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Hebron in Israel? Facebook’s curious Palestinian geography problem

June 21, 2019

This morning while browsing Facebook, I happened to see that a friend had been tagged in a photo in ‘Beit Lehem, Israel’. This, I though was curious. After all, Bethlehem is in Israeli-occupied Palestine, not in the Apartheid State of Israel.

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Maybe, I thought, this was a mistake tag and was actually referring to Beit Lehem HaGlilit (Bethlehem of the Galilee), a once-Palestinian town ethnically cleansed in 1948 and taken over by Israel farmers. But no, clicking on the ‘Beit Lehem, Israel’ link brought me to a page with a map of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. So, Facebook would have us believe that Bethlehem, or ‘Beit Lehem’, is not in Palestine, but in Israel.

Yet Facebook wants to have its colonial cake and eat it too, as it also lists – as a separate location – ‘Bethlehem, West Bank‘. West Bank mind, not ‘Palestine’. Indeed, Palestine doesn’t appear anywhere on Facebook city locations, as we shall see.

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I next searched for ‘Hebron’, and sure enough, there was both ‘Hebron, Irsael‘ and ‘Hebron, West Bank‘. Hebron is the largest city in the occupied West Bank, and is an Apartheid city par excellence, were the lives of over 200,000 Palestinians are dominated by the presence of around a 1,000 illegal Israeli settlers in the middle of the city, and a further 1,000 Israeli occupation soldiers who ensure Palestinians are utterly subjugated.  There are separate paths for Jews and Arabs, Palestinian shops have been forced to close down, the Ibrahimi Mosque has been partitioned, and settler and military attacks on Palestinian civilians are frequent. As a report on the +972 Magazine website puts it:

Hebron’s Jewish settlers have become notorious for violently harassing their Palestinian neighbors, all under the watchful eye and acquiescence of the IDF. Some Palestinian residents in the seam zone on and around Shuhada Street have literally built cages around their homes to protect themselves from the violent settlers. The souk in Hebron’s Old City is covered by metal netting to catch the bricks, urine and other objects Jewish settlers regularly throw onto Palestinian merchants and passersby.

By allowing Hebron to be listed as being in Israel, Facebook is not only acquiescing in such atrocious behaviour and violations of international law, it is actually helping to normalise them.

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In some respects, Hebron an Bethlehem are lucky. They, at least, get the designation of being in the West Bank. With the exception of Jericho, no other Palestinian city – whether the current de facto political capital Ramallah, the major cities of Nablus, Qalqilyah, Jenin or Tulkarm, or Gaza City with its population of 750,000 – gets any such designation. Instead, each is merely listed as a “City”, presumably existing as independent entities in some geographical ether. The same goes for Madjal Shams, the large Druze city in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, which international law recognises as being part of the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic.

So what about Jerusalem? Unsurprisingly, ‘Jerusalem’ is listed as being part of Israel – with an image of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Israeli occupied part of the city to illustrate it. Curiously, however, also listed is ‘East Jerusalem‘ (this too exists in the same Facebook geo-ether as other Palestinian cities) – yet its picture is not of any of the most iconic images of the Old City – such as the above mentioned mosque – but simply a map.

Finally, what of the more than 200 other illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine and occupied Syria? It turns out that Facebook can’t make up its mind. Some, such as Ariel, Har Homa, and Gilo are listed as being inside Israel, while others such as the huge settlements of Ma’ale Adummim, Kiryat Arba, Beitar Illit, and Modi’in Illit, right down to the tiny Niran all exist as merely “cities” in undetermined locations.

A final Facebook geography fail is that while Israel not only exists as a ‘country location’, its entry comes illustrated by a satellite map of all of historic Palestine which does not delineate between the Apartheid state of Israel and the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories. Nice!

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Undoubtedly Facebook will claim that it is merely working off third party data like Wikipedia and its own algorithms to compile this data. But this is a nonsense – we all know that algorithms are not neutral, they reflect the values of those who program them. When it comes to such a contested and controversial situation as the Palestine-Israel question, Facebook in fact has a special responsibility to accurately reflect international law – not to merely draw arbitrary borders as it sees fit.

