Conflict in Ireland–1995

                                      Conflict and Cultures    



The conflict in Ireland, while having many similarities with the current conflict in the Middle East, has a much better chance of coming to a peaceful solution.  The first and most prominent reason for this is the fact that the cultures in conflict in Ireland are very similar while the Israelis and the Palestinians are extremely different.  The animosity between the Protestants and the Catholics was probably very strong when England split from the Catholic church, but now seems to be more of a result of the conflict than a reason for fighting.  This is not to say that the Protestant/Catholic line is not the main battle line drawn by both sides, just that the closeness of the religions makes it easier to cooperate.  The Palestinians and the Israelis, however, have vastly different cultures with very distinct histories.  The conflict in Ireland is also centuries old, meaning that the native Irish people who were kicked out of their homes have been dead for hundreds of years.  Due to the closeness in culture and being neighbors for so long, the Irish Catholics and the Protestant English/ Irish are able to compromise better than in the Middle east where the battle lines are much more distinct.

          The Irish who were forcefully displaced by the English in the early 1600s were not put into refugee camps and that is not only a stronger base for grievance but also one that many Palestinians can still remember.[1]  By the time the Irish Catholics were strong enough to separate themselves, at least partly, from England, there was no suggestion or goal to kick all the Protestants out and move back onto the land their ancestors had been kicked out of hundreds of years ago.  The recent Irish Catholic grievances have more to do with being second-class citizens and under the thumb of England.  Both of these problems were much easier to approach because the Irish Catholics were asking for a lot less, in terms of what their enemies could gives them, than the Palestinians are fighting for.

          The Catholics and Protestants in Ireland have been living together for so long that despite the anger they have for each other, they have the same culture and much of the same history. “Ninety percent of what could probably be defined as culture is common in our society”—Eamonn McCain talking about the different cultures in Ireland[2]. Facing an enemy of the same religion, particularly in battles that involve civilians, does make a difference in how badly you view them and this in turn changes the way one would approach peace.  This is significant even if the only difference is that the IRA buries it’s dead in the same way the Loyalists do.  While the Israelis and the Palestinians do coexist in close proximity, their cultures and religions are very different.  “The Middle East is a mosaic of peoples, religions, languages, and cultures”[3], this is true even without Israel because the Middle East has so many independent countries and conflicting Muslim sects.

          There is a ceasefire in Ireland right now because two close cultures found a way to live in peace for now.  The war in the Middle East is escalating because the conflict is relatively new and the enemies are strangers.  At the present time the Palestinians do have stronger grievances and while Ireland was oppressed by England for much longer, the assimilation that happened made and end to the problem come a lot easier than it will in the Middle East.

[1] http:://

[2] http:://

[3] THE ISRAEL-ARAB READER. Yitzhak Shamir: Israel’s role in a changing Middle east. P.426

Leila Khaled: Hijacker (2006)

Leila Khaled: Hijacker is a documentary that looks at the life of one of the most infamous Palestinian activists and examines the difference between terrorist and freedom fighter.  While this semantic debate is a strong undercurrent throughout the film, the main emphasis is on two women separated by a generation and upbringing. The filmmaker Lina Makboul is a significant on-screen character who finds her teenage idol and tries to get her to open up. The film follows this timeline in the present as well as tracing the activities of Leila Khalid almost four decades ago. These alternating narratives compliment each other very well mainly because of the rapport between the two women created by belief in a common cause. Makboul is also a Palestinian but unlike Khaled, she grew up in a very different place in a very different time.

The film follows Khaled through her two hijackings, arrest, and release into exile. Archival footage is used very effectively to give viewers the historical context that is often absent from popular knowledge. Interviews with the victims of the hijackings include pilots and passengers and do not seem to bring up particularly painful memories.  The Israeli pilot is certainly more hostile towards Khaled but both passengers and pilots seem to have put the incidents far in the past and outside of the current political climate. Indeed, much of the positive coverage of Khaled seems to be dependant on the fact that no one was hurt as a result of her actions.

Present day Leila Khalid is shown as a wife and mother who, while still active in protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine, leads a normal life albeit in exile. Interviews with Khaled are very personal, often including the director in conversation. Beyond supporting a free and independent Palestine and condemning the attacks of 9/11, Khalid does not venture her political views as much as we would like to hear. It is clear that she supports the right of people to defend themselves violently if necessary and that she believes herself to be a freedom fighter and not a terrorist. However, what she might support to get her homeland back remains off the record. History is written by the victors to be sure, but a terrorist is someone who uses the threat of violence against civilians in an effort to accomplish a goal.  Leila Khalid was a terrorist but that category also has to include Nelson Mandela and the Israeli government