John Conroy’s Belfast Diary and Palestine: A Comparison

Though dissimilar at first, Northern Ireland during The Troubles and modern-day Palestine show a striking resemblance to each other. Both nations differ vastly in terms of culture. However, each nation has undergone (or still is undergoing) the normalcy of violence and criminalization of everyday civilians. These two countries are compared through examples of modern day Palestine in the news, and John Conroy’s Belfast Diary, which gives a first-person perspective on Conroy’s time in Belfast during The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Palestine’s everyday violence heightened in the summer of 2014 when Israel announced “Operation Protective Edge,” a strategy designed to protect Israeli’s from Hamas rockets fired from Palestine. This operation lasted approximately fifty days, yet ended up being one of Palestine’s most deadly summers. More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip, 1,1462 of which were civilians, many women and children. But these statistics do not do justice to the crude lifestyle that Palestinians face everyday: rather, an insider’s perspective does a better job.

Checkpoints instated by the Israeli government are a part of daily life for most Palestinians. An Israeli NGO called “Break the Silence” brings together soldiers from the Israeli army who recount their experiences working in Palestine. This organization is important not only to Palestine, but to give a sense of the type of behavior that is expected or generated by soldiers occupying another state. Clearly, this helps give an idea of what creates tension at a checkpoint. Sergeant Tal Wasser claims that his days at the checkpoints were long and tiresome. “If a Palestinian annoys one of the soldiers, one of the things they’d do is throw him in the Jora, which is a small cell…they close the metal door on him and that would be his punishment for annoying, for being bad.” (The Guardian). Although inhumane, soldiers feel that they can treat Palestinians that way: a sense of morale is gone. Some soldiers want to increase their status in the workforce, others are simply doing what they are told to do. Another soldier, Gil Hillel, recounts an elderly Palestinian man being brutally beaten up for simply walking in the “wrong part” of Nablus. Still, it is important to remember that Palestine is not the only nation that sees or has seen this type of brutality.

Northern Ireland, particularly during The Troubles, has seen immense brutality that parallels directly to modern day Palestine. This is seen multiple times in in Conroy’s Belfast Diary. One example of this is when Conroy describes the amount of car theft that occurred due to lack of flat security due to the hunger strikes. Cars were stolen mostly by teenagers for “joyrides,” and would get shot at by the army at checkpoints. Many times the teens were driving safely, but they were framed into the crime: “Usually, however, it is the army that does the shooting and the police that give chase” (Conroy, 84). This shows how the authorities at the time are able to make any sort of civilian a criminal, similar to what happens in modern day Palestine. It is important to see the links between each country, as it can potentially prevent the normalcy of violence occurring in the future as well as in other parts of the world.

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