The far left’s  increasingly bizarre and dangerous refusal to condemn Hamas outright continues to get attention and cause frustration – as it should.
Whether due to outright anti-Semitism or merely the usual nonsensical reflex against anything remotely “Western,” placing Hamas and Israel at moral equivalency is reprehensible. When combined with the all-too-human instinct to turn an international conflict into a local argument via ethnic ties, it can also become deadly (as Palestinian Americans already know – Reuters ).
For most Americans, that is the end of the story, leaving them bewildered at the far left’s behavior. As an Irish-American, I know there’s more to it than that – and that it’s probably our fault.
“Terrorism Is Always Bad” *
I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. Back then, “international terrorism” was still a relatively new term in American politics. Before Hamas and Hezbollah were even founded, groups like the Palestinian Liberation Organization and governments like Iran and North Korea were using terror to advance their objectives – always to the disgust of the democratic world, especially to America. For Irish-Americans, however, there was one very large blind spot: The Irish Republican Army.
In effect, the Irish-American responses to terrorism were thus:
- In the Middle East: Bad
- In East Asia: Bad
- In Continental Europe: Bad
- Anywhere else around the world: Bad
- In the six counties of Northern Ireland: Well, you have to understand…
Then, as now, most Americans pay little attention to foreign policy. Northern Ireland was an exception for the millions of us who had ancestry on the Emerald Isle (including yours truly, whose family hailed from County Fermanagh, one of the Ulster Six).
So on one of the largest foreign policy matters involving our closest ally on the planet, more than one in ten Americans were leaning (if not falling over) toward an avowed terrorist group aiming ordnance at anyone in royal authority in Ulster.
You may say, “Hang on, Deej. None of these wacko students were around to see any of that; they’re too young.” This is true; none of them were alive when the IRA ended its terror campaign in the 1990s. But the professors egging them on were.
* – “Except in Northern Ireland”
To give you an idea of how much the American anti-terrorism narrative included the aforementioned fine print, consider the career of Congressman Peter King. He served for twelve years as Comptroller of Nassau County before being elevated to Congress in 1992. His open support for the IRA did nothing to slow down his career. He was in Congress for nearly three decades – even serving on the House Intelligence Committee  and chairing the Homeland Security Committee.
Here’s the real kicker: Peter King was a Republican.
Even now, I feel compelled to bring up the differences between Hamas and the IRA. The IRA never demanded the expulsion or murder of all Irish Protestants. As noted above, the IRA ended its terror campaign in the 1990s. Still, any Palestinian-American old enough to remember their ethnic Irish neighbors’ unique version of math (26+6=1) took in the wrong lesson about how the American people – or anyone else – should truly feel about terrorism as a political instrument.
Meanwhile, the strange (and literal) whitewashing of European American ethnicities has meant Irish-Americans are rarely examined as their own ethnic group these days. This means the very damaging precedent described above has been nearly lost to history.
Even in Ulster, Terrorism Failed
There are two ways that terror in Northern Ireland was similar to terror anywhere else: (1) it led to rivers of unnecessary blood, and (2) it did nothing to advance its cause in real terms.
During most of “the Troubles” (as they were known), support for reunification with the Irish Republicans never rose past 1/3 of the Northern Irish electorate. That changed in 1997 – despite the IRA actually reversing its first case-fire.
What enabled nationalist support in Ulster to grow wasn’t bombs from terrorists; it was economic reforms that made the Republic of Ireland a more modern, dynamic, and desirable nation. Gazans should take that lesson to heart. So should their defenders here. Terrorists may claim to act in others’ names, but they never accomplish much for those they “champion.”
Perhaps if we Irish-Americans had remembered that a generation ago….