Rod Kersh
Person-centred physician

Israel, Ireland & Palestinian intergenerational trauma

The South Yorkshire Flag. Photo by Rod Kersh
The South Yorkshire Flag. Sunday 12th May 2024. Photo by Rod Kersh

You can’t compare numbers.


as you can’t compare suffering.

Victor Frankl alluded to the latter in

Man’s Search for Meaning,

His post-Shoah analysis, written during and after his time in the camps.

It isn’t apples and pears.

At the end of the day, we are all human,

All too human.

At the outset I overlook the numbers, whether tens or hundreds of thousands or millions.

I focus on the individual.

The heart the soul,

The monad that suffers,

Physically or emotionally,

or, death,

literal or metaphoric.

This morning a line from the Blindboy Podcast has been playing in my head.

Perhaps it relates to summer sun – season of fizzy drinks,

Also, to the Irish entry to the Eurovision.

Blindboy, during a monologue about the relationship between Irish immigrants to America in the late 19th and early 20th century, fizzy or soda water and a yearning for the mineral qualities of healing wells back home, mentioned SodaStream.

I don’t own a SodaStream. I don’t support the company; it is Israeli, and the Irish have had a traditional affinity with the Palestinians as oppressed people.

Or words to that effect.

Essentially, as the Irish have been oppressed and the Palestinians are oppressed, he opposes Israel and its ownership of the fizzy drink maker.

An illogic intersection, although seemingly trivial, has played-out in large since October 7th, with ‘the Irish’ standing as the most anti-Israel and Pro-Palestinian nation in Europe (followed closely by Spain then Iceland).

Let’s unpack.

Who are the Irish? Or the Spanish?

How does one nation support another? Who is supporting or challenging?

Blindboy’s rationale for this affiliation was the two nations’ historical (and for the Palestinian’s current) suffering; both traumatized people, carrying as he has previously discussed, intergenerational trauma.

For the Irish this was 600 years of English rule and the Famine, for the Palestinian’s the Nakba, their statelessness, and ongoing struggles in both Israel and across the Arab world (try living as a Palestinian in Syria, Jordan, or Lebanon).

You suffer, I suffer, we are brothers in arms.

Countries do this all the time. In Colombia’s decision to break diplomatic ties with Israel, the aged terrorist come freedom-fighter president Petro was waving the flag for the oppressed.

I get that.

I never answered the question relating to who are the Irish supporters of Palestine? This is surely not every Irish man or woman, that would be improbable given the verisimilitude of human experience, it’s in part the Irish Government – Varadkar has been no friend of Israel; is this a channelling of the national sentiment? Is it the Catholic Church and their 1500-year grievance over the Jews involvement in the death of their redeemer?

I don’t know.

The Eurovision – a statistically insignificant ingathering of international data demonstrated widespread support for Israel – ranking second, accruing millions of votes (15p’s in the UK). This number, equivalent to several times the number of Jews in the world, beyond a Jewish cabal, into the realm of reality.

And it is perhaps this latter, the notion of a group of scheming Jews that speaks to some of the hatred.

As described in Haviv Rettig-Gur’s masterful narrative on Antisemitism in this Podcast.

Antisemitism is not calling someone out for their love of money, avarice, or too big nose, it is the general attitude towards Jews as being behind all the wrongs of the world; remove the Jews and planet Earth will return to a state of grace, salvation will be upon us, the lion with lie down with the lamb. Utopia.

This accounts for the imbalanced TV news; the Gaza war headlines ongoing for seven months, for example. This war more brutal, more apocalyptic than any other in the history of conflict; forget Ukraine, Syria, Somalia, Yemen. This is the biggie where the forces of evil (Israel) are indiscriminately murdering the good (Palestinians).

The narrative is false.

The Israelis are doing everything they can to avoid harming civilians in Gaza; their efforts are being studied by Western militaries as exemplars in the conduct of asymmetric warfare; no, I am not saying that innocent Palestinians have not been killed by bombs and mortars, I am saying that the Israeli army in defense of its country has gone further than any other in the history of conflict to protect the defenseless.

I know this statement will jar with those of you who see Israel as the Little Satan and its army as its handmaiden.

I’ll just advise you to read more widely than Tik Toks or the media that you currently consume.

When someone shouts ‘down with Israel’ it is always reasonable to ask why that person has picked on Israel; what do they have to gain from this diversion? Are they secretly funneling money, are they up to nefarious activities that, through distraction and sleight of hand they can continue?

Now is a good time to bury bad news. The words spoken after 9/11.

Let’s turn to similarity.

The Israelis, the Irish and the Palestinians have more in common than some choose to believe.

All have been the subject of diminishing tropes, all the victims of the abuse of power, part, or bit-players in international war games.

We know the Famine occurred not because of lack of food, more because the English wanted to teach the Irish a lesson; the Holocaust because the Nazi party saw their vision of an Aryan future sullied by the existence of polluting Jewish Untermensch, the Palestinians, encouraged to flee in 1948 by the leaders of the Arab nations poised to attack the newly independent country.

There is a crisis, let’s create another to divert attention from this one.

Cynical chess, nefarious chequers.

The Irish, the Israelis and the Palestinians have all known hunger, have all been objectified, have all been singled-out for opprobrium.

We share more in common.

Small nations, aspiring / achieving independence, self-determination.

Peoples with strong senses of family, with connections to the land that run deep.

And yes, differences.

There is Poitín, Arak and maybe Schnapps.

You both carry green in your flags, only blue and white in ours.

I think the Eurovision vote represented the people of Ireland speaking out against the ruling classes; those who choose to focus a spotlight externally to avoid at home scrutiny.

We know we are being failed by you (say the young of Ireland (and the UK and US) – your policies alienate us, leave us isolated, indebted, and uncertain; the environmental exploitation that threatens our future is of your making and fixing and yet, you choose to spend time shouting from the river to the sea.

The BBC’s refusal to call Hamas terrorists, despite the atrocities of 10/7 and their cruel manipulation of the people of Gaza, their preference for Hamas statistics and news beyond the objective. Channel Four’s partisanship. Ignoring the hostages and the cause of the problem, the use of a colonialist narrative that is misapplied to the indigenous Israelis and so on and on.

The pot is so busy calling-out the kettle that it doesn’t realize the water is gone and dinner is burning.

I love Ireland. I always felt a bond for the country, throughout my adult life my accent often mistaken for ‘are you from the West coast of Ireland,’ ‘No, Glasgow,’ I have felt an affinity that is beyond Joyce, Beckett and Swift.

I enjoy Arab culture, for my medical elective I worked in a Palestinian baby clinic in Jerusalem, I love walking through the Old City of Jerusalem, lingering by the Damascus Gate. Zaatar, strong black coffee, bring it on.

And now I sit and wait for this to pass.

One day I will return to Newgrange, Trinity and Cork.

One day I will visit Gaza.

This year in Jerusalem.

About the Author
Dr Rod Kersh is a Consultant Physician working in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. He blogs at
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