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Spotlight on Ireland

I read with interest the article by Sheila McGregor about the roots of child abuse. When Marx wrote about alienation at work and in the family he was describing the consequences of capitalist development. Here in the Republic of Ireland a strong additional element has been the influence of the Roman Catholic Church with its demands for celibate priests, monogamy and purely heterosexual relationships without divorce or abortion.

Children who lived in poverty, became pregnant or suffered abuse often ended up in industrial schools and Magdalen laundries where further abuse was heaped on them. Unfortunately another aspect of the church's influence was the suppression of evidence and the moving of priests to new parishes when they were accused of abuse. It has taken 20 years for many of the details to emerge, only in many cases where victims have prepared to come forward again having previously been disbelieved.
In 2002 in Ireland a deal was made to compensate victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the church. The case of Father Brendan Smythe helped to bring down the Fianna Fail/Labour coalition in 1994. Smythe was convicted and imprisoned for a huge number of offences, 17 in the North and 74 in the Republic. He was not defrocked by the then pope John Paul and was buried secretly at 2:30am one morning after his death. Although the Jimmy Savile case has highlighted the behaviour of strangers, in most cases sadly the perpetrator of abuse is known to the victim. Many thanks to Ms McGregor for her contribution.

Keith Cargill
County Clare, Ireland

Israel in isolation

The Review's coverage of Palestine is generally exemplary so I was especially disappointed by Estelle Cooch's piece on Israel (Israel in Isolation, December 2012).
The opening questions she poses as to Israel's motivation for the Gaza attacks are important. Her answers, are however, incomplete. Not withstanding the external factors she identified, Israel's actions cannot be fully understood unless we take account of its problematic internal politics.

The Jewish population of Israel is deeply divided both religiously and racially. These divisions are clearly visible in the social geography of the country with the elite Ashkenazi Jews concentrated in Tel Aviv, the most desired (and Europeanised) city in Israel.

The further you move away from Tel Aviv the more you find the lower status Jews including those from Russia, the Maghreb and sub Saharan Africa. Then there is the toxic mix of crazed Zionists and impoverished migrant Jews who inhabit the West Bank settlements and the deepening antagonisms between the ultra orthodox and the secular Jews in Jerusalem.

These divisions are not just expressed geographically but ripple throughout all aspects of Israeli society determining fundamental life chances. These divisions are becoming ever more acrimonious as any reading of the Israeli press reveals.
The constant reproduction of the so-called existential threat posed to Israel by the Palestinians in particular and the Arabs more generally, is one of the most important and enduring means by which the Israeli state seeks to maintain some unity and control in this internally divided society. It has been so since its inception and has grown in importance as the Holocaust generation passes away. This understanding is crucial for making sense of Israel's policies and politics and its merciless attacks on the Palestinians especially in Gaza.

Secondly, I was astonished by Cooch's claim - made twice - that Israel does not wish to exploit the Palestinians. Whilst she is right to highlight the peculiarities of both Israeli capitalism and colonialism, it is simply wrong to then assert that Palestinians are not and have not been exploited by Israel. Who does she think built the cities and infrastructure of Israel? Who does she think builds the Separation Wall and the settlements of the West Bank? Who does she thinks works in the factories established in the largest of the West Bank settlements? Who does she thinks works in the industrial zones built alongside the Wall which house the most toxic and polluting factories of Israel? Who does she thinks works on the Israeli farms that flourish throughout the Jordan valley? All these forms of Palestinian labour are deeply exploited. And what work does she think is available to the Palestinians who live in Israel and comprise 20 percent of the population?

Chris Jones
Samos, Greece