Why are the Irish increasingly siding with Palestine over Israel?

Palestine activism is extremely visible on the Irish left, often managing to marshall more people than domestic campaigns. Left-wing activism of all kinds has become increasingly shrill since the 2008 economic meltdown, the main legacy of which seems to have been not the much predicted rebirth of Marxism but an intensification of identity politics. Beyond that, though, even relatively unpolitical Irish people seem to view Israel with deep suspicion, at the very least.

Israel’s history of fighting Britain for independence could have made the Irish more sympathetic to the country, but Israel’s treatment of Palestinians has sown a dark seed in the Irish anti-colonial mindset. More important, as Israel has become more successful, potential Irish support for it has waned. In the Irish psyche, Israel functions as a surrogate for Britain: imperial and imperious and, above all, modern.

Ireland is also modern, of course, but wears its modernity lightly. Public infrastructure lags behind the rest of the European Union, and anti-development campaigns win support from across the political spectrum. Not being Britain remains central to Irish politics. Independent though the Republic of Ireland is, and despite Southern distaste for gauche Northern republicans and the IRA, even mainstream Irish identity is steeped in rebellion against the colonial master. Formerly a source of pride, it is more frequently expressed today in a free-floating sense of victimhood. Many Irish still feel they are the wretched of the earth.

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