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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The One Eyed Observer
''The Holocaust attempted to eliminate all the Jewish people in Europe and massacred six million people. The events in Rwanda 50 years later resulted in the deaths of almost one million people in just over 100 days. These acts of genocide and others like them vividly demonstrate the depths to which humanity can descend. They are the disastrous result of the attempted imposition of one group’s supposed superiority on others. We must learn from the fact that these events happened and that some of them happened within the last decade' – Ronnie Appleton QC, of the Council for Christians and Jews and President of the Jewish Community

'Whether we are dealing with the racism of Nazi Germany, or apartheid South Africa or Israel, or the racism being suffered by ethnic minorities in Ireland, North and South, all such racism must be confronted and actively opposed … the over-riding lesson of the Holocaust should be that we will never ever again tolerate the existence of racially supremacist ideologies’ – Feilim O hAdhmaill Chair of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Belfast

Anthony McIntyre • 20 January 2004

Last year, Henry McDonald, writing in the Observer, made the following claim. 'A huge manhunt was underway last night for an Irish republican bomb-maker who is believed to be training Palestinian terrorists in Israel.' As it transpired, the 'bombmaker' eventually arrested was a member of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC). His business in the Middle East was exclusively humanitarian. The Israeli authorities accepted this and released him. Yesterday, in the same outlet, Henry McDonald ran with a further article entitled, ‘Republican says Zionists will hijack Holocaust Day.’ Its substance, unfortunately, was as tenuous as the earlier piece.

McDonald, is without doubt, genuinely interested in the promotion of a human rights culture. He has also done much to push back the encroachment of censorship. But when addressing matters germane to Palestine related human rights activity in Ireland, his view that Israel is a democratic island in an otherwise totalitarian Middle East, distorts his perspective to the point of illogicality.

In the article, it was claimed that the chairperson of the Belfast Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Feilim O hAdhmaill, ‘denounced Belfast's Holocaust memorial day … (and) … claimed that the Holocaust commemoration would be used by local Zionists.’ It was also claimed that ‘in his communiqué to pro-Palestinian activists, he tried to make direct comparisons between Nazism and Israeli policies on the West Bank and Gaza.’

The supposed denunciation of Holocaust Day was said to be contained within a private e-mail sent by Feilim O hAdhmaill to his colleagues within the IPSC and which the Observer managed to obtain a copy of. So what did O hAdhmaill actually say that would amount to a ‘denunciation’ of Holocaust Day? Absolutely nothing; in fact, far from denouncing Holocaust Day, he stated, ‘we should urge the population to remember the Holocaust, but we should also urge them to learn the lesson of the Holocaust.' In what way is this different from the comments of Ronnie Appleton that, ‘we must learn from the fact that these events happened’?

Moreover, at no point did O hAdhmaill claim that the Holocaust commemoration ‘would’ be used by the organisers. But as part of a wider debate within the IPSC he suggested that it ‘may’ be used by the organisers - and in particular by the chair, Ronnie Appleton - 'to justify the establishment of an apartheid state in the Middle East and the racist policies it adopts towards the local Palestinian population both within Israel and in the illegally occupied territories.' Such is the nature of brainstorming that happens privately in every group as members try to distill their ideas and formulate policy. Hardly controversial and certainly not diabolical. That Ronnie Appleton might not even entertain any notion of using the Holocaust memorial is readily accepted by Feilim O’hAdhmaill, who, outside of the e-mail, but in public, has stated that, 'as far as I am concerned there has been no evidence of any attempt to use the Holocaust memorial to further a political objective. And that is to his credit.'

What were the direct comparisons made by O hAdhmaill between Nazism and Israeli policies as applied to the Palestinians?

The attempted extermination of a whole group (and in fact groups) of people by the Nazis, for openly racist reasons, is something that the world should never be allowed to forget. However, this massive injustice was used to justify another massive injustice (and one that is ongoing) against the Palestinian people. People have to challenge the current orthodoxy which urges them to keep quiet when it comes to commenting on the lessons of the Holocaust.

