US President Joe Biden has compared the plight of the Palestinian people to the suffering of his Irish ancestors on a visit to East Jerusalem.
Mr Biden’s family left Ireland during the Great Famine and he has always made clear that he is fiercely proud of his Irish ancestors.
For generations, Irish republicans have seen parallels between the Palestinian cause and Ireland’s own fight for independence. Now Mr Biden has made clear that he too thinks there are similarities in both struggles:
“My background and the background of my family is Irish American, and we have a long history of — not fundamentally unlike the Palestinian people with Great Britain and their attitude toward Irish-Catholics over the years, for 400 years,” he explained.
“But my colleagues, when I was a U.S. senator, used to always joke with me that I was always quoting Irish poets when I was on the floor of the Senate.
“And they thought I did it because I’m Irish. That’s not the reason I did it; I did it because they’re the best poets in the world.
“There’s a great poem from “The Cure at Troy” — a paragraph. It goes like this — and it’s classically Irish, but it also could fit Palestinians. It says:
‘History [teaches us not to] hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
[That] longed-for tidal wave
Of justice [rises] up,
And hope and history rhyme.’
“‘Hope and history rhyme.’ It is my prayer that we’re reaching one of those moments where hope and history rhyme.”
BIDEN in East Jerusalem: "…the background of my family is Irish American and we have a long history not fundamentally unlike the Palestinian people, with Great Britain and their attitude toward Irish Catholics over the years for 400 years." pic.twitter.com/stj17lgSvv
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) July 15, 2022
'Shared Irish roots'
The President’s Irish heritage was also put proudly front and centre during his visit to see Israeli President Isaac Herzog; Mr Herzog’s grandfather, Isaac Herzog, was the first Chief Rabbi of Ireland but was nicknamed ‘the Sinn Féin Rabbi’ because of his support for Irish nationalism and fluency in Irish.
President Herzog’s father, Chaim, was born in Belfast, grew up in Dublin and had a long career in Israeli politics. In 1975 he made a famous speech at the UN, condemning the motion ‘Zionism is racism’ on the grounds that “this resolution, based on hatred, falsehood and arrogance, is devoid of any moral or legal value.”
Acknowledging their shared connection to Ireland, Mr Biden wrote in the President’s guestbook:
“From our shared Irish roots to our shared love of Israel, we are united in heart and spirit. May our friendship endure and continue to grow! That is the Irish of it, as my grandfather Finnegan would say. God bless you. Joe. 7.14.22.”
Moved to award the Israeli Presidential Medal of Honor to U.S. President @JoeBiden in recognition of his true friendship with Israel, decades-long commitment to its security, contributions to the unwavering U.S.-Israel alliance, and struggle against antisemitism worldwide.🇺🇸🇮🇱 pic.twitter.com/X5zJjQbFjI
— יצחק הרצוג Isaac Herzog (@Isaac_Herzog) July 14, 2022
The pair also swapped anecdotes about their visits to Ireland and Mr Biden was given Israel’s Presidential Medal of Distinction:
“If anyone should understand my inclination to enthusiasm, you should be,” a delighted Mr Biden told Mr Herzog.
“With a — with a grandfather who thought Sinn Féin was the future of Ireland, you should understand that.”
Main image: President Joe Biden participates in a virtual bilateral meeting with Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Micheál Martin Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)