Gerry Adams Goes to Gaza

JERUSALEM — At least on the face of it, one of the more unlikely people to show up at the gates of Gaza recently is Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams. One would think that with all the recent problems in Belfast he would have his hands full keeping the boys back home from cranking up the troubles, but nevertheless there he was last Thursday (after having his pal Tony Blair run interference for him with the Israelis) wearing his kaffiyeh and chatting it up with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

Referring to Gaza as an “open-air prison,” Adams called on both sides to lay down arms and come to the negotiating table. This is not the first time in recent months that Irishmen have put their experiences with reconciliation to the test in Middle East conflicts. Last fall, my University of Massachusetts–Boston colleague Padraig O’Malley brought together a group of Iraqi politicos from different factions to a useful gathering in Helsinki along with members of Northern Ireland’s major factions as well as representatives from South Africa.

Needless to say the Israelis did not find Adam’s voyage of solidarity with the Palestinians very helpful. In a long article in the Jerusalem Post, the history of Irish Republicanism’s serious hook-ups with Middle East radicals was drawn in detail. And as if that weren’t enough, the article went on to remind us of the Irish Republicans’ my-enemy’s-enemy-is-my-friend solidarity with Hitler’s regime during WWII. In other words, Irish Republicanism=anti-semitism, therefore Adams was morally and intellectually compromised even before he passed through the Erez Crossing.

Personally I don’t know what Gerry Adams was trying to accomplish, although whatever it is he has promised to brief Obama special envoy George Mitchell about it. If he is trying to franchise himself as a peace-and-reconciliation consultant then he better watch his flanks back in Belfast to make sure that ball of yarn doesn’t unravel. The Israelis have a point that given Sinn Fein’s anti-Israeli action and rhetoric in the past its members can hardly hold themselves up as fair brokers. But perhaps an outlier like Adams just might make a difference if he can get the Israelis to take him seriously.

Everyone loves the Irish, don’t they?