‘Very complex conflict’ splits opinions in Northern Ireland

Stephen Jaffe
Stephen Jaffe

There has been contrasting reaction in Northern Ireland to the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

Stephen Jaffe, of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel, said he has friends living in southern Israel “who have less than 15 seconds to get to a bomb shelter every time a missile is launched by Hamas”.

He added: “It saddens me when people in Northern Ireland protest their genuine humanitarian concerns for the people of Gaza but they don’t condemn over 11,000 missile attacks against Israeli citizens since Israel withdrew completely from Gaza in 2005.”

North Antrim MLA and chairperson of DUP Friends of Israel, David McIlveen, said any right-thinking person will of course be “abhorred at the loss of one innocent life”.

But he added that it was a “very complex conflict”.

On Tuesday, nearly 100 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, whose army has a right to defend its citizens, he said. Yet “terrorists” have “proved time and time again” that they are prepared to use civilians as human shields.

However, SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood, who toured the embattled region in 2012, said the Israeli forces had shown an “utter disregard for human life”. He said: “Hamas’s indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel is wrong and must stop. However, there is no justification whatsoever for Israel’s murder of hundreds of civilians.”

Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and international recognition for Palestine.

“The Israeli bloodbath undermines the two-state solution and obstructs the potential Palestinian unity government,” she said.