For Lefties too Stubborn to Quit
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Alan Shatter's Road to Damascus?
Thursday June 03, 2010 23:16 by Raymond Deane - IPSC (in a personal capacity)
A Zionist TD changes his tune
At a meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs on 3d June, über-Zionist Alan Shatter TD (Fine Gael) caused some jaws to drop when he expressed some unexpected opinions on Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.
When it comes to the issue of Palestine, meetings of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs (JCFA) could truly give the impression that all Irish political parties are left of centre. Apart from the inevitable unthinking obeisance to the shibboleth of a "two-state solution", representatives of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin, The Greens, Labour and independents alike often seem to be singing from a hymn-sheet composed by the Ireland Palestine Solidary Campaign.
Given the ongoing inaction on any but a rhetorical level by the Irish government, it would be a mistake to overrate the importance of such consensus, but it is nonetheless something unique among European parliaments.
I attended the JCFA's meeting on 3d June. Originally, this was to have seen the Israeli Ambassador answer questions on the murderous hi-jack of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla by Israeli commandos in international waters, but Mr Evrony politely bowed out. His place was taken by the imperturbable Shane Dillon, mate on board the Challenger 1 which was intercepted by Israeli commandos at the same time that they slaughtered at least 9 passengers on board the Turkish cruiser Mavi Marmara. Shane was "deported" from Israel, a country he had not sought to visit, on 1st June.
Shane started proceedings by giving a quiet and eloquent account of the sequence of events from the moment the Israeli state terrorists boarded the Challenger 1 to the moment of his "deportation", pointing out for the umpteenth time that the implements found on the Mavi Marmara and designated as "weapons" by the Israeli army - knives, steel rods, a sledge-hammer - were part of the normal equipment of any seafaring vessel.
One after the other the august members of the Committee welcomed Shane back and congratulated him on his courage. Dr Rory O'Hanlon (FF) called Israel's actions "a symptom of an underlying cause", viz, the Israeli blockade of Gaza that everybody - even Billy Timmins TD (FG) - seemed to agree was illegal, and which was defined by Michael D. Higgins, TD, as "collective punishment". Michael D. pointed out the significant fact that even An Taoiseach Brian Cowen had described it as illegal. Senator David Norris berated the Israeli spin-machine that "is wheeled out even in this small country of ours", pointed out that Hasidic Jews in London had demonstrated against the Zionist state and in favour of Palestinian rights and that the Freedom Flotilla included 86-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, and criticised Ireland's vote in favour of Israel's accession to the OECD and our government's repeated failure to call for suspension of the EU/Israel trade agreement. He astutely pointed out the irony of Israel's interdiction of the importation of cement for reconstruction in Gaza, while Irish cement, provided by multinational CRH, is used for constructing Israel's illegal Apartheid Wall. Aengus O'Snodaigh TD (SF) called on the government not to proceed with its plan to purchase bullets from Israel Military Industries. Senator Mark Deary(Greens), from whose home town of Dundalk the Irish ship MV Rachel Corrie sailed (it is still en route to Gaza), made a truly moving speech of homage to the motives and ideals of the Free Gaza Movement.
So far, so more or less predictable. However, throughout the proceedings one Committee member remained ominously silent, apart from a burst of chat to his neighbour during the contribution of his old sparring-partner David Norris. This was Alan Shatter TD (FG), a man whose role-model sometimes seems to be his US colleague (they are both lawyers) and namesake, the mouth-foaming Zionist Alan Dershowitz. Finally, when chairman Dr Michael Woods (FF) had asked if there were any more comments or questions, Mr Shatter made his contribution.
Denying "the widespread view" that he was "myopic" on the question of Israel/Palestine, Mr Shatter went on to express his myopic - or indeed blind - views on the links between Hamas and Iran, Hamas's opposition to something called "the peace process" (which doesn't exist), and the sterling virtues of Fatah, which calls for a secular two-state solution, and "President" Abbas, who would be assassinated were he to visit Gaza, unlike Deputy Shatter, who was there last year and somehow escaped assassination.
However, I'm cheating. This was, in effect, a postscript to the main burden of Mr Shatter's intervention, which began with the astounding words "I oppose the blockade of Gaza". In my notes I was about to write "support" when I suddenly realised what he had said. He went on to describe Israel's lethal actions against the Mavi Marmara and its passengers as "the consequences of an ill-conceived policy" that was "politically and humanly counter-productive." He expressed his hope that the Rachel Corrie would be allowed bring its aid cargo to Gaza, and that all crossings to Gaza would be opened.
Now, many people will react to this with "who cares what Alan Shatter says?" This is a phrase I have frequently used myself, and in all probability will use again. However, I think it would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of such a dramatic change - not of heart - but of perspective on the part of an intractable and irrational Zionist, a man who in many other respects (and this is a difference between himself and Dershowitz) is rational and even humane in his views. This change, I hope and believe, is a symptom of a fundamental loss of confidence at the core of support for Israeli intransigence and belligerence.
The deaths of the 9, or 19 or 99 victims of Flotilla 13, the "elite" Israeli naval unit that botched the Mavi Marmara operation, may not have been in vain if this is true. However, Zionism has in the past reconstructed itself repeatedly after what seemed like irreversible setbacks (Israeli reaction to the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982, world reaction to the 2006 Lebanon war, etc.). It is up to the worldwide activist community - which has never been more united, even if this is "unity in disarray"! - to ensure that this is not a transitory moment. Our governments - and I include the Irish one, embedded as it is in Atlanticism and the EU's "common foreign policy" - will be eager to ensure the opposite; we must remain metaphorically and literally on the streets until words are followed by actions, Zionism goes the way of South African Apartheid, and the Palestinian people gain their long-deferred self-determination.