To stand with Gaza, Ireland's Sinn Féin must boycott Biden

To stand with Gaza, Ireland's Sinn Féin must boycott Biden for St Patrick's Day
6 min read

Farrah Koutteineh

06 February, 2024
The US president is complicit in Israel's genocide, and Sinn Féin must not abandon Palestinians in its rise to power, writes Farrah Koutteineh.
Every year, Irish leaders visit the White House for St Patrick's Day. But this year, amid Israel's war on Gaza, cannot be business as usual, writes Farrah Koutteineh. [Getty]

In just a few weeks time, Sinn Féin’s leadership will be jetting off to the White House to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with US President Joe Biden.

Every year, the US president hosts a reception marking Saint Patrick’s Day (17 March), where he poses with shamrocks beside leading Irish politicians embarrassingly blushing in his presence. 

But this year, Biden has been sued in federal court over his blanket support and complicity in Israel’s unfolding genocide in Gaza, which has killed more than 27,000 Palestinians.

Palestinians, including Omar Barghouti, the founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, have called on Irish political parties and leaders to boycott this year’s ceremony, but Sinn Féin, the largest all-Ireland party, has ignored these calls.

Sinn Féin has been facing increased scrutiny over their politically calculated response to the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. The party has a long history of solidarity with Palestine, built on decades of solidarity between Palestinian and Irish anti-colonial resistance.

Sinn Féin has been calling for a ceasefire, but since 7 October has been playing politics when it comes to Gaza and has failed to take any meaningful measures to challenge the Israel’s US-sponsored genocide. 

At a protest for Gaza in Belfast, Sinn Féin speakers were met with deafening boos from protesters. Countless Sinn Féin supporters were left puzzled by the party’s decision to abstain from multiple council votes to expel the Israeli ambassador from Ireland.

Now, the party has voted against a motion in Derry Council calling to boycott the White House. 

Sinn Féin councillors who voted against the motion justified their decision with the absurd belief that, in between shamrock exchanges, they can have a word with Biden about a ceasefire, and that he’ll listen.

They blissfully ignored that Biden is being taken to court for his own personal role in this genocide; that he has consistently amplified Israeli propaganda and disinformation about the murder of Palestinians; the annual $3.8 billion military aid package to Israel, which the US government increased after 7th October; and the decision to stop funding UNRWA, which provides life-sustaining aid to Gazans.

Even more outrageously, former Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams recently stated that the party jetting off to the White House is paramount to the Irish struggle for a united Ireland, and that “Palestinian’s should understand” that “your own struggle…has to be your primary focus”.

This is an absolutely tone deaf remark that disregards the polar opposite realities of genocide in Gaza, and him celebrating at the White House with no warplanes or drones flying overhead.

Adam’s preposterous speech also undermines the importance of true solidarity, and that no struggle takes priority over another; all of our struggles are vehemently interconnected.

Many may see Sinn Féin’s recent behaviour as a paradigm shift in the party’s stance. But the truth is this is only a public-facing shift. The party’s leadership sold out on Palestine years ago, just behind closed doors.

The party has been slowly backpedalling on Palestine. It is no secret that, back in 2016, Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan had hosted several meetings with the far-right Israeli political party Likud, the party of the current Israeli government committing the barbarity we are currently witnessing in Gaza.

In 2014, Gerry Adams whilst leader of Sinn Féin visited occupied Palestine and met Yitzhak Herzog, leader of Israel’s Labour Party, historically the party most culpable for the initial colonisation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Both incidents were defended by Sheehan and Adams, stating that ‘dialogue’ is essential, and their ‘solidarity’ with the Palestinian people was what fuelled these interactions.

It is absolute absurdity to suggest you are an ally of an oppressed indigenous people whilst shaking hands with their colonisers.

It was only a few months ago that I myself, one of the only Palestinian members of Sinn Féin, was thrown out of the party for recommending it update its problematic Palestine policy. I had expressed outrage over the party supporting a ‘two-state solution’, a so-called ‘solution’ void in a settler colonial reality, one that cements the colonial partition of Palestine.

I had expressed my views in the hopes of a sense of understanding amongst members of a party who understand the similarities with the colonial partition of their own island. Instead I was met with hostility and my party membership terminated.

It is clear that this is all part of the party’s wider political strategy to get elected in the South amid a historic victory in the North, and Sinn Féin believes that diluting the party’s historic solidarity with Palestine will make them more palatable to the middle classes in the South.

Sinn Féin’s backpedalling on Palestine and its bootlicking of the United States is all part of that strategy. This strategy is also about securing hefty political donations and support from wealthy and influential Irish-Americans, a powerful lobby who often diverge in values from the people of Ireland.

Sinn Féin’s PR team is working overdrive on the party’s damage control, and so far is doing a pretty good job of giving the illusion it cares about what is happening in Palestine to appease its supporters sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, whilst simultaneously actually doing nothing material to still secure its political donations.

The party seemingly thwarted all council votes to expel the Israeli ambassador by tactically abstaining, received backlash, then u-turned with a mere verbal statement when it was too late and the vote could not be repeated.

Their response to the call to boycott the White House is to instead amplify the voice of the Palestinian Authority (PA) claiming it to be somewhat representative of Palestinian civil society, which it is not. The PA is an authoritarian regime that has not held an election since 2006, is corrupt, and that collaborates with Israel in imprisoning, torturing, and assassinating Palestinians resisting the Israeli occupation.

Sinn Féin leaders echoing fatal calls that the Irish struggle is more important than the Palestinian struggle, during an active genocide, will never achieve the united Ireland generations have fought tirelessly for on this island.

The united Ireland Sinn Féin seeks to deliver is simply handing over the island from British colonisers to American imperialists.

A political party that chooses to turn its back on a people it has stood with for decades, during their darkest hour, is a political party that cannot be trusted in a position of power.

Farrah Koutteineh is founder of KEY48 - a voluntary collective calling for the immediate right of return of over 7.4 million Palestinian refugees. Koutteineh is also a political activist focusing on intersectional activism including, the Decolonise Palestine movement, indigenous people's rights, anti-establishment movement, women's rights and climate justice.

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @key48return

Have questions or comments? Email us at: editorial-english@newarab.com

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

More in Opinion