Ireland Deviates from the West in Position on Israel

Image Credit: Andrew Longo

Andrew Longo highlights Ireland’s social and political response to the war in Israel as well as its unique stance on the need for Palestinian equality.

Territorial disputes between Israel and the Palestinian people have existed since the creation of the Israeli state in 1948. The beginning of the struggles seen today can be traced back to 1967 when Israel gained control of the West Bank, Sinai Peninsula, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. This takeover ended the Six-Day War and expanded Israeli borders to their modern position. This territory had, and continues to have, a majority Palestinian Arab population. Through its close relationship with the West who have supported the nation financially, Israel has managed to maintain a strong military presence who have suppressed any attempts of revolt since 1948. There have been multiple attempts by Palestinians to gain regional autonomy since 1967, which have allowed the area, despite being a part of Israel, to achieve a certain level of governance within the State. In an uprising lasting from 1987 to 1993, the Palestine Liberation Organization was recognized as the representative of the Palestinian people. A second uprising, ending in 2005, saw Palestinians gain control of both Gaza and the West Bank. Following this, Israel, as well as the surrounding state of Egypt, imposed a blockade of the Gaza Strip which heavily restricts the flow of people and goods to the region. As a result of this blockade, the United Nations estimates that 81% of Gazans live in poverty. Shortly after the imposition of the blockade, Hamas, a Palestinian militant group regarded by the likes of the United States and the European Union as a terrorist organization, swept Palestinian elections and currently remains in power. In the early hours of October 7th, a barrage of rockets belonging to Hamas rang out on Israeli territory. These attacks targeted civilians and were perpetrated to initiate a flare-up in regional tensions. In and in response Israel initiated an unprecedented crackdown in Gaza, resulting in the death of 11,255 Palestinians, according to CNN. 

Following the October 7th attack, the United States, along with France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Italy, issued a joint statement expressing their, “steadfast and united support to the State of Israel, and our unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and its appalling acts of terrorism”. Notably missing from this list of Western powers, however, is the Republic of Ireland. For a Western democracy and an E.U. member state, Ireland has historically been critical of the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinian people. While most Western nations have invested economic and political interests in Israel, Ireland has provided very little monetary support to the nation. Earlier this month, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar elucidated that Israel’s actions in Gaza resembled “something approaching revenge”, according to Reuters. In addition to the Taoiseach's remarks, there have been two unsuccessful attempts in the Dáil by the Social Democrats to both expel the Israeli ambassador and refer Israel to the International Criminal Court for its callous actions. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) official website, Ireland “accepts that the Government of Israel has the right to defend its people, but this right does not negate the rights of others.” In addition, the DFA asserts that the only way to ensure a lasting ceasefire in the region is to enact political change. Namely, calling for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel and, ultimately, the possibility of a free Palestinian state. To reinforce this stance, the Irish government has given a total of €29 million in aid to the Palestinian people in 2023. 

The only way to ensure a lasting ceasefire in the region is to enact political change. 

Ireland has stood firm, identifying the value of human life, in the pursuit for lasting justice. 
Likewise, the Irish people have been vocal in their support of Palestinians. According to The Irish Times, thousands have taken to the streets in pro-Palestine marches and demonstrations in more than seven cities across the country. The Social Democrats' attempt to expel the Israeli ambassador drew over a thousand people outside of the Dáil in support of the motion. In Dublin City, student coalitions at several universities have organized rallies calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and freedom for Palestinians. In University College Dublin, the Students’ Union held a ‘Palestinian Solidarity Demonstration’ on November 14th. Alongside these measures, however, are also a wave of pro-Israel tributes, with a flower-strewn memorial to missing Israeli citizens remaining near Connolly Station over several weeks. Yet, it is important to recognise that the majority of demonstrations witnessed across the nation have been in solidarity with Palestine. As the world grapples with the fallout of another armed conflict in the Middle East, Ireland has stood firm, identifying the value of human life, in the pursuit for lasting justice.