In its treatment of Palestinian cities and Israeli settlements – all of which are illegal and war crimes under the Geneva conventions – Facebook is actively aiding the normalisation of  gross violations of human rights and international law. It is helping to entrench Israel’s decades-long colonial occupation of Palestine and the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. It is erasing Palestinain historical, cultural and national connections to their own homeland. It is literally wiping Palestine off the map.

And Facebook wants to lecture people about ‘fake news’?

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That US hate-preacher is not the first person ever banned from Ireland – others have been too.

May 16, 2019

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The story about Steven L. Anderson, the exterminationist, homophobic, antisemitic and Islamophobic US preacher being banned from Ireland has gained a lot traction over the past couple of days. Most reports say he is “first-ever person to be banned from Ireland“, or some variation thereof.

But this isn’t strictly true. While he is seemingly the first visiting speaker to have been banned under the 1999 Immigration Act, there have been others before him – and they were mostly all leftwing activists.

Ernst Tollman

9004-004-7A75141EThe first public speaker that I’m aware of being denied entry to the independent south of Ireland (or, the ‘Irish Free State’, as it was called between 1922 and 1937) was German Jewish dramatist Ernst Toller. Aside from being a well known playwright, Toller was revolutionary leftist and anti-fascist, who had briefly served as the President of the heroic and short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1919.

In 1935, when he was invited to speak in Dublin by the Irish Labour League Against Fascism, he was a refugee in his second year of exile from Nazi Germany. He was refused entry by the De Valera government, at the behest of the Nazi Embassy in Dublin:

“Toller’s activities were regularly monitored by the German Embassy, being no doubt a source of some embarrassment; in January 1935 he began a series of lectures which finally provoked the Embassy into direct intervention. On January 10 a diplomat called zu Putlitz requested a meeting at the Foreign Office at which, according to the official memorandum, he raised the ‘question of German refugees – he was thinking particularly of Ernst Toller – who travelled the country giving speeches against the German government’. He asked that the government should insist that refugees should refrain from anti- German activities during their stay in Britain, and that if they failed to do so, they should be deported. The Foreign Office politely refused, but other efforts to silence Toller were more successful. In the same month, he was invited to address a rally of the Irish Labour League against Fascism on ‘National Socialist Germany’, but was refused permission to enter Ireland following representations by the German Embassy in Dublin.” (‘The British Connection: Aspects of The Biography of Ernst Toller‘, Richard Dove, German Life and Letters 40, 4 July 1987)

 

However, it seems it was actually a bit less clear cut than that, as Joachim Fischer expands on this in a an essay about Toller in the edited book German Writers and Politics 1918–39. He notes that Toller was invited to come to Ireland to speak at the event by Dorothy Woodman of the London-based Victims Relief Committee. Toller met with John Dulanty, the Irish High Commissioner in London to discuss the visit, and according to the minutes of tha meeting, he was ‘well advised’ not to go as there would be talk of ‘communism’ at the meeting:

“While the Irish Labour League Against Fascism saw the meeting as part of its campaign to free the German Communist leader Ernst Thalmann, Toller made it clear that he intended to speak also about the conditions in which priests and pastors found themselves in Germany … We can assume that this choice of topic was determined to some extent by the expected Irish audience. It seems however that Toller was not fully informed about the meeting’s organisers, who he thought were associated with the Labour Party. When the High Commissioner explained to him that avowed Communists were among the organisers of the meeting (which was true) and that a discussion about Communism would be almost unavoidable, Toller appeared very hesitant to go. Toller must have been aware that too close an association with the Communists would jeopardise his campaign [to have imprisoned German socialist and pacifist Carl von Ossietzky awarded the Nobel Peace Prize] during which he also approached people from the upper classes and the church hierarchy.

