Sinn Fein and the Zionists

The newly released MI5 files (Terrorists plotted death of Bevin, May 22) further confirm historians’ belief that Jewish nationalist groups fighting the British in Mandatory Palestine in the 1940s regarded themselves as “the Zionist Sinn Fein”.

Both Menachem Begin and Avraham Stern looked to the Irish struggle. The nom de guerre of Yitzhak Shamir, the future Israeli prime minister, was “Michael” – after Michael Collins. Shamir studied Irish republican literature while Stern translated PS O’Hegarty’s The Victory of Sinn Fein into Hebrew.

It is therefore ironic to note Sinn Fein’s attempt to airbrush out of existence this ideological connection from its history. Sinn Fein prefers to fly Palestinian flags from Belfast rooftops rather than commit to supporting the Israeli and Palestinian peace camps and a two-state solution. It is doubtful whether their predecessors would have come to such a superficial analysis.

Indeed, in this country, the British left would prefer to forget that Nye Bevan threatened to resign from the Attlee government because of its colonialist polices towards Zionism. The current selective reading of Zionist history by many in Britain and Ireland is not just inaccurate, but it actually serves the cause of the rejectionists on both sides of the conflict.

Dr Colin Shindler
SOAS, University of London

Guardian 23 May 2003

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