There is a frightening moment in the Marcel Ophüls documentary, A Sense of Loss (1972), made in the midst of the "troubles" in Northern Ireland, in which a dead IRA member is carried in a flag-draped coffin to his grave by masked men, surrounded by a throng of mourners. When a procession of "soldiers" walks past the camera, one of them, a fat young woman, carries on her ugly face a look of such hatred and rage that it moved John Simon to comment how the conflict could be fuelled for another thousand years by it.
Yeats claimed that the traditional "wearing of the green" that takes place every year wherever Irish people are gathered to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, creates its own "terrible beauty" because of the tragic history of Ireland. But lately that history has been the sentimental creation of people, mostly Republican Catholics, who have capitalized on the violence in Northern Ireland by romanticizing their cause and trying to tie it into the old struggle of Ireland against England. Despite the bloodshed, which has hijacked the history of Northern Ireland for generations, a momentous power-sharing agreement has been created which promises a peace for the country.
However imperfectly devised and implemented, the agreement is more than just another cease-fire or lull in the fighting that has gripped the country and the attention of the world for more than forty years. As a less than disinterested party myself, the realization that partisanship, the us against them attitude, solves nothing any more is by now terribly obvious. And even if I am not at all happy that one side, the Catholics, is being represented by Sinn Fein, a radical Marxist-Leninist group whose right hand is the blood-drenched IRA, at least some of their members (even Gerry Adams) have softened their views to such an extent that they can at least countenance the idea that co-existence with the Protestants is the only conceivable conclusion. That the accord has been brokered by both the British and Irish governments is another semi-miracle. What the accord means is examined here.
The longer that this peace settlement lasts, the more it makes me wonder what might have happened in Israel had the opposing parties arrived at a comparable understanding. Clearly, what has been averted in Northern Ireland for four decades is civil war, thanks to the military intervention of the British Army, which was always accused by the IRA of being an occupation force (fuelling the stupid "give Ireland back to the Irish" campaign).
The same kind of conflict - civil war - has been happening in Israel for roughly the same period in its history as the Irish "troubles", whether the ruling majority recognizes the war as a civil one or not. But co-existence between the Israelis and Palestinians is about as likely as the Second Coming. A two-state solution has been proposed, but by the time the Israelis go to the table to hammer out the details, they will probably have seized every acre of habitable real estate, leaving the Palestinians with bottom land in the Dead Sea.