“In the minutes Toller appears very cautious indeed. ‘He was anxious not to do anything contrary to the wishes of the authorities here or in Dublin’, ‘he was anxious to avoid any press publicity’, we read there. Both sides try very hard to leave the final decision (and the responsibility for it) to the other. The High Commissioner also takes steps to protect himself: ‘The High Commissioner made it clear that there was no suggestion of a prohibition or a ban but as Mr. Toller himself was keen on avoiding any public discussion on Communism he would be well advised not to give the proposed lecture. Mr. Toller agreed’, the minutes state. They finally agree on a press statement which says no more than that Toller ‘is advised by a responsible quarter’ not to go to Dublin.” (‘Ernst Toller and Ireland’, Joachim Fischer, German Writers and Politics 1918–39, 1992).

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Yet as Fischer notes, “In Dublin, however, it looked very much like a ban”, as “the German Legation in Dublin had made representations to the Irish government”, and that “informed circles” knew that Toller’s potential appearance “threatened to endanger the success of ongoing trade talks between the Free State and the Reich”.

In any case the meeting went ahead without Toller, with speakers that included ‘avowed communists’ Peadar O’Donnell, Roddy Connolly (son of James), and Séan Murray. It seems the government were unsure whether or not Toller would take their “advisement” on board as “police were present at the Hall in significant numbers” and “were there to prevent Toller from speaking and even deportation was mentioned”.

Tragically, fascism would continue to haunt Toller throughout the rest of his relatively short life. After learning his brother and sister had been sent to concentration camps, suffering depression and financial woes, and seemingly reeling from the ultimate defeat of the Spanish Republic by Franco’s fascists the previous month, on 22nd May 1939, aged only 45, he hanged himself in a New York hotel room. As Jean-Michel Palmier notes in his book Weimar in Exile:

A moral, political and psychological crisis for many emigres, the Spanish defeat appeared as a collapse of their last hope of victory over Hitler. It was not by mere chance that before his suicide, Ernst Toller laid out on his desk in the Mayflower Hotel in New York photos of Spanish children who had been killed by fascist bombs.”  (Weimar in Exile: The Antifascist Emigration in Europe and America, Jean-Michel Palmier, 2006)

Ralph Schoenmann

schoenmanrThe first public speaker I’m aware of being refused entry to the ‘Republic of Ireland’ was Trostkyist anti-war activist and associate of Bertrand Russell, and wearer of one of the worst beards in human history, Ralph Schoenman. Schoenman, who these days is a leftist conspiracy theorist, was detained at Dublin airport, moved to Mountjoy Prison, and promptly deported to Belgium in May 1968, whereupon he went to France and ended up in the midst of the Paris uprising.

There is a wonderfully colourful Senead debate between Senator Owen Sheehy-Skeffington – who in a twist of history had aslo been involved in the Toller affair as a member of the aforementioned Irish Labour League Against Fascism – and Fianna Fáil Minister of Justice Michael Moran.

Amid accusations that Schoemean was seen “at the demonstration in Paris with the black flag of anarchy”, was an “international Communist agitator” and “a potential tourist” (yes, a tourist, the horror!) comes this wonderful soliloquy from the Minister:

“I exercised my judgment in stopping this potential tourist landing on our shores for my own good reasons. I do not have to give the reasons why that was done. Let me say that I was not alone in my view that this gentleman would not add anything to the future of our country and I could give you a litany here of very many others who took a similar view to mine about this same gentleman. He was pitched out of Holland; he was pitched out of France; he was pitched out of Bolivia; he was pitched out of Denmark; he was pitched out of Sweden; he was pitched out of West Germany; he was pitched out of Finland; he was pitched out of Austria; and he was pitched out of other countries. In fact, his own Government, I am sure, would love to have some place to stick this particular agitator, but under American law a citizen has a right to a passport and he is still an American citizen. That is why he was roaming around the world  […]

“This international Communist agitator has been pitched out of all the countries I have read out in this House. In addition to that, he prostituted the procedures in our Irish courts by using them with his friends when asked by his friends to this country for his own particular purpose. He had his way, allegedly undertaking to the courts to go back to Rome from where he came to this country, and he disappeared from the plane at Brussels. We have the picture Senator Ó Maoláin internat8ionalistshas referred to appearing at the barricades at Paris the following day. This is the gentleman the Senator and his friends are so concerned about. […] there is no responsible Minister for Justice who would let a type like this into this country for his own fell purposes. There may be some misguided people in this country who would take the view of the Senator in this motion but the vast majority of the Irish people have no hesitation in saying that they do not want this type of international tourist agitator in this country […] if there are some of his type who want to come here as aliens and I know they are coming I will ensure that they will lay their agitators’ eggs elsewhere and I make no apology to the Senator or his friends in this regard.” (‘Adjournment Debate – Visit of Ralph Schoenman‘, Seanad Éireann, 29 May 1968).

