Israeli “apartheid walls” and N. Ireland “peace walls”: A case study in media double standards

Written by CAMERA intern Aron White

The UK election last week ended with a surprising result – the Conservatives lost their majority, and they now have to negotiate a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the DUP, a small party from Northern Ireland. This situation is refocusing attention on the challenges of Northern Ireland, which have not been in international headlines for some twenty years. For any supporter of Israel, the story of Northern Ireland is vital to understand, as it helps to clarify the double standards that exist against Israel in international opinion. In the conflict in Northern Ireland, the actions taken are labelled peaceful, whereas when those same actions are taken by Israel, they are called “racist” or “apartheid”.

The possible coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party is bringing the conflict in Northern Ireland back into the headlines

Here is a two-minute background to the conflict in Northern Ireland. Since 1800, there were four countries joined together to be in the United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Around one hundred years ago, most of Ireland split off from the UK, to become an independent country called the Republic of Ireland; so the UK was now England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the top section of Ireland which did not split off. However, beginning in the late 1960s, there was a strong and often violent campaign fought in Northern Ireland for it to break off from the UK, and to become part of the independent Republic of Ireland. This campaign was led by the Catholic IRA and Sinn Fein (more on them below), who fought against both Protestant groups who wanted to remain in the UK, as well as the British Army. The tactics of the IRA are infamous, as they included bombings and terror attacks, and their attacks lasted for thirty years from 1969 to 1998. This period is known as “The Troubles” and it claimed the lives of 3,500 people, 1,800 of them civilians. In 1998, the Good Friday Agreement was signed between Sinn Fein and the other parties, in which Sinn Fein and the IRA promised to stop their violence, and to join the other parties in working to heal the old divides – they would continue arguing for Northern Ireland to leave the UK, but through the political process, not through violence.

There are many links between the conflict in Northern Ireland and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In both, the two sides are generally split both on religious lines – Jewish/Muslim in Israel, Protestant/Catholic in Northern Ireland. More significantly, the IRA was launching its bombings in Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s at the same time as the PLO, lead by Yasser Arafat, was launching its bombings and hijackings in Israel. The two groups had strong links, with the IRA and PLO training together in Syria, exchanging bomb making techniques, and even launching a joint attack together in Brussels in 1979.

But what is most significant about the Northern Ireland conflict, is that it helps show the double standard that exists in coverage about Israel. Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland, and within it there are both Protestant and Catholic communities. All around the city there are still to this day close to 50 “peace walls,” physical walls that keep Protestants and Catholics apart.

A peace wall on Cupar Way in Belfast

This peace wall runs through the back of ordinary people’s gardens

The peace wall in Alexandra Park, dividing the park into Catholic and a Protestant sections

The map of Belfast’s communities, and the peace lines/walls that separate them

These walls began to be set up by the British army after rioting in Belfast in 1969. The walls were set up as a security measure to stop violence between the two communities, and over the years, more and more were built. The walls can be up to 30 feet high, and many have barbed wire on top. Some of the walls have gates in them to allow people to pass through them – they are open at day, and closed at night. In fact, there have been many peace walls built even after the Good Friday Peace Agreement in 1998, and peace walls now exist outside Belfast all over the country – there are currently 109 peace walls in Northern Ireland. Each year, tensions flare near some of the central walls during the marching season, where the Protestant side has a large public march through the centre of Belfast. This video captures the ongoing tensions between the two sides, and the walls that keep the peace.

Israel of course, also built a wall in order to stop violence. The Second Intifada claimed the lives of over 1,100 Israelis, as suicide bombings in cafes, buses and cinemas took the lives of innocent civilians all over the country. In 2003, Israel began constructing a barrier after attacks originating in the West Bank killed hundreds of Israelis. Since the building of the wall, there has been a 90% reduction in the number of terrorist attacks in Israel.

Yet somehow, Israel’s wall is often labelled not a security wall, but an “apartheid wall.” Why? And why are the walls keeping Catholics and Protestants apart in Northern Ireland called “peace walls” but the walls keeping terrorists out of Israel is an “apartheid wall”?

The first walls in Northern Ireland were built by the British army after rioting in Belfast in 1969, during which 8 people were killed. Israel acted to build the wall after hundreds of people had been killed – so how dare the world be outraged, and condemn Israel for building the wall to protect its own citizens, when the UK built walls after attacks of a much smaller scale?

Around the world, there are many countries who are building walls to protect their citizens. Saudi Arabia is building a 600 mile wall to keep out ISIS. India is building massive walls on its borders with Bangladesh and Pakistan. One can agree with these decisions, or disagree with them. But in the end, there is only one country who built a wall to defend its citizens from murderous attacks on its civilians that is called apartheid for doing so – and surprise, surprise the one country singled out for unfair criticism is Israel. Those who call it this warp a story of Israeli defense into one of Israeli aggression, and they expose only their own double standards.

(A version of this post was also published at The Algemeiner)

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38 replies »

  1. The big difference, the active ingredient, is that these other countries are building walls on their own territory.These walls are not prikarily in the sevice of a kleptomaniacal land grab.They can do what they like on their own territory.

    • Shit Stain, the fucking hypocrite and ahistorical moron, wonders why the Jews won’t stop living. So instead of killing himself because his life sucks so much, Shit Stain blames the Jews and Israel for making his joke of a life the failure it has become.

      Self-determination is the difference between you and the Jews. And you’ve decided to lie throughout your entire life.

      The fruits of your labors is that fact that you are universally known as Shit Stain. Please do understand. It’s not because of us you’re a moron. You’re a moron because you choose to be.

