Recognising a Palestinian state

Activism and diplomacy

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott

Sir, – Israeli ambassador Dana Erlich’s recent article in The Irish Times is a depressing insight into the psyche of the Israeli administration, six months into its war on Gaza and some 33,000 Palestinian deaths later (“Ireland’s planned unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state sends a dangerous signal”, Opinion & Analysis, April 11th).

Ms Erlich denounces Ireland’s decision to recognise the state of Palestine as dangerous, while espousing several false and deeply misguided narratives about this war and the views of the Irish people.

The ambassador claims this war would simply end if Hamas chose to release Israeli hostages. Why is it that such a simple solution did not end hostilities throughout any of the four previous major escalations between Israel and Hamas since 2008?

There is no denying that it is critical to release the hostages, but one wonders how many Palestinian lives are worth each Israeli life in the eyes of the Netanyahu administration.


The ambassador pays no regard for the events leading up to the October 7th attacks, or the role of the Netanyahu government in creating the conditions for this war, both through its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, its systematic abuse of Palestinians, and through directly propping up Hamas by enabling Qatari payments, as reported by the New York Times in December.

Of course, Ms Erlich makes the point that Hamas are brutal terrorists, which they are, but her article makes patently clear what we already suspected was true: Israel is seeking revenge through its collective punishment of Palestinians and, in the process, making a mockery of international law, human rights and Israel’s self-image as a democratic state.

Finally, I am quite shocked at the ambassador’s complete ignorance of the history and mind-set of the country to which she is posted, not to mention her lack of diplomatic tact and intellectual honesty. She criticises Ireland’s position for its lack of nuance while claiming that to be anti-zionist is to be anti-Semitic. By the same logic, it is anti-men to be a feminist. Irish people know that it is possible to criticise structures of oppression without bigotry.

As a former member of the board of the Holocaust Education Trust, I have learned about the factors that can contribute to genocide, those include bigotry and denying fundamental rights, a political movement rooted in ethno-nationalism, and the undermining of the truth. While we await the ruling of the International Court of Justice, it is not difficult to detect each of these phenomena in Israel’s current rhetoric.

Ireland has libraries full of accounts of our own experience of colonialism, civil war, terrorism and peacebuilding, should Ambassador Elrich be so inclined during her time in Dublin. – Yours, etc,


Fianna Fáil,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – After our new Taoiseach’s first week in office, I was struck by the fact that he decided no to take action on the domestic issues that affect his citizens, but to focus on virtue signalling on the international stage.

While we are all shocked by the scenes in Gaza, I think even the most idealistic pro-Palestine activist will admit that not a single thing will change on the ground by recognising Palestine as a state; it would just be empty rhetoric.

But if Simon Harris is going to be a foreign policy Taoiseach, focusing on recognising countries, why not expand his scope?

Taiwan has had a separate government to China since the 1940s. It is a democratic island that lives in constant fear of invasion by its larger neighbour with imperialist intentions. So isn’t it time we ended the ridiculous “one China policy” and send an ambassador to Taipei? Well that might annoy the Chinese Communist Party and China buys more milk from us than the Israelis do, it might damage the economy, so better leave that one alone.

How about Somaliland? In the 1960s, their colonial masters forced them into an unhappy union with Somalia, but for over 30 years, its had its own democratic government. Isn’t it time we recognised it? Well, there’s not many votes in caring about Africa since apartheid ended.

But what made the press conference comical to me was the man standing next to the Taoiseach, sharing his call for Palestinian statehood, the prime minister of Spain. Spain is the EU country with the greatest record of opposing self-determination of peoples. Maybe Mr Harris should have recognised the state of Catalonia, which voted for independence from Spain, which responded by imprisoning the leaders of the independence movement. Or ask about the military actions taken to prevent the Basque country from gaining independence.

Spain is a country that can somehow demand that Gibraltar be turned over to Spain, against the wishes of its people, because geography demands it, while at the same time, without a hint of irony, refuse to turn over its own colonial era settlements on the Moroccan coast, claiming they are integral parts of Spain.

Spain also steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the independence of Kosovo, preventing it from moving towards EU membership and the prosperity that comes with it, in case it encourages the Catalans or the Basques.

But I suppose virtue signalling makes strange bedfellows. – Yours, etc,


Wellington Bridge,

Co Wexford.

Sir, – While I favour Ireland recognising the reality of a Palestinian state, I feel it would be wise to hold off until Hamas has released the Israeli hostages it holds. – Yours, etc,