Incidentally, during the debate Fianna Fáil Senator Thomas Mullins claims
that he was coming to Ireland to “support the Chinese Communists in Trinity“. I think the TCD Internationalists would have given the Trotskyist Schoenman short shrift. In fact, they’d probably have denounced him even more vociferously than the Irish government did!

James Gralton

Of course, before either of these two, the was the case of Leitrim man James Gralton – now famous as the subject of the Ken Loach/Paul Laverty film Jimmy’s Hall. Gralton was a communist activist, who:

“joined the Revolutionary Workers’ Group (forerunner of the Communist Party of Ireland) and reopened the Pearse-Connolly Hall [in Leitrim], which became the venue for meetings as well as dances; but a combined anti-communist and puritanical witch hunt, in which the parish priest called for the closing of the hall as a ‘den of iniquity,’ resulted in shots being fired into the hall and an unsuccessful attempt at blowing it up (allegedly by local members of the IRA), and on Christmas Eve, 1932, it was again burnt to the ground.” (‘Some famous Irish communists – Jim Gralton (1886-1945)‘, Communist Party of Ireland)

graltonjGralton was such a ‘danger’ to the state that in February 1933, under pressure from the Catholic Church, the De Valera government of the Irish Free State issued a deportation order for him as an “undesirable alien” – despite being born in Leitrim, Gralton held dual Irish and US citizenship. Despite refusing to abide by the order and going underground, he was eventually caught and deported to the US in August of that year, having the dubious honour of being the only Irishman ever deported and exiled from Ireland by an Irish government.

He continued his leftwing activism in the US up until his death in 1945. Only in 2016 was an official state apology delivered, with President Michael D. Higgins stating that:

“Today, I come to acknowledge a too long hidden or suppressed story – the wrongful intimidation and ultimate deportation by an abuse of the law, of Jimmy Gralton, to whose memory, and whose family, an apology is due […] We can recall him with sadness, but also with righteous anger, because he was, for authoritarian political purposes, mixed with clerical pressure, illegally deported from his own country for his political beliefs. What happened was an affront to basic civil rights and freedoms, including freedom of speech; freedom to organise and the freedom to hold meetings.” (‘Speech at the unveiling of a monument to Jimmy Gralton‘, President Michael D. Higgins, 3 September 2016)

Leila Khaled

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More recently, the was the 2013 case of the refusal to grant an entry visa to Palestinian revolutionary and exile Leila Khaled to speak at a conference organised by the socialist republican political party éirígí. Its worth noting that Khlaed was previously granted a visa to enter Ireland to speak at a series of meetings in 2005. According to a press release from the party:

“Leila Khaled is a senior member of the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and an iconic figure in the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. Failure by the Dublin government to grant her an entry visa in time has prevented her travelling to Ireland for the éirígí conference and several other events. Ms Khaled had submitted her visa application several weeks ago at the same time as Mr Al-Khatib who works closely with Ms Khaled in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

“The general secretary of éirígí, Breandán Mac Cionnaith, said, “Of course, we are extremely disappointed at the level of prevarication shown by the Dublin government over the issue of Ms Khaled’s visa. Having been in very regular contact with Ms Khaled over the past number of months, it is quite clear that she is particularly disappointed and frustrated at not being given clearance to travel. She again expressed those sentiments to me no later than this morning (Friday).’

“It appears that the Dublin government is pandering to the wishes of the US, British and Israeli governments in relation to her visa application. That is clearly evidenced by the fact that, although both were to travel together and both visa applications were submitted at the same time, Mr Al-Khatib’s visa was granted without hesitation.

