Palestine and the Palestinians in the 21st Century

By Rochelle Davis; Mimi Kirk | Go to book overview

11. Lessons for Palestine
from Northern Ireland
Why George Mitchell Couldn’t
Turn Jerusalem into Belfast

ALI ABUNIMAH

I formed the conviction that there is no such thing as a
conflict that can’t be ended. Conflicts are created, conducted,
and sustained by human beings. They can be ended by human
beings. I saw it happen in Northern Ireland, although, admittedly,
it took a very long time. I believe deeply that with committed,
persevering, and patient diplomacy, it can happen in the
Middle East.

George Mitchell, Obatna administration Middle East envoy,
22 January 2009

During Israel’s December 2008/January 2009 invasion of the Gaza Strip, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority civilians,1 veteran Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn reported that Israeli society reminded him “more than ever of the unionists in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s.” Like Israelis, he wrote, unionists were a community “with a highly developed siege mentality which led them always to see themselves as victims even when they were killing other people. There were no regrets or even knowledge of what they inflicted on others and therefore any retaliation by the other side appeared as unprovoked aggression inspired by unreasoning hate.”2

Today, more than a decade after the 1998 Belfast Agreement, the Northern Ireland political settlement appears to be holding up, although it continues to face tests and its long-term viability is by no means assured. Irish nationalists share power with pro-British unionists in what is in effect a

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