It was entirely appropriate for O hAdhmaill to mention the Nazis in relation to the Holocaust; they, afterall, inflicted it. But it was equally appropriate for him to mention the Palestinians in terms of the lessons to be learned from the Holocaust. Was not Sabra and Shatilla genocide overseen by Israel and for which the present prime minister, Ariel Sharon, was stated by the Israeli appointed Khan Commission, to bear 'personal responsibility'?

But the tendentious nature of the Observer piece is to be found in the columnist's attention to O hAdhmaill’s past conviction for involvement in armed republican activity. At no point did he mention that Ronnie Appleton performed a crucial function within the British state’s repressive apparatus in the North; that he endlessly prosecuted people in no-jury courts and in many cases secured convictions solely on the basis of signed statements obtained in RUC interrogation centres. The RUC on whose behalf he prosecuted was involved in the murder of civilians, the torture of those in its custody, the fabrication of evidence, collusion with loyalist killers, and shoot-to-kill.

The problem with this one-eyed approach is that it reveals an underlying assumption that republican anti-state violence was wholly wrong and that state violence was wholly right. The readership is thus invited to follow a pathological thread which leads from the ‘wrongfulness’ of republican armed force into the exclusively peaceful activity O hAdhmaill and others conduct on behalf of Palestinian human rights. McDonald did not sully the activities of the Holocaust Commemoration because of Ronnie Appleton’s past activities. Nor should he have. But he did seek to craft from Feilim O hAdhmaill's past, a backdrop that would cast a sinister shadow over his involvement in the IPSC. The outcome of such imbalance is simply that the suffering of one group of people acquires an elevated status vis a vis others. From such seeds does racism grow. O hAdhmaill's alertness to this is captured in his comment, not reported in the Observer, that the fight to ensure there are no more Holocausts means 'confronting the BNP and Combat 18 and their loyalist paramilitaries supporters on the streets on Belfast and Portadown. It also means confronting the 'little Irelanders' who want a 'racially pure' Ireland, whatever that would be!'

In order to conjure a story out of a very ordinary e-mail, two of yesterday’s newspapers - the Sunday Independent as well as the Observer - had to join apples with pears and present them as fruit of the same vine. The very opposite of what O hAdhmaill advocated was somehow transmogrified into a story of news value. The incongruity was so protuberant that it was impossible not to see the awkward joints. It amounted to a tabloid type sensationalism, where style was meant to compensate for a dearth of substance. And unfortunately, it takes us close to a position outlined by the Palestinian Foreign Minister, Dr Shaath, where ‘any criticism of Israel is regarded as an anti-Semitic crime, which is really blackmail.’

An estimated 600 Jewish people live in the North of Ireland today. Most if not all will remember the victims of Nazi atrocities on Holocaust Day. Many pro-Palestinian activists will stand alongside them, shoulder to shoulder, determined that never again will Jewish people be the victims of genocide. Feilim O hAdhmail is one of them. That he rejects the notion of a hierarchy of victims and is thus concerned with protecting all peoples from racism and genocide - including Palestinians - is to his credit. It is a stance that should be emulated, rather than being made the basis of a falsification that depicts Israeli policy towards the Palestinians as being somehow not shaped in any way by supremacist, apartheid and racist considerations.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

20 January 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


Demise of the Dinosaur?
Eamon Sweeney


The Price the Working Classes Pay for a Pedestal These Days
Mick Hall


The One Eyed Observer

Anthony McIntyre


The Spark in Jeffery
John Fitzharris


Anti-Racism Rally

Davy Carlin


32CSM Condemns PIRA Shooting of Republican Activist
Andy Martin


Semantics of Empire
M. Shahid Alam


16 January 2004


Response by the Maghaberry POWs to the 'Compact Propsals for Separated Prisoners
PRO Maghaberry POWs


Horses or Zebras?
Paul Fitzsimmons


The Future of Iran

Pedram Moallemian


Anthony McIntyre


A State of the Union Address

Eamon Sweeney




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