These are likely only some of the cases of people refused entry or banned from the country – and they do not take into consideration the thousands of people who are not public speakers, activists or agitators (whether from the left or the right) who are refused entry to Ireland due to our racist immigration laws. Between 2016 and 2017 some 8,000 people were denied entry to the state.

As a final note, I would like to note that these people stand in start contrast to some of the vile characters have been allowed entry to Ireland down the years – whether to speak or to reside. I’m talking about fascist swine like mass murderer Andrija Artukovic of the Ustaše, Waffen SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny, Breton Nazi-collaborator and local Waffen SS commander Celestine Laine, Oswald Mosely of the British Union of Fascists, and Nazi Holocaust denier David Irving.

UPDATE 17 MAY 2019: Since publishing this I have come across the story of a further banned individual, one Pieter Menten, a millionaire Dutch Nazi war criminal. A former Officer in the SS in Poland, Menten was responsible for the deaths of many Jews (and being an art collector, allegedly the theft of many artworks). Although tried and convicted of being an SS translator in post war Netherlands, the other allegations were not proven. In 1964 he moved to Ireland and bought Comeragh House in Co. Waterford, where he lived until 1976 when he was arrested by Dutch court, re-tried and brought to some semblance of justice.

When he was released from prison in 1985, he had planned to return to Ireland to live out his days. However, the Irish government of Garret Fitzgerald had designated him “an undesirable alien and banned him from entering Ireland”. Ir seems likely than rather than any moral objection, the overriding concern was that any “decision to admit Menten may provoke a certain amount of international controversy” in the words of a secret document from the department of the Taoiseach. There was also the worry that either Poland or the Soviet Union could attempt to extradite Menten, thus embroiling ‘neutral’ Ireland in the Cold War, and likely annoying the US Cold Warriors. In the end, Menten died two years later in Holland.

 

Audio of Arun Kundnani talk: ‘Islamophobia, Extremism And The War On Terror’

February 1, 2016

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On Wednesday 20th January 2016, schoalr Arun Kundnani spoke on contemporary Islamophobia in a conversation with Dr David Landy of the Department of Sociology. The talk was introduced by Dr. Ronit Lentin. 

Kundnani, of New York University writes about race, Islamophobia, political violence, and surveillance. He is author of “The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror”

This talk was part of the conference ‘Understanding Anti-Muslim Racism in Ireland and Exploring Community Based Responses’. This event was organised by the Department of Sociology, Trinity College Dublin in association with ENAR Ireland, Migrant Rights Centre, SIPTU, Canal Communities Regional Youth Service and AkiDwA.

Download the MP3 here
(hosted by Archive.org)

Are Palestinians not worth speaking to? Again on the Irish Times, Charlie Flanagan and that visit to the Middle East:

February 18, 2015

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Following on from yesterday’s withering look at Irish media coverage (or lack thereof) of Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan’s visit to Gaza as part of a wider tour of the Middle East, I am compelled to once again put finger to keyboard to take investigate at two aspects of this visit. Firstly, the ongoing coverage in the Irish Times and, secondly (in a later post), dissecting what the Minister has said during the trip.

In the first instance, it’s important to at least acknowledge that the Irish Times has deemed this visit to Gaza, Israel and the West Bank as being newsworthy enough to have run three pieces on it, all written by Ruadhán Mac Cormaic. Contrast this with, for example, the total absence of this news from the Irish Independent – which did find the webspace for a story about something that happened in Israel, and which for much of today was the second item it the paper’s RSS newsfeed; the headline of this story was “Israeli divers find medieval coins“. Big news in archeological circles, to be sure, but more newsworthy than an Irish Ministerial visit to he region? Surely not.

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The Irish Times appears to be the only Irish media outlet with any coverage of yesterday’s visit to Tel Aviv. So let’s look at what the ‘paper of record’ tells us in its piece entitled “Israeli minister cites ‘difficulties’ with Irish public opinion“.

(Note: I will leave the piece entitled “Charlie Flanagan says time running out for Israeli-Palestinian pact“, which is largely just quotes from the Minister, until a later posting looking at the meaning of the visit in a political context.)

