By Albert Doyle
No historical analogy is perfect but events in Palestine today make me recall to mind Ireland at the end of the 18th century.
Ireland was then ruled by and for an alien class of “planters”. With some honorable exceptions such as Jonathan Swift the arrogance of these people was legendary. They despised and oppressed the native Irish, seized their land for “treason” to the foreigners’ monarch, and suppressed their culture and religion. The masses of Catholic Gaels were reduced to the status of virtual slaves in their own country, their leaders exiled or killed. Periodic famines reduced the native population but to the dismay of the ascendancy they always came back. The enlightened classes wished them to disappear.
The ruling ascendancy class was kept in power by a powerful and then modern military force against which the natives had no match. But, as can be imagined, from time to time the rage and frustration of the slave class boiled over into open rebellion. The most serious was the rebellion of the United Irishmen in 1798. Led by Protestant “dissenters”, mostly Presbyterians who were also subject to discrimination, the cannon fodder of the revolt were nevertheless from the mass of Catholic, Irish peasants - the “Defenders” and others, a poorly led, disorganized group for the most part. These peasants cropped their hair and beards, against the custom of the time, and were known as “croppies”. To this day the name has a pejorative flavor in parts of Northern Ireland, while the old ballad, “The Croppy Boy” stirs nationalist hearts!
As might also be expected the rebels committed “outrages” against the persons and properties of the rulers; they were the “terrorists” of their time and a “war on terrorism” was directed against them. Cromwellian indignation ran hot in the enlightened ruling classes and the rebellion was crushed in bloody fashion. Thousands were slaughtered or deported to the colonies (which would cause further future grief to Mother England in other fields) but a kind of peace returned. In 1801 an Act of Union joined Ireland to the British crown, which was intended to deny any local legal framework for future dissenters against Imperial rule.
The slogan of the planter “yeomen” who suppressed the native Irish in the rebellion of 1798 was an exquisitely pointed saying, “CROPPY, LIE DOWN!”. It looked for a time as though the problem was taken care of. As it turns out, it wasn’t.
Within a century the Cromwellian mentality dried up like the leaves of the past and was blown away in the winds of historic change. The Croppy Boy’s people came to rule in their own country. Some would say that justice prevailed.
I wonder if Ariel Sharon even knows about the Irish intifada. Someone should tell him.
Installed: 07/27/98, 1: 00 AM, PST