Lessons from Northern Ireland for the Arab-Israeli Conflict

, October 1, 2004

No. 523     16-30 Tishrei 5765 / 1-15 October 2004

While there are obvious limitations in any analogy between the situation in Northern Ireland and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, many in the British government and military believe there is such an analogy. As a consequence of the Troubles of the last 30 years, Northern Ireland has become the defining national security experience for that generation of people who now have stewardship for British policy.

Many British officials see a strong resemblance between the Israelis and the Unionists, both of whom have to be pulled down a peg or two. Both are now perceived as “Afrikaaners,” or “settler” groups who have driven out indigenous peoples.
According to the “consent principle,” which has governed British policy throughout the Troubles, Northern Ireland’s position as part of the United Kingdom is recognized as long as the majority of its population wishes to uphold the existing constitutional settlement. In the Israeli context, the consent principle is known as the Jewish state’s “right to exist.” Beyond that, though, almost everything else is up for grabs.

The post-September 11 anti-terrorism legislation of 2001 holds that terrorism for no rational political purpose, such as the re-creation of a global caliphate, has to be subject to the most stringent anti-terrorism measures. However, the British government does not pu

Dean Godson

Dean Godson is a Research Director on security issues at Policy Exchange, Contributing Editor of Prospect Magazine, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Ulster.