      • Since all the land west of the Jordan does belong to Israel and the Islamofascist invaders have not a single legal claim that means that you are still a moronic liar.

        Second how did the UK manage to ‘own’ their colony in Ireland – oh right it is the longest occupation in the history of the world.

          • No moron – the Limeys are the haters. They have been waging war on the Jews for over 1,000 years now. They constantly whine whenever Israel does the samething as the Limeys do. They are nothing but racist hypocrites and I hope that their Islamofascist masters kill them all

            • “They have been waging war on the Jews for over 1,000 years now.”

              Golly gee, how is that possible when the first Jews landed in the British Isles after Duke William of Normandy invaded in 1066?
              In case mathematics are not your strong point that is less than a thousand years ago. So unless you have historical evidence to the contrary your claim is clearly bogus.

              “No moron – the Limeys are the haters….. I hope that their Islamofascist masters kill them all.”
              Golly gee, just as well that you are not a ‘hater’, or who knows what you would want to happen to them as well as them all being killed.

      • You are wrong. Read more history, how Ireland became to be under control and property of England. But not only Ireland, Scotland too.

    • So then the position of the IRA and Sinn Fein was that Northern Ireland really belongs to the UK and not Ireland? Is that your claim?
      Jews, Judea. Get the connection?

    • Stephen: prior to the wall, the body parts of Israeli civillians were being picked up weekly as a result of terrorism. After the walls were built these attacks stopped. That they were needed is unfortunate.

    • Shows your ignorance. The land belongs to the Jewish people via San Remo, the Anglo-American Treaty of 1924, the League of Nations and the United Nations. The last time I checked, Judea and Samaria wasn’t designated to Jordan.

  2. @S.B.
    Please define your ” land grab ” statement re. Israel, incl. Judea and Samaria..?

  3. Thank you for this. The “apartheid” smear is part and parcel of Palestinian propaganda, repeated
    by the United Nations and by many European
    outlets, perhaps in the hope that appeasing
    Palestinians will prevent terrorist attacks outside Israel. Please note that there is a wall over some of the US/Mexican border, and it will be lengthened and strengthened, to prevent illegal immigration. It’s a sad wall, in many respects. But it’s never called an apartheid wall.

  4. In looking at the photo of the peace wall running through “ordinary people’s gardens” I was trying to determine Protestant from catholic. Can anybody help?

    • Wag the issue of Northern Ireland is not about religion. ( apart from a few Christian Zionist nut jobs) . It’s another native / settler issue. In Africa / America / the antipodes / Palestine it was/ is easy to tell who were the natives and who were the settlers. Different skin colour, different facial characteristics, visibly different religious and social practices. In Ireland not so. Knowing whether someone is Catholic or Protestant is a rough and ready guide to which political tradition they belong to. It is not infallible.

      Many of the leading figures in Irish nationalism and fighters for Irish independence were protestant.

      To address your question more directly…… West of the line will be largely Catholic and East is more likely to be Protestant. It is not a coincidence. East Belfast is where the work was. Shipyards etc. Work was a protestant privelage. At the time of the popular uprising in 1969 Ulster was a fully fledged apartheid province.

      I think it is better to say that the West Bank is an apartheid province rather than that Israel is an apartheid state. We could then go on to say that Israel proper is riddled with racial discrimination way beyond what would be acceptable in a liberal democracy.

        • Obviously you have never been to Israel or you wouldn`t be so ignorant as to make the statement you did.

      • Yes, stupid Stephen, the land of Israel was conquered and colonized by Arab interlopers. This is true even when you choose to call it “Palestine,” a name having had nothing to do with Arabs. The Arabs were colonist settlers in “Palestine.” “Palestine” is Jewish land.

    • Marxist PIRA? What an imbecile. PIRA are 100 per cent nationalist. It was the Marxism of the Official IRA that was a big factor in the split The OIRA opposed armed insurrection in 69 because they were insistent that the all Ireland Republic would be a socialist / Marxisr republic.PIRA couldn’t care less about that. Get the Republic and then worry about its politics.

      Jeezuz effing wept I really should be charging for this

  5. “However, beginning in the late 1960s, there was a strong and often violent campaign fought in Northern Ireland for it to break off from the UK, and to become part of the independent Republic of Ireland. This campaign was led by the Catholic IRA and Sinn Fein…”

    The person who wrote the above is completely ignorant of the history of Northern Ireland.
    For those with either short and selective memories, or complete ignorance of the history of Northern Ireland, the campaign started in the late 60s by the Civil Rights Movement was for “One person, One vote”. That is right in the late 60s in a part of the U.K. there was discrimination against some having the right to vote in all elections. There was clear discrimination in jobs, housing and health as well which also formed part of the Civil Rights Campaign.
    Those that can remember the demonstrations and the subsequent riots in Catholic areas caused mainly by the antics of the part-time and para-military B Specials (since disbanded) an armed body limited to Protestants. They will also remember that far from leading any campaign the IRA was nowhere to be seen, hence the graffiti in many parts “IRA= I Ran Away”
    Far from wanting ‘to become part of the independent Republic of Ireland’ Sinn Fein and the IRA did not recognise the existence or legitimacy of the Republic of Ireland and it is only in recent years they have started to take part in politics both sides of the border.

    Such glaring and basic errors devalue the rest of the article.

  6. This is like comparing Pakistan, Muslim occupied India, created by the British the same way Israel was. Ever hear anything about that? One would be very hard pressed to distinguish between Pakistan and Israel, except maybe the history of the Jews in the land is millennia longer. Anyway, in a world without facts I would advise Israel to keep a lot of fighter planes.