Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Failure of Compassion: Gaza and the Irish Potato Famine

I remember when I first read about the British response to the Irish Potato Famine, which occurred between 1845 and 1852. It still remains a subject of historical debate and controversy. 

The thing that shocked me, or struck me as sad, was that there were Christian members of Parliament who argued that Britain should not intervene or help the Irish because the famine was God's judgement on Ireland.

As I investigated this, I learned that there were other factors that contributed to Britain's inaction. Some leaders argued in favor of laissez-faire economics, emphasizing minimal government intervention into markets. Market forces would fix everything, they believed.

Another factor had to do with the power balance between Britain and Ireland. That is, Ireland was a colonial entity. At that time, to the late 20th century, there was significant political tension between the nation and the colony. Some leaders welcomed the famine as a means of weakening Irish nationalist sentiment.

Couple this with the prevalence of prejudice toward the Irish. To many they were unworthy of assistance. 

There were also government policies that worsened the impact of the famine.

The net result: widespread suffering and death, and mass emigration.

* * * 

These things come to mind as I follow the news about Gaza. It isn't a stretch to say we're watching a repeat of history. Replace the Irish with Palestinians and you see the samenmassive suffering, while the world watches and does very little. 

Oh, wait. The U.S. has been actively doing something. We keep making more bombs. 


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