State of Palestine recognised – why the Irish Government took this decision

By Donal Devlin 

The Irish Government’s decision to recognise the State of Palestine – relenting to the enormous pressure from below to take some concrete action – has been widely welcomed. This is particularly the case given the hysterical reaction of the Israeli regime. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has issued condemnations and even released a video ludicrously featuring Hamas and traditional Irish dancers, disgracefully claiming that Ireland has rewarded Hamas for its attack on 7 October. To the delight of many – who’ve demanded that she doesn’t come back – Israel has also recalled its ambassador to Ireland.  

There is real outrage amongst the Israeli ruling class and its supporters that there is such a strong pro-Palestine sentiment in Irish society, a reflection of this country’s colonial history. Its bare-faced propaganda, even when promoted by the mainstream media in Ireland, has failed to affect opinion here.

Israeli State increasingly isolated 

The Netanyahu regime sees this decision, and the likelihood that other European countries will follow suit, as another sign that they are becoming increasingly isolated as they wage their genocidal campaign against Palestinians in Gaza. The decision was taken in the same week as an arrest warrant was issued for Netanyahu himself and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant by the International Criminal Court (ICC), and a ruling was made by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for Israel to end its assault on Rafah. 

To be sure, the decision to recognise the State of Palestine is a testament to the massive pressure exerted by the Palestine solidarity movement in Ireland and globally over the last seven months. Hundreds of thousands have marched and protested in almost every major town and city on this island. Such protests take place almost weekly, and it is hard to go through an area of a city like Dublin and not see numerous Palestinian flags. 

The student encampments in UCD, UCC and Trinity have joined the global campus revolt, with the latter winning important victories on the question of divestment from companies associated with the Israel regime. In Cork, as a result of the UCC protest action, Collins Aerospace was recently forced to pull out of a science event in the city. 

Broad sentiment of support 

The question of Gaza featured significantly at union conferences, such as those of the teachers’ unions over Easter. Hundreds of delegates at the recent Fórsa conference, the largest public sector union in the south, took to their feet during the conference to chant, “In our thousands, in our millions, we are all Palestinians.” A group called ‘Health Workers for Palestine’ has been set up, reflecting outrage amongst these workers about the horrific conditions endured by health workers in Gaza. A ‘Teachers for Palestine’ group has been active for months. 

Opinion polls in Ireland have shown that almost 80% see the Israeli State’s war crimes as genocidal. In this context, with local and European elections due in the next two weeks, the Government felt it necessary to take some action to show support for the Palestinian people.  Recognising Palestinian statehood is the most important symbolic action and least threatening action it could take in terms of it becoming an outlier in a European context.

To date, 140 countries have taken this step since the Palestinian state was first proclaimed in 1988. This was done by the Palestinian National Council, the Palestinian parliament in exile, against the backdrop of the First Intifada, when the Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza heroically rose against Israeli occupation. The Intifada was organized at the grassroots level via Popular Committees that democratically involved the mass of the population in strikes, protests, and boycotts. 

The timidness of the Irish state 

Although this uprising from below took place independently of the PLO leadership, the PLO utilised the Intifada to push for independence and Palestinian statehood based on the 1967 borders (encompassing the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem as its capital). The Irish state, which is wholly subservient to US imperialism and the EU, baulked at recognising the State of Palestine in this revolutionary context. Today, however, the official State of Palestine, in so far as it exists, is dominated by the corrupt, dictatorial and collaborationist Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah, which poses no threat to the interests of capitalism and imperialism in the region. 

Notably, the demand for recognition of the Palestinian state has not been raised by Palestinians within the global solidarity movement. This reflects the fact that the PA and the idea of a “two-state solution” put forward by imperialism and capitalist governments globally is largely discredited among Palestinians themselves, particularly amongst those of the younger generation. It is associated with the creation of a Palestinian “bantustan”, the so-called “black homelands” – the dictatorial puppet regimes that existed within Apartheid South Africa. 

No trust in Irish ruling class

James Connolly once wrote, “Only the Irish working class remain as the incorruptible inheritors of the fight for freedom in Ireland.” This statement also applies to the Palestinian masses and their struggle for freedom. Likewise, the only force that the Palestinian masses can rely on for support here in Ireland is the Irish working class. This is true of workers, the poor and the oppressed globally. Despite winning plaudits for its recent decision, the Irish Government and capitalist establishment have a hopelessly poor record when it comes to the oppression of Palestinians. 

They continue to allow US imperialism, the Israeli regime’s major benefactor, to use Shannon Airport for its military operations, and there is strong reason to suspect that they are using this route to transport weapons to Israel. Not only have they refused to expel the Israeli Ambassador, the mouthpiece for genocide in the Irish media, but they recently invited her to the annual commemoration of the Irish Famine! This is at a moment when one million Gazans are facing famine as a direct result of her Government’s war policies.

Added to this, the Irish Government is still blocking the Occupied Territories Bill, which would ban the importation of goods from Israeli settlements – a key tool the regime uses to cut across the creation of any viable Palestinian state. More broadly, despite its relative military neutrality – which is being slowly chipped away – the Irish state is firmly allied with US and European capitalism. In the context of growing inter-imperialist rivalry, it is eager to prove its loyalty to these capitalist powers. Such a ruling class will, of course, never be friends of the Palestinian people. 

Palestinian liberation and socialist change 

Real freedom for the Palestinian people means an end to occupation, settlements, oppression and a right to return to their historic homeland. Clearly, this will never happen as long as the Israeli State and its genocidal ruling class remain in existence. Both must be overthrown and smashed. The Palestinian masses, allied with the working class and poor in the Middle East and globally, must organise to make this a reality – including by appealing to Israeli workers and youth to join them in a revolutionary transformation of the region. 

The capitalist system and imperialist domination can only offer a future of war, oppression and exploitation – it has to go.

Working-class and poor people from below can bring about a just and democratic solution in which Palestinians and Israelis are given equal rights to national self-determination. This means creating a democratic socialist Middle East in which wealth and resources are seized from multinationals, banks, and oligarchs and taken into public ownership and democratic control of governments of the working masses.

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