Headline framing aside, the first thing to note is that when you open the page online the first thing we the reader is presented with is a 90 second video of Charlie Flanagan at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum. We see him express shock at the victims of the Nazi genocide (“all ages… very, very powerful”), lay a wreath at the eternal flame, and then deliver a statement saying, “It isn’t sufficient for us to just come here and see and witness, I believe it’s essential that we redouble our efforts throughout the world to resist and combat anti-Semitism in all forms, thank you”.

While this visit to Yad Vashem is no doubt interesting, and worth mentioning, it is hardly the most important aspect of the visit. Indeed, just about every head of state who visits Israel also visits the museum. It is curious, however, that there was no similar video made by the Irish Times during Flanagan’s visits to Gaza or the West Bank. Surely a video of Flanagan surveying the wreckage of Gaza, which he calls “truly shocking”, would be impactful and newsworthy? We know, from the byline on this piece, that Ruadhán Mac Cormaic is “in Tel Aviv”, yet yesterday’s piece did not say “Ruadhán Mac Cormaic in Gaza”. Why did Mr. Mac Cormaic, an accredited journalist who has visited Gaza previously and is based only an hour away from the border, not also accompany the Minister to Gaza? Did he deem the visit not newsworthy enough, or was there perhaps no budget from the Irish Times to do so? Perhaps we will never know, the the fact is that he didn’t, even though both he and the newspaper deemed the visit at least worth a 550 word piece yesterday. Incidentally, Flanagan also laid a wreath a at former Palestinian Authority President Yaser Arafat’s Tomb in Ramallah – but there was no video of this, not even a still photo, even though the interview with the Minister also published on the website leads with a photo of the Yad Vashem wreath laying.

Then we get to the article itself. It opens by referring to Israel as “the Jewish state” – a thoroughly disputable claim offensive to many Jews around the world, not to mention the Palestinians who reject this terminology applied to their homeland. A more accurate description would be “the Zionist state”.

Then, seven of the first eight paragraphs are given over to an Israeli state spokesperson, and the eight gives us some background information on Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, which states:

Mr Lieberman, who heads the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party and lives in an Israeli settlement, has previously said he would be open to an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank as part of a regional agreement but his controversial variant of the plan envisages the transfer of Israeli-Arabs – who amount to a fifth of Israel’s population – into a new Palestinian state.

While being essentially factual, this paragraph omits – as many Irish Times reports do – that Israeli settlements should be referred to as being “illegal Israeli settlements“, preferably followed by the words “on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank”. Also, what the Irish Times refers to as a “controversial variant of the plan”, is in fact much more than “controversial”; forcible population transfer is illegal, as is the forced stripping of citizenship. Finally, the use of the phrase Israeli-Arabs to describe the self-identified Palestinian Citizens of Israel is highly problematic. Such terminology denies this group – 20% of the population of Israel – their self-defined national-ethnic identity as Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, assigning them instead an identity designated and propagated by the Israeli state and Zionism.

Okay, so maybe we need eight paragraphs from the Israeli perspective – it’s news after all, and Lieberman is – for now at any rate – one of the major players. Surely we will get a similar smattering of quotes from the Palestinian side, as Flanagan is also visiting the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah…

On the third day of his tour of the Middle East, Mr Flanagan travelled from Tel Aviv to Ramallah, where he met the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Palestinian prime minister, Rami Hamdallah.

Oh. That’s it? We are told that Flanagan met two Palestinian officials. We are not informed what they talked about, what the Palestinian reaction was. Palestinians are merely denied a voice in this piece. Presumably Mr. Mac Cormaic did not travel to Ramallah either.

Then, to end with, there are four paragraphs quoting Irish official sources.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the sum total of the Irish Times coverage.  Nowhere in any of the three pieces are Palestinians – officials, civil society representatives, or ordinary people – quoted or otherwise given a voice. The sources are weighted in the following order (ranked by number of paragraphs in which source is cited) of Irish (28): Israeli (7): Palestinian (0).  In the eyes of the Irish Times – Ireland’s so-called ‘paper of record’ – Palestinians are simply not worth talking to, their opinions are of zero value.