Last week Gerry Adams, president of the Irish republican party Sinn Féin, visited present-day Israel and the occupied West Bank. Israeli occupation authorities barred him from a planned visit to besieged Gaza.
Adams met with Yitzhak Herzog, leader of Israel’s Labor Party, historically among the more culpable for the ethnic cleansing and colonization of Palestine, but which is still seen as “dovish” in the eyes of the uninformed.He also met with Mahmoud Abbas, de facto leader of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, who has declared that he considers “coordination” (many Palestinians call it collaboration) with the Israeli occupation forces to be “sacred.”
To his credit, Adams has made strong statements regarding Israel’s summer attack on Gaza and there’s no doubt rank and file supporters of Sinn Féin have been among the most dedicated campaigners for Palestinian rights in Ireland.
But now that he is back on Irish soil, we are seeing the fruits of Adams’ travel: he is proposing a resolution on Palestine in Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Irish parliament, the Oireachtas – where he represents County Louth in the Republic of Ireland.
According to a statement from Sinn Féin, the party will this week put forward a motion “calling on the government to officially recognize the State of Palestine on the basis of the 1967 borders as established in UN resolutions.”
For reasons I explained with respect to similar moves in Sweden, the UK and France, such recognition of a Palestinian “state” does not amount to full support for Palestinian rights, but simply reaffirms the partition of historic Palestine and legitimizes Israeli apartheid and Jewish sectarianism.
The so-called “two-state solution” is a means to rescue Israeli apartheid at the expense of the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinian refugees who under its terms must be permanently barred from returning home in order to guarantee a violently gerrymandered Jewish majority.
The “two-state solution” is advocated today primarily by those who support Israel’s “right to exist as a Jewish state,” which in practice means a “right” to be racist.
Such resolutions also serve as a substitute for real pressure and action: why does Sinn Féin’s parliamentary motion lack any reference to, say, a European arms embargo on Israel, or support for the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)? It should be noted that although the resolution doesn’t mention it, Sinn Féin as a party has called for an arms embargo on Israel. The party also passed a motion at its 2013 national conference backing the Palestinian call for BDS.
That such “recognition” proposals come out from conventional European politicians is no surprise, but for such a proposal to come from Sinn Féin – once called the “political wing of the IRA” – is an absolute travesty.
Sinn Féin calls itself the “All-Ireland” party, operating north and south of the British-imposed partition line. It has historically fought to end the sectarian partition of Ireland which was carried out to assure the continued rule in the north of Protestants descended from English and Scottish settlers.
No one needs to give Adams any lessons on the terror that Irish nationalists, the vast majority Catholics, experienced under this racist and sectarian regime. It was only after all efforts at peaceful change were violently suppressed that some in the Irish Republican movement returned, in the late 1960s and 1970s, to an armed struggle imposed on them through British and unionist intransigence.
“The right of Palestinians to self-determination and to have their own state as well as the right of the State of Israel to exist within secure borders is unquestionable,” Sinn Féin now declares.
But of course the partition of Palestine was just as much a gross violation of the rights of self-determination of the Palestinian people as was the partition of Ireland of the Irish people’s rights.
Palestinian rights are not synonymous with having a national state, otherwise Adams should never have fought to end the partition of Ireland.
Rather, he should have accepted decades ago that Northern Ireland is the legitimate “Protestant state for a Protestant people” – as an infamous Northern Ireland ruler once put it – while the Republic in the south is the “state of the Catholic people.”
Sinn Féin did not, and does not accept that. The 1998 Belfast Agreement that Adams himself negotiated recognizes no such right to sectarian statehood in Ireland, but allows for the abolition of Northern Ireland if referendums call for it (I discuss this at greater length than I can here in my book The Battle for Justice in Palestine and in a 2010 paper for the Palestinian think-tank Al-Shabaka.)
Why now does Adams call for the sectarian partition of historic Palestine and the recognition of a Palestinian statelet or bantustan on a fraction of its territory? Why does he affirm that Israel, a racist and sectarian colonial “state” founded on the ongoing destruction of an existing country, has a “right to exist”? His stance today is a betrayal of Irish history too.
Palestinians are struggling for all their rights and only when Palestinians achieve those rights can there be peace with justice for all who today live in historic Palestine. The question for Adams is: will he back them?