.9% of the electorate in Northern Ireland voted to remain part of the UK and just 1.1% voted to join the Irish Republic [granted Nationalist politicians encouraged Boycott of the poll]. Imagine a poll of Palestinians where the question was “do you want an end to the occupation” ? And only 1.1% voted to end it, that’s why a conflation of the Two situations is problematical.

    • harry, might i suggest you use the ‘reply’ function when addressing specific comments and commenters. thanks.

      i mention this because this is the 3rd time on this thread you’ve posted response comments without using the reply function.

      • eljay says:

        >> harry, might i suggest you use the ‘reply’ function when addressing specific comments and commenters. thanks.

        FWIW, this doesn’t always work. It’s happened to me a few times that I’ve hit “Reply” below a post that I want to reply to and had my comments end up elsewhere in the thread.

        • you know what, it took me over a year to figure out eljay..sometimes i start a comment somewhere and then move it without pressing ‘cancel’ first. it will then drop to the base or stay where it originated.

          anyway, i always worry people will not see responses to their comments when they’re not attached..or worse yet there may be so many comments (eventually) between them it becomes difficult to figure out the reference if the thread fills up. anyway, not a huge deal.

        • eljay says:

          >> you know what, it took me over a year to figure out eljay..sometimes i start a comment somewhere and then move it without pressing ‘cancel’ first. it will then drop to the base or stay where it originated.

          I’ll keep that in mind – thanks for the tip! :-)

  17. MHughes976 says:

    I’ve often mentioned that I (English, Protestant, not impartial) don’t share the pro-IRA views often expressed here, though I’ve not wanted to get involved in that argument, also thinking that what British politicians said about the IRA campaign was often facile. Whatever the truth of that particular matter I would ask what are the principles on which territory should be assigned to one sovereign or another? I’ve also said perhaps too often that I’ve never seen even a reasonably coherent statement of the right of ‘self-determination’. To me the first principle is that territory should be assigned in the way that causes least war and violence, thus that stability is highly important, thus that only in the clearest cases of tyranny or chaos – or at least unsustainability – should boundaries be changed and territories re-assigned. The standard remedy for injustice within a territory should be justice, not partition.
    My objection to Zionism is not that Palestine is Muslim or Christian, not Jewish (or Arab, not Jewish) land but that Zionism ascribes unique right, now commonly called birthright, to Jewish people, leading to a system of river-to-sea minority rule and disfranchisement of many of the majority race/religion. I think that justice requires people to live together without discrimination on grounds of religion or race. I hope that that is the future of Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Jew.

    • seafoid says:

      I know what you mean. I think even in NI a lot of Catholics never had much time for it. Certainly in the republic of Ireland the % of people who supported the violence was quite low. The issue is very complex. Where a society descends into communal violence a lot of dysfunction is present. It’s not pleasant.