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January 23, 2004



You know what truly baffles me about remarks like this? I just can't understand why it is that people can't feel sympathy for the Palestinians without taking it to the extreme of finding justification for indiscrimately murdering scores of innocent civilians. And how is it that the "desperation" of the Palestinian people touches them so, yet they would argue to leave those that suffer under tyrants to a worse fate? At least I can relate on some level, in that my pacifism too is not unequivocal.

Frank McGahon

It has become axiomatic that sympathy for Palestinians requires, if not justification for, then, "contextualising" of suicide bombing. Yet there is no reason why one cannot support Palestinian political aspirations while condemning the tactic of suicide bombs.



"It is depressing that so much effort is expended, and morality suspended to empathise with such fanatical killers and yet the far easier task - to empathise with the ordinary Israeli who has much in common with the average British person except that he or she must face the risk of being blown to pieces while enjoying a pizza or boarding a bus - is so casually shirked."

what a joke that is!!

so because it is easier for me to relate to the Israelis (?) I should sympathise with them more than a group which I feel are the oppressed side..

I think it is disgraceful that this woman has been sacked, as I understand what she is saying, and have heard the opinion made on many occasions, albeit not from such a position.

However, the opinion she has expressed does not necessarily condone what is being done, an expresion of understanding would be better made by Bush or Blair rather than a complete ignorance of these people.

And your pro-Israeli bias is far too obvious here Frank, playu another record.
Its turning into Atlantic -blog. God forbid.

Frank McGahon

Ciaran, please read what I wrote: The point is to empathise with an ordinary Israeli "civilian" over a Palestinian suicide bomber, not empathise with an ordinary Israeli over an ordinary Palestinian. There is a crucial difference.

This woman didn't say; "I think it's awful how the Israelis treat the Palestinians" she said, I paraphrase, "If I were them, I would be a suicide bomber". Surely you can see the difference? despite her insincere disclaimer she is condoning suicide bombings, implicitly: in her view they are a natural response to Israeli "oppression".

This is not an argument about the merits of either side in the dispute between Palestinians and Israelis - we can agree to disagree about that - it's an argument about the tactic of suicide bombing.

Tony Allwright

Ms Tonge's endorsement of suicide-bombing is just one more example of the slipppery glorification of this depraved practice by some elements in the West (from their safe haven thousands of miles away). Cherie Blair similarly indulged in 2002.

Melanie Philips is right. Ms Tonge, and for that matter Ms Blair, should be should be prosecuted for incitement to murder.

I'll be writing about this in my own blog on Sunday 25th Jan.


Frank, I understand what you are saying and I do agree in some part that it is down to an opinion on suicide bombing.

But the difference is she is not necessarily saying she condoones it eiher she is saying that she understands how such an understrength and overpowered society can go so low to use the last (only?) weapon that they have in their armory that can possibly hit the israelis (we all know where their military strength comes from).

As for Mr Allwright, well you have it Allwrong..

I don;t knwo how many potential suicide bombers were interested in LibDem speeches and anyhow if you want to prosecute someone for incitement to murder I suggest you visit my country and put a request forward for same against Mr Paisley - now compare big Ian and Mrs Tonge and m sure you can see the difference. One tried to show some understanding but the pro-Israeli lobby has shot her down.... meanwhile the other has been inciting hatred and murder (directly) and your right wing pals have let it go...

David Stewart

I left Belfast in 1965 when I was five years old. I observed the troubles from the safety of Cork and Galway (and later Brussels). I despised the actions of the IRA as it hijacked the legitimate protests of the civil rights movement and I find the idea of Sinn Fein in government repugnant.
But I often wonder how I would have turned out if my father had not decided to further his career in the Republic. How would I have felt as I watched him passed over for promotion time and time again by lesser men simply on the basis of his religon? How would I have felt about Bloody Sunday and the Miami Showband if I lived in Northern Ireland rather than the Republic? How would I have felt growing up knowing I could be stopped and detained at any moment by a soldier with a gun simply because I was a catholic?
I would like to think that I would have risen above that and followed the consitutional path as advocated by the SDLP or the Alliance. I would like to think that the atrocities carried out by the IRA such as La Mon or the Harrods bomb would have repulsed me as much as they did. But I often wonder if the anger I felt at the treatment of my community would have driven me into the hands of the hate-mongers and terrorists who prey on the disaffected youth of Northern Ireland. Would I today be on release from prison following the ceasefire, a middle-aged man whose youth had been wasted? Would I have blood on my hands and deaths on my conscience? Would I even be alive or would I be celebrated as a 'martyr for the cause'? I think these things and it frightens me.
So when Ms Tonge said she understood what drove the Palestinean suicide bombers, I understood her. She was not expressing sympathy. She was not saying it was right to blow up teenagers at a disco or commuters trying to get home from work. She was saying 'There but for the grace of God, go I."

Frank McGahon

David, I "understand" what you mean but I think you, and Dr Tonge, have fallen into a logical trap. Dundalk received many "refugees" from the Troubles in the 1970s. When I was an altar boy, one of my colleagues told me tales of the British Army raiding his house and tossing over the place. It is easy to understand how young men can become radicalised and seek to gain revenge for everything from petty humiliation to worse. The problem is, suicide bombing is not just "resistance". It is a kind of fanatical cult.

To hold that "there but for the grace of God go I" is to argue that suicide bombing is somehow a natural, predictable consequence of Israeli policy. Indeed there is a pernicious view abroad that the best explanation of the suicide bombing phenomenon is that it is "extreme" terrorism in response to "extreme" oppression. This is lazy sloppy thinking - this turns the blame away from those who perpetuate this cult and towards those who are the victims of it - and ignores the tactical benefit of planning suicide bombs, (indeed one of those benefits is to encourage the view that suicide bombs are a result of desperation). It also ignores the fact that this "natural" response hasn't occurred in areas where people suffer far worse "oppression" than that of the Palestinians. Leave aside the non-existent, non-muslim Tutsi suicide bombers, where were the Bosnian muslim suicide bombers? the Kurdish suicide bombers,?


Frank I really like your not-so-subtle use of inverted commas when talking about the "opression" of Palestinians. You're more than happy to patronise David by discussing his popint with him but equally want to deny the fact that there is "oppression" ....


To answer the point about the Kurds and the Bosnian Muslims, I think it is foolish to expect that every "Oppressed" (thats the word du jour I suppose) group need to decide on the same form of protest as you deem appropriate.

Because Tonge spoke of the Pal. suicide bombers as a natural response does not mean that that would be the decision arrived at in Other conflicts.

In Ireland for example the most powerful reactions against a military force that would never be beaten throguh normal military means was the guerilla tactics of the IRA and , of course, the hunger strikes, on another occasion.

This is not a natural, logical or predictable tactic but it is down to the people themselves to decide how they fight not you.

The Palestinians have a religious faith that, to them, makes suicide bombing more reasonable than northern nationalists, I would presume. Also I think the Kurds and the Bosnians had more military fight than the Palestinians.

The inequality of force faced by the Palestinians, Irish, Bosnians etc have all to be taken into account here.

I think the incredible distancing ( in the mind at least) from the conflict in the north, by southern Irish, is remarkable. The phrase "There, for the Grace of God, go I" is more than appropriate.


Frank McGahon

Ciaran, the reason I mentioned the Kurds and the Bosnians is because they have precisely the same religious faith as the Palestinians, i.e Islam.

I certainly didn't intend to patronise David and I hope that he doesn't take my comments that way. The reason I put the scare quotes around "oppression" is that I don't believe that is an accurate characterisation of the relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians but for the purposes of the argument it doesn't really matter. Even taking such a claim at face value, there is still no logical corollary that suicide bombing is an understandable, if regrettable response to Israeli action.

Don Barter

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