Bruce Arnold

Critic of Public Affairs, writing about art, theatre, music and politics

Martin has woven a web of deceit on Gaza and Lisbon

It is difficult to work out which is the more stupid: Micheal Martin's current views on the conflict in Gaza, or his current views on the EU and the Lisbon Treaty. Both are facile, in both analysis and expression. The first is dangerously distorted; the second appears to be mistaken but is, in fact, deliberately misleading.

At no time -- with just one exception -- in the past 40 years, during which I have been directly involved in commenting on Irish policy, have I witnessed the Department of Foreign Affairs behaving in so superficial and ignorant a way as it has done during the past year, over the Lisbon Treaty, and in recent weeks, over the Gaza invasion by Israel. (That one time was under Haughey, during the Falklands war, a situation salvagedby Noel Dorr.)

On the Gaza invasion, Micheal Martin has consistently followed a policy that is in conflict with stated EU policy on the conflict. European Union policy has called for "an unconditional halt to rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel and an end to Israeli military action". Note which comes first.

The EU is well-informed and seriously concerned about the terrorist threat to Israel, just as it is concerned about terrorism everywhere else.

Micheal Martin expresses no such concern. He did not comment on Hamas outrages against the Israeli people during the intensive bombardment preceding the Israeli invasion and it is not surprising that his recent statements have been seriously biased against Israel.

Hamas is treated as though it were a residual or secondary problem. It is never treated as it has been -- the primary cause of the conflict, and therefore of the tragic consequences. of military action. Far stronger words are needed against this dangerous, wicked, irresponsible terrorist force.

On January 3, Mr Martin cloaked his bias in "grave concerns about the heavy civilian casualties and suffering resulting from Israeli military actions", calling the invasion "an extremely dangerous escalation". All he said about Hamas was that UN action "must include the ending of all rocket attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian militants on southern Israel, as well as the opening of crossing points for the urgent delivery of humanitarian supplies and the facilitation of humanitarian access".
On January 4, Mr Martin "voiced grave concern over the military incursion by the Israeli Defence Forces into Gaza". There was the same secondary mention of Hamas; they were invited "to desist from all rocket attacks", but his emphasis was on the ceasefire.

On January 6, the minister was "appalled by these indiscriminate attacks by Israeli forces which has resulted in so many civilian fatalities, including of children, who were simply sheltering from the conflict taking place around them" and he added lengthy condolences to the victims on one side. He pledged, again, the close working with the EU.

On January 9, he earnestly hoped that Israel and Hamas would "agree to cease all hostilities in Gaza or directed against the people of southern Israel".

But it was one sentence in a lengthy press statement, the rest of which was directed at Israeli atrocities, using observance of "international humanitarian law" as a kind of mantra. International law has been, and will continue to be, flouted by the Hamas terrorist while it is espoused, as far as militant extremists on the Palestine side allow it to be, by democratic Israel.

On January 15, fed by the undoubtedly awful news coming out of Gaza, Micheal Martin's statement was again exclusively concerned with Gaza and not with the complex causes of this conflict. These represent a new and dangerous version of the permanent crisis faced by Israel ever since I went there, in the 1970s, and in fact well before that time. Our facile minister genuflected once again to the "good offices", this time of Egypt, as well as the UN Secretary General, who was visiting Israel. Hamas was not even mentioned.

All of this is popular stuff; Micheal Martin knows it, so do the faceless architects of his so-called 'policy', which is neither connected with European policy nor with Ireland's own long-standing struggle against terrorism, together with our support for democracy.

They need to rethink their positions.

That support for democracy is also stood on its head in Mr Martin's speech to the Institute of International and European Affairs this week, a masterpiece in duplicity.

Mr Martin began with a joke, referring to "seven stages of grief" following the referendum result, which he then tried to demolish as mistaken, misinformed, wrong.

He said "our position", meaning that of the Government, "was one of full acceptance of the decision of the people".

This, of course, is nonsense. From day one -- when the referendum result confronted the Government with the first of its many defeats of the past six months -- he and Brian Cowen committed themselves to overturning that decision.

Since then they have engaged in a massive misinformation campaign. Mr Martin claims that all he was doing was setting about "understanding the concerns people had".

He manufactured a group of concerns that the EU accepted and camouflaged them behind the idea that they were "both complex and worthy of detailed examination and reflection". But he chose the wrong ones to examine, and his reflections were distorted by an intense predisposition to reverse what the people had decided.

This year's referendum will therefore, be based on as big a distortion as Ireland's simplistic policy on the Middle East, which is mainly concerned with blaming Israel.

He and the Taoiseach have already identified marginal or fictitious "problems" faced by Ireland in Europe, ignoring the central problem -- that it is not democratic.

The monetary crises that have developed since that fixed view was taken have also demonstrated serious inadequacies in European policies, as well as laws and regulations which have driven us back towards our own sovereignty, the battleground we now face. Mr Martin is not going to be much help over that.