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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and US President Joe Biden in Washington last St Patrick's. Alamy Stock Photo

Paul Murphy There should be no shamrock for 'Genocide Joe' over his stance on Israel

The People Before Profit TD says it is unforgivable that Irish leaders are not taking a harder stand on Gaza while in the US this week.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR, on his annual trip to Washington DC for the St Patrick’s Day celebration, said that he felt that US President Joe Biden’s heart was in the right place on Gaza. This is a man who has cut funding to Palestinian refugees through UNRWA while continuing to be the biggest financier of the Israeli war machine. 

Every night on the evening news people across the world are being presented with images of unparalleled suffering and brutality being inflicted on the Palestinian people.

Images tell a tale of shocking destruction and unimaginable conditions. Stories told of death, disease, starvation and famine are the everyday reality for the people of Gaza since Israel’s unprecedented assault on the people of this narrow stretch of land. 

The sustained and unrelenting bombardment of Gaza by Israel has driven over one million people south, to Rafah. Humanitarian groups are deeply concerned that a ground offensive in the densely crowded region will be catastrophic.

US support

The US is by far the biggest supporter of military funding to Israel. Since the foundation of the State of Israel, the US has contributed $130 billion dollars in military aid. On top of the annual $4 billion in military funding, the US is giving an extra $14.5 billion this year to support the genocidal assault on Gaza. 

Joe Biden has recently said rhetorically that he would consider an invasion of Rafah by Israel to be a “red line”. However, the President has refused to cut off military aid to Israel. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows this and says that he intends to press ahead with a ground invasion of Rafah.

president-joe-biden-meets-with-israeli-prime-minister-benjamin-netanyahu-wednesday-oct-18-2023-in-tel-aviv-ap-photoevan-vucci President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Tel Aviv. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

What can be done about this situation where the largest superpower in the world is sending military aid to a regime that is committing war crimes on the people of Palestine and is unwilling to prevent atrocities from occurring?

What can Ireland do?

The Irish government will argue that it is more effective to go to Washington DC and make the diplomatic case to Joe Biden to stop military aid to Israel. But we can already see that Varadkar and others will give a very soft message. When Varadkar spoke to the political and economic elite of Washington DC at the Ireland Funds dinner, he spoke only of a duty “to bring peace and justice to the Holy Land.” Shamefully, Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill was even weaker, just encouraging “a constructive, critical partnership in terms of what is happening in the Middle East.”

All Irish acts due to play at the SXSW festival in Texas pulled out in protest at the sponsorship of the event by the US Army. Shamefully, Minister Catherine Martin broke the boycott, participating in a panel at the event.

taoiseach-leo-varadkar-left-and-us-president-joe-biden-during-a-st-patricks-day-celebration-reception-and-shamrock-presentation-ceremony-at-the-white-house-in-washington-dc-during-the-taoiseachs Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and US President Joe Biden during a St Patrick's Day Celebration reception and Shamrock presentation ceremony at the White House in Washington, DC, last year. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The Irish government and other Irish politicians should follow the lead of those artists, take a principled stand and boycott the St Patrick’s Day festivities. This would send a message across America and the world that Ireland stands with the people of Palestine. It would heap the pressure on Joe Biden amongst the people of the US but crucially Irish Americans which Joe Biden needs in the upcoming Presidential Elections. 

If we said today that the world should place economic sanctions and place a diplomatic boycott on apartheid South Africa, nobody would bat an eyelid. People would consider it the right thing to do to put pressure on a state that imposes a racist apartheid system on its population. Amnesty International, B’Tselem and other NGOs have reported that “Israel’s regime of apartheid and occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations”.

Indeed, in the case of Apartheid South Africa, in November 1962 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on all of its members to end economic and military relations with South Africa over its racist and apartheid policies.

The hypocrisy of the so-called international community is on show in its double standards on Ukraine and Palestine. Economic and diplomatic sanctions have been imposed on Russia. Ursula von der Leyen and Micheál Martin described Russia’s invasion as a genocide.

Yet Israel’s genocidal assault on Palestine is either met with words of criticism, but no action, like from the Irish government, or with overt support and funding from the US and the EU. Why does the international community stand by or cheer while more than 30,000 Palestinians are massacred? Why do world leaders only offer mild mannered calls for Israel to be held to account for imposing a system of apartheid? Why are illegal settlers consistently breaching international law and further encroaching on to Palestinian land in the West Bank? And why is it okay for the US to funnel astronomical amounts of money into propping up the Israeli war machine and its economy which is built on oppression? 

The difference of course is the position and interests of US imperialism. While the US administration opposes Russia as a potential rival, it supports Israel. This is why St. Patrick’s Day is so important. 

No bowl of shamrock for Mr President

The case for a ceasefire, an arms embargo, and economic and political sanctions on the State of Israel has never been more urgent. Israel is imposing untold suffering, murder and starvation on the Palestinian people.

The Irish government and the Taoiseach as the leader of a country that has felt the sharp edge of colonial oppression should be taking the lead on the international stage. For the people of Palestine who have experienced so much oppression since the foundation of the State of Israel and who are currently facing genocide and a ground invasion of Rafah it would be stomach churning to see Leo Varadkar celebrating St Patrick’s Day with the leader of the state who are sanctioning this violence.

The same goes for Sinn Féin leaders who should not be meeting US leaders for St. Patrick’s Day while they fund genocide. There must be no bowl of shamrock for Genocide Joe.

Paul Murphy TD is a People Before Profit TD for Dublin South West. He was imprisoned by the Israelis after being captured on a flotilla to Gaza in 2011 while he was an MEP.

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