I am old enough to remember a time when Sinn Féin was kept off the airwaves.
The bans encouraged ignorance about the conflict in Ireland and its root cause – the brutality of the British state.
It is disappointing – to put it mildly – that having been subjected to censorship and exclusion, Sinn Féin is now resorting to censorship and exclusion itself.
A new video uploaded to Sinn Féin’s channel on YouTube gives a misleading flavor of a public meeting it organized in Belfast last week.
The main speaker at the event was Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid, the Palestinian Authority’s envoy to Ireland.
She was interrupted by several Palestinians, one of whom described the PA as a “corrupt dictatorship.” Before they were removed from the event, the protesters also voiced their disgust at plans by Sinn Féin to attend a Saint Patrick’s Day celebration hosted by Joe Biden, the chief enabler of the Gaza genocide.The video of the event uploaded by Sinn Féin omits the interruptions. Sinn Féin has a better record of speaking out against Israel’s crimes than most other political parties in Ireland. That does not excuse it for silencing ordinary Palestinians as it did in Belfast last week.
Sinn Féin used to demonstrate a far clearer understanding of the situation than it now does.
Back in 1998, An Phoblacht – Sinn Féin’s newspaper – published a critique of the Oslo accords reached between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization a few years earlier.
The article commented on how “having signed up to the ‘peace deal’,” the PLO’s then leader Yasser Arafat “now finds it empowers Israel in direct proportion to its disempowerment of the Palestinians.”
“He signed up to a deal supposedly based on the premise of land for peace,” the article adds.
“In a perverse sense, the Israelis have adhered to the central tenets of that deal. They continue to enjoy the peace that military, economic and political superiority confers. Meanwhile, they continue with the process of land confiscation and settlement building. Israel enjoys both land and peace. The Palestinians feed on occasional scraps.”
One of the “scraps” thrown to the Palestinian Authority – set up under the Oslo accords – was that it was given nominal responsibility for administering several cities and towns in the occupied West Bank.
In reality, the PA has always been subservient to Israel. Through arrangements overseen by the US and the European Union, its security forces are required to fully coordinate their activities with the Israeli military.
The results have been predictably ugly. To cosset Israel, the PA represses, locks up and sometimes even kills fellow Palestinians.
Under initiatives sponsored by Britain and then the EU, the PA has been trained in what tactics of repression it should employ by officers who had previously been with the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).
The RUC was a predominantly Protestant force in the north of Ireland that had a marked anti-Catholic bias and colluded with death squads loyal to the British crown.
As Sinn Féin insisted that the RUC be disbanded, it should not have any difficulty understanding why ordinary Palestinians despise the PA’s repressive conduct and its collusion with Israel’s forces of occupation. Nor should it have any difficulty understanding why ordinary Palestinians are adamant that the PA does not speak for them.
The way Sinn Féin threw out the protesters in Belfast last week indicates that it has no desire to heed what ordinary Palestinians say. It only listens to the Palestinian Authority.
Sinn Féin’s number one objective is to end the partition of Ireland.
The partition of Ireland was imposed a century ago by the colonial British elite.
It was imposed to ensure that the British-loyal Protestant population, predominantly descended from English and Scottish settlers, would dominate the newly created statelet of Northern Ireland at the expense of the predominantly Catholic indigenous Irish people.
This same British elite also facilitated the Zionist colonization of Palestine. The result of that colonization is that historic Palestine has been chopped up into slivers now lacking any contiguity.
In other words, an extreme form of partition has been inflicted on Palestine.
The partition is so extreme that it is impossible to see how the two-state solution advocated by the EU and US could bring equal rights between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis. If anything, it would just entrench the divisions of Palestine orchestrated first by Britain and then by Israel.
An underlying assumption about all talk of a two-state solution is that it would enable Israel to remain a Jewish state. Palestinian citizens of Israel would by definition be accorded a lower status than Jews.
Splitting historic Palestine into two states would, therefore, be a recipe for preserving apartheid.
That idea ought to be anathema to Sinn Féin.
Yet it is unwilling to think outside the two-state box.
The book A Shared Struggle is a fascinating history of how Irish and Palestinian prisoners have undertaken hunger strikes.
Yet it is not without flaws.
Danny Morrison was Sinn Féin’s director of publicity in the 1980s – the time when the party was banned from the airwaves. In his introduction to the book, Morrison expresses only one hope for a Sinn Féin-led government in the south of Ireland: that the party will ensure its commitment to having a Palestinian state recognized is acted upon.
Writing in The New Arab, Koutteineh had previously revealed that she was expelled from Sinn Féin after advocating that it reverse its support for a two-state solution.
When Koutteineh urged – during internal discussions – that Sinn Féin should instead back decolonization in Palestine, she was shouted down by one of the party’s officers.
Why is Sinn Féin treating Palestinians in this way?
Sinn Féin used to find it obnoxious that Palestinians were told to be content with “occasional scraps.” Judging by its recent behavior, Sinn Féin is now being dismissive toward the very many Palestinians who stress that they will never be happy with occasional scraps.