Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Northern Ireland is still in evangelising mode.
We are singing own achievements to the world.
Yesterday Martin McGuinness and Jeffrey Donaldson came back from Finland where they had been meeting Iraqis to urge them towards peace.
Our church leaders are currently in Israel and Cardinal Brady hopes to go into Gaza to provide moral support to christians there, and a little guidance on peacemaking too, if they ask for it.
Well we have been marketed abroad by the best as an example to the world that ancient intractable conflicts can come to an end.
Some of the giddiest exponents of this message have been Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. And, since they can take some credit for a peace process, it is hardly surprising that they would exaggerate its achievements.
The problem with this is that it inflates the already problematic self-importance of Northern Ireland.
We don’t need to relish the sense that we are of global importance; we have that sense already.
What we need is to come down from our platform and realise that we are about as significant in global terms as Humberside or Brittany.
And anyway, as a witty colleague put it to me, surely countries that want to learn about living in peace should go to Switzerland.
Yet there is a global market for wisdom drawn from the Northern Ireland experience. An extraordinary number of people from here have been abroad to conferences and workshops, encounter groups and secret mediation sessions to sell the benefits of the Northern Ireland peace process experience.
One night at dinner at the police training centre at Garnerville I sat with a UVF man and a Republican exchanging their snapshots from Nicaragua and South Africa and sharing stories about what great times they’d had.
The Northern Ireland peace process model is being sold as the answer for Kashmir, Iraq, Armenia, Kosovo, the Middle East.
Have you got a little interethnic mayhem on your doorstep? No need to worry. Northern Ireland will be your guiding light to peace and freedom.
Well, will it?
What Blair and Clinton would have you believe is that the template of power-sharing, as worked out here, can be exported.
The flaw in that argument is simple. It was worked out here in 1973, and we hope that it is now stable and functioning at last.
The Israeli writer, David Grossman, whose son, a soldier, was killed in the last Lebanon war, says something that resonates very strongly with Northern Ireland experience.
He says most people in Israel and Palestine already know the solution and the compromise. The problem is getting to it, and if Israel had good leadership that leadership would be making that solution plain and clear.
That, is his lesson from Israeli experience, and it is the chief lesson of our own.
We almost never talk about how we got to the point where we were ready to agree a deal that was, in its essentials, more than 30 years old.
And why do we not talk about that? Because to do so would shame those who delayed it, our slowest learners.
Instead, we let them be the great achievers, the champions of peacemaking, let them stride the world with their carpetbags of ideas, and take the credit for heroic compromises that most of us would have made 30 years ago.

The lesson of Northern Ireland is that you move at the pace of the slowest among you, and then they get the credit for the whole thing when they come on board.

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