VISITORS to Northern Ireland need not venture far to discover that local people have strong views about another, even bloodier zone of conflict. In Catholic and Irish-nationalist parts of Belfast murals lament the sufferings of civilians in Gaza and proclaim support for hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners. In Protestant areas the Israeli flag is a common sight. One much-vandalised mural celebrates Colonel John Patterson, an Irish Protestant officer in the British army and ardent Zionist who commanded a Jewish legion in the first world war. Until a couple of years ago, a plaque in a tense part of north Belfast marked the boyhood home of Chaim Herzog, the late Israeli president whose accent recalled his native city. It was so regularly defaced that it was taken down.
However much the two situations may differ, Northern Ireland’s rival communities identify with opposing sides in the Middle East with a passion which at times…Continue reading