Last week, an Israeli Government Minister declared that there was no such thing as an innocent Palestinian.

In his view the entire population, or whatever part of it survives, should be expelled from their homeland and dispersed around the world, his personal preference being to send them to Ireland or the desert. It was somewhat of a modern twist on a historic edict relating to Ireland and I wondered if he was aware of that or oblivious to the parallel.

It called to mind an article ‘To Hell or Connacht’ which a great friend and mentor, Paul O’ Dwyer wrote some fifty years ago as British military action intensified here. With little effort, I found it and quote from his research here.

Jim Callaghan, as Home Secretary, had called in the British Army in 1969, as policing disintegrated, and indicated he expected they would be here for months rather than years.

The late Kevin Boyle, Frank McManus and I had previously called on him to replace the RUC Chief Constable with someone from outside the North, but he declined.

He was to discover that militarisation was not as easily undone as it was done and it took 30 years before the army’s role in Northern Ireland was stood down.

Their very presence changed the nature of the conflict, given that it was never really about religion but about denial of equality of rights. This had a long history pre-dating partition.

By August 1971, the entire Catholic community was viewed by the British army as suspect, guilty of something, but exactly what had yet to be determined, so prevention being the best option, the British Army implemented the Stormont decision to re-introduce Internment. In the words of the popular anti-internment song of the time:

Not for them a judge or jury or indeed a crime at all

Being Irish means they’re guilty, so we’re guilty one and all.

Around the world the truth will echo, Cromwell’s men are here again,

England’s name again is sullied in the eyes of honest men.

Given the actions of Oliver Cromwell in Ireland, it was somewhat of an exaggerated claim at the time but subsequently, the Legacy Act would indicate the government has a lot of wrongdoing to legitimise or hide.

If the Israeli minister knew more about Ireland than that its people are giving him grief, he might have stayed well clear of any utterance that might draw a similarity between the actions of Netanyahu and Cromwell, or raise the common thread of British Colonialism.

To be fair to Cromwell, he didn’t lead his troops from behind a desk.

He arrived in Ireland 1649 shortly after he had relieved the first King Charles of his head.

His first objective was to rout the remnants of the King’s army. He may have been taken somewhat by surprise to see how many ‘Papists’, to use his own phrase, there still were about the place in Ireland, especially in the province of Ulster, but in any event, he set about sorting the ‘Catholic Problem’ once and for all, a bit like Netanyahu 500 years later in relation to Palestinians in Palestine.

Cromwell embarked on slaughter using the rebellion of 1641as his excuse.

The rebels had not covered themselves in any glory. Having first taken on the King’s Army in Co. Antrim with little success they turned their frustration on the settler population.

The death toll of the rebellion in Ulster of the predominantly Protestant settler population was some 4,000.

On arrival, Cromwell’s declaration to Irish people could not have been more explicit.

“I hope to be free from the misery and desolation, blood and ruin that shall befall them, and shall rejoice to exercise utmost severity against them.”

Lord Clarendon, a former advisor to the beheaded King writing of the rebellion some five years later, states clearly that Cromwell’s original intention was ‘to extirpate all Irish Papists’.

To extirpate means to eradicate or destroy entirely and the subsequent massacres in Drogheda, Wexford and Ross demonstrated the serious of the intent.

Thomas Carlyle Cromwell’s right-hand man and scribe, wrote in his historical account: “In the Church in Droheda (sic) wherein Irish fled for safety, men, women and children were slaughtered. None escaped.”

He continued: “The strike that fell on Droheda repeated at Wexford, at Ross [has] broken the brain of the Irish war; the body of which, over Ireland generally [and] over the Southwest more especially, everywhere staggers falling or already has fallen, writhing in paralytic convulsions making haste to die of its final spasm widespread confused death agonies, and general swift death. To those who think that a land overrun by Sanguinary Quacks can be healed by sprinkeling it with rosewater, these [deeds] must be very horrible. Terrible surgery this, but is it surgery and judgment or atrocious murder merely? That is the question which shouts...’

Cromwell’s Puritanism, like Zionism was in no doubt of its ‘God-given’ righteousness. In reporting back to Parliament in 1650 he claimed: “The Lord is pleased still to vouchsafe in his presence and to prosper his own work in our hands. If God be for us, who can be against us? Who can fight against the Lord and prosper? Who can resist his will? The Lord keeps us in his love.”

The God of Zion and Christians seems to have as little care for the lives of Palestinians in the 21st century as Cromwell’s Puritan God had for the ‘papists of 1649’.

Religion has a lot of violence to answer for… and I most certainly haven’t forgotten the Spanish Inquisition.

The Act of Settlement 1652 legalised what had already taken place in Ireland. Parliament confiscated the majority of Catholic-owned land the exception being barren lands most of which was in Connacht to where many had fled.

Catholics were barred from the Irish Parliament, forbidden to live in towns and prohibited by law from marrying Protestants. Apartheid?

Somebody might alert Israel, and ‘Irish Joe’ Biden to the parallel with Cromwell’s policy.

It failed, and the two-state solution in Ireland on which the 1948 British plan for Palestine was based, didn’t work that well either!

An immediate cease-fire and peace discussions on how to create one shared state based on the UN declaration of Human Rights as a minimum, with equal social and economic rights and mutual respect for cultural diversity and difference just might.

Having financed that idea here, why is the USA opposed to the idea in the Middle East?