Dear Foreign Minister Martin,
I'm an admirer of Ireland, a country whose charm, culture, and beauty have all captivated me. And, as a Jew, I always identified with William Butler Yeats' famous quote, "Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy."
But reading your recent op-ed, "Gaza a Year Later," in the International Herald Tribune, was another story entirely.
Is it naiveté? Do you really believe that "the medieval siege conditions" you describe in Gaza are nothing more than an Israeli desire to inflict harm on another people, as if Israel were not governed by a moral code deeply embedded in its DNA?
Is it ignorance? Are you unaware of what's been going on in Gaza, including the brutal nature of Hamas rule, the smuggling of ever more sophisticated weapons, or the thousands of rocket attacks launched against Israel?
Is it fear? Are you seeking to ensure that Ireland doesn't come in the crosshairs of global jihadists?
Is it projection? Do you assume that all the people of Gaza today want nothing more than the people of Galway, namely, peace on earth and good will toward men?
Is it transference? Do you see the Gazans as the Catholics of Northern Ireland, even if Catholic nationalists never called for Britain's destruction as Hamas calls for Israel's every day?
Someone without any knowledge of the region would deduce from your article that Israel, having nothing else to do, simply decided one day to make life unbearable for neighboring Gaza.
You write of a "humanitarian crisis," "despair and hopelessness," and "a population traumatized and reduced to poverty by an unjust and completely counterproductive blockade." And you pull at heartstrings by trying to portray life in Gaza through two children, ages 15 and 10, whose "commitment to the values of human rights and respectful dialogue" shines through the otherwise unremittingly bleak landscape.
Mr. Minister, something is missing from your op-ed. It is as if you simply dropped by parachute into Gaza and described what you saw, or more precisely what you were shown, without ever asking yourself how it came to be. Your narrative recalls other instances where outside observers misread conditions in largely unfamiliar authoritarian societies. They were not able to grasp what was really going on beyond the surface.
Surely, though, more should be expected of the foreign minister of an EU member state -- even one that remained studiously neutral both in the Second World War and Cold War; apologized to the Jewish people in 2003 for a wartime "culture of muted anti-Semitism in Ireland" and a policy that "behind closed doors was antipathetic, hostile, and unfeeling toward the Jews"; and has not been known in the EU as particularly sympathetic to Israel.
The fact of the matter is that you absolve Gaza of all responsibility for its own predicament, instead placing it squarely in Israel's lap.
Hamas merits exactly one passing mention in your piece. That's the sum total. How can that be? Hamas has single-handedly ruled Gaza since 2007, when it violently ousted Fatah forces from the area. Yet you utterly fail to address this obvious fact.
Pray tell, what is Hamas -- just another political party in the Western democratic mold? What does Hamas stand for? Human rights or human wrongs? Political pluralism or pietistic purity? Mutual respect or medieval repression? Peaceful coexistence or violent conflict? Education for tolerance or hate?
As it is, despite being in a state of war, Israel permits substantial humanitarian supplies to cross its border with Gaza every day. Of course, what happens to those supplies once in Gaza is another matter. Periodic reports suggest that distribution is inadequate because much of what arrives is siphoned off for political or economic gain by officials, syndicates, or gangs.
Mr. Minister, it is in Israel's interests for Gaza to emerge as a stable, moderate, and prosperous region. What country -- be it Israel or any other -- would wish to have an Iranian-supported terrorist enclave on its borders proclaiming the joy of jihad and diverting much of its resources to weapons?
But Israel cannot act in a vacuum, as if it didn't face such a stark reality. Forgive me, but for you, it's much simpler. You come for a day or two, pronounce your views, and return to Dublin -- and to a European Union that is anchored in democratic values, protection of human dignity, and peaceful relations among its 27 members.
Sadly, that era hasn't yet dawned in Israel's rough-and-tumble neighborhood.
As long as Gaza is more intent on Israel's destruction than its own construction, as long as Hamas is in charge and pursues its Muslim Brotherhood agenda, as long as Iran stands squarely by Gaza's side, and as long as young children -- including the two you met -- are seen as grist for the martyrs' mill, then what does the future hold?
And, respectfully, as long as Western officials infantilize the people of Gaza by lifting all responsibility for their fate from their own shoulders, then they are not helping, either. It's high time to stop whitewashing, sidestepping, or rationalizing the situation, or pretending that Israel hasn't abandoned any claims on Gaza, which it did nearly five years ago. The people of Gaza have been given their first chance in history to chart their own future. What future will they choose?
If you really care about those two children, as I am sure you do and we all should, then it's high time to challenge the real hurdles they face -- beginning with the people who currently govern Gaza and the dead-end path they have opted to pursue.