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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Sam Boal

Surrealing in the Years Irish public knows the moral event horizon has been crossed in Gaza

