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Can Mitchell Turn Jerusalem Into Belfast?

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Can Mitchell turn Jerusalem into Belfast? - Ali Abunimah

US President Barack Obama's appointment of former Senator George

Mitchell as his new Middle East envoy is a good choice. Mitchell

showed even-handedness uncharacteristic of US officials when he led

a fact-finding mission to the region in 2000.

Had its recommendations been followed -- cessation of all violence

and a full freeze of Israeli settlement construction on occupied

Palestinian land -- the peace process might have made progress.

Mitchell, who is already in the Middle East, helped broker the 1998

Belfast Agreement, the key to ending decades of strife in Northern

Ireland. Because of historical similarities, that peace agreement is

an important precedent for Palestinians and Israeli Jews.

Before 1948, European Jewish settlers, newly-arrived in Palestine,

wanted their own state once British colonial rulers withdrew. But

because Jews were a minority, the only way to achieve this was a

partition that the majority Arab Palestinian population, fearing

dispossession, bitterly opposed. When Israel was established in

1948, most Palestinians were forced from their homeland, and those

remaining became second-class citizens in a "Jewish state."

The modern conflict in Ireland began when Great Britain, facing

resistance from Irish nationalists, decided to withdraw after

centuries of rule. But the Protestant ruling class -- a quarter of

the population -- descended from English and Scottish settlers,

insisted that Ireland remain tied to Britain. These unionists

refused to live in a state with a nationalist Catholic majority.

To appease the unionist minority, which threatened violent rebellion

if it did not get its way, Britain partitioned Ireland in 1921,

creating Northern Ireland, an entity whose legitimacy nationalists

refused to recognize.

As Israeli Jews did to Palestinians, Protestants institutionalized

their own culture and religion as the official creed and violently

suppressed expressions of nationalist identity. In the words of its

first prime minister, Northern Ireland's seat of government at

Belfast's Stormont Castle was a "Protestant parliament for a

Protestant people." Catholics faced systematic discrimination in

jobs and housing.

Nationalists launched a civil rights movement in the 1960s inspired

by the one in the US. Protestant unionists violently resisted

demands to share power and reform, but the numerical growth and

assertiveness of the nationalist Catholic population within Northern

Ireland made such intransigence untenable.

In 1972, Britain sent in troops and imposed direct rule. During 30

years of "The Troubles," 3,700 people died at the hands of the Irish

Republican Army (IRA), Protestant militias, British forces and

others.

The Mitchell-led Belfast Agreement ended formal Protestant hegemony

in favor of equality, mitigating partition's injustices. It promised

that government power "shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality

on behalf of all the people" and guaranteed "just and equal

treatment for the identity, ethos, and aspirations of both

communities. "

Decades of bloody conflict left deep social divisions. But a

framework for nondiscriminatory democratic governance has allowed

nationalists and unionists within Northern Ireland to begin to shed

their siege mentalities. While formal partition of Ireland remains,

it is disappearing on the ground as anyone can live, work and move

freely, and official cross-border bodies are integrating the

infrastructure and economies of the two jurisdictions on the island

of Ireland.

The power-sharing executive in Belfast, led by staunchly nationalist

Sinn Fein (closely affiliated with the IRA) and the hardline

Democratic Unionist Party, was once as inconceivable as a government

made up of members of Hamas and Israeli politicians would be today.

US diplomacy played a key role by putting pressure on the stronger

parties -- the British government and Protestant unionists -- in

favor of the weaker nationalist side. Instead of shunning Sinn Fein

the US, prodded by the Irish American lobby, insisted it be brought

into the process.

By 2010, Palestinians will outnumber Israeli Jews in Israel, the

West Bank and Gaza Strip combined. The two groups can no more be

totally separated than Protestant unionists and Catholic

nationalists in Ireland.

Like Irish nationalists, Palestinians will never recognize the

"right" of another group to discriminate against them. Like

Protestant unionists did, Israeli Jews insist on their own state.

Israel's "solution" is to cage Palestinians into ghettos -- like

Gaza -- and periodically bomb them into submission just so Israeli

Jews, their relative numbers dwindling, can artificially maintain a

Jewish state.

If Mitchell is allowed to apply Northern Ireland's lessons, then

there may be a way out. But he goes to Jerusalem with few of the

advantages he brought to Belfast. The Obama administration remains

committed for now to the failed partition formula of "a Jewish

state" and a "Palestinian state" and maintains the Bush

administration' s misguided boycott of Hamas, which overwhelmingly

won Palestinian elections in 2006. And the Israel lobby -- much more

powerful than its Irish American counterpart -- warps US policy to

favor the stronger side, an intransigent Israel committing war

crimes. If these policies don't change, Mitchell's efforts will be

wasted and escalating violence will fill the political vacuum.

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Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One

Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse An

abridged version of this article first appeared in The Detroit Free

Press.

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Newbie
8 answers

I have been around even though extremely busy with a couple of projects, will have more time on my hands soon.

Obscure new outlets? May be. You don't expect the main stream media to carry such news items because they are mostly being controlled by the same corrupt and highly biased group that support lies and misinformation.

Craps? Well, if you had demonstrated that you understood the meaning of the word then I would have taken time to respond accordingly. But for now keep swimming in the ocean of ignorance.

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@ olanajim

Did you mean: eeyyaa

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@Poster

Please avoid culling craps from the obscure news outlets and pasting them on this forum. The ill-fated article lacked the elementary analysis and historical comparison between Jerusalem and Belfast.

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@ davidylan

ah ah ah funny boy

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of course . . . as a slave of Allah and a pseudo-arab what do we expect? Rational reasoning is not your forte.

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@ AFAM

Kind of wondering where you've been all this while, miss your intellectual comments and posts on Nigerian and international politics, as to the post I kinda agree with you,

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I don't see a reason why the partition shouldn't remain. The PLO and right wing Israeli groups would find it hard to coexist.

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why is abulimah interested in jerusalem now? When east jerusalem was part of Jordan for 19 yrs was he interested?

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