Belfast welcomes repressive China but not progressive Israel

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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The political realignment of Belfast city council has shifted towards a pro nationalist ethos, even though nationalists fall short of a majority there.

But that is only the most notable aspect of the shift. A wide ranging change in outlook is coming. The latest example of it is a decision, at committee level, not to send a council representative to Israel on a trade mission.

The Rev Chris Hudson, of the non subscribing Presbyterian church in Belfast, yesterday explained the shortcomings of the thinking behind the decision. “I could give you a list of 10 countries where human rights violations exceed anything that’s happening between Israel and Palestine,” he said.

Rev Hudson, who is an interesting but often unpredictable voice on everyday matters, once highlighted the absurdity of gay rights supporters allying themselves firmly with the Palestinians. “You go on a gay rights march in Gaza,” said Rev Hudson, a supporter of same-sex rights, told a young, anti-Israeli gay rights activist “and I will go on one in Tel Aviv.”

His point was that there is no gay rights march in Gaza, nor will there be. In swathes of the Islamic world homosexuality is illegal, and in parts of it same-sex acts are punishable by death. Israel, however, has advanced legal protections.

It has been pointed out that Belfast’s mayor, John Finucane, welcomed Chinese representatives to the city last month. Mr Finucane is a stalwart in Sinn Fein, a party that can barely complete a sentence without inserting the words ‘human rights’ into it, yet China has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Compare its brutality at Tinanmen Square, which as this column noted recently, led to hundreds of students being killed, and about which official state censorship still applies 30 years later, to the thriving democracy and media and technology culture that prevails in Israel.

The politicians with most influence running Northern Ireland’s capital city are currently anti Israeli, but that will never alter the fact that the Province is home to one of the most pro Israeli communities in western Europe.