Ireland vs. Israel: Can’t Compare Media’s Coverage

Police and soldiers came under attack from a rioting mob that hurled firebombs, rocks and other objects. Reports also indicated some protestors had firearms. Some 55 officers were hurt, including one seriously injured after being struck with a pickaxe. The soldiers responded with plastic bullets.

Sounds like another day in the Gaza Strip, doesn’t it? Maybe, but this incident took place in Northern Ireland and has been as regular a feature of events there over the years as the violence in the West Bank and Gaza. If there is any analogy to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the situation in Ireland is probably it, but the way the two historic disputes are treated is very different.

When Israeli soldiers fire rubber bullets at Palestinian protestors, it’s treated as an international incident. Headlines blare with the number of Palestinians hurt, resolutions are introduced at the U.N. and leaders around the world condemn Israel for its response. In the particular story CNN ran on the violence in Ireland, there was no mention at all of injuries among the Irish protestors. The focus was entirely on the British police and the implication was clearly that they were justifiably acting to quell the protests.

Another parallel that I’ve always found enraging about the Irish and Israeli problems is the attitude toward terrorism. The British government was steadfast in its opposition to negotiating with the IRA. It consistently maintained the organization was devoted to terrorism and, today, it is blamed for the breakdown of the peace process in Northern Ireland because of its unwillingness to meet its obligations under the agreement reached there to turn over its weapons.

At the same time the British pilloried the IRA, they were telling Israel to negotiate with the PLO, an organization that not only is remarkably similar to the IRA, but at times cooperated with the IRA. Whereas the PLO’s failures to observe agreements are excused, the IRA is deservedly castigated for its violations.

The more fundamental issue, however, relates to the roots of the conflict. No one questions that the “troubles” in Ireland are based largely on religion. History, politics, psychology and other facts certainly have influenced events, but the dispute is between Protestants and Catholics. Take this latest outburst of fighting. It was a result of the annual parades conducted by Protestants to commemorate the 1690 Battle of Boyne, when the forces of Protestant William of Orange defeated Catholic King James II. The Protestants try to march through Catholic neighborhoods in what the latter see as a provocation and violence regularly ensues.

Israel’s conflict with its neighbors is also largely religious. And it is one-sided. Nothing in Judaism suggests that Jews cannot or should not live with non-Jews. In Islam, however, the world is divided into believers and nonbelievers, and the former insist it is their duty to subjugate or convert the latter. Practically, many Muslims are happy to live their lives and not worry about Israel. Many others, however, see a Jewish state as a cancer that must be excised from the Islamic body.

U.S. officials, in particular, are so intent on political correctness, and solicitous of the Arab world, that they dare not suggest that Muslims have any hostility toward the West in general or Jews in particular. That is, of course, unless they are trying a Muslim for a terrorist incident against Americans.

When you accept that Hamas, Hizballah, Islamic Jihad and the Iranian government represent the views of a large percentage, if not the vast majority of Muslims in the Middle East, it is possible to begin to understand the Islamic-Jewish aspect of the conflict and to have a realistic view of what is possible to achieve in peace negotiations. A political solution cannot resolve a religious dispute. The Irish understand this and so do most Israelis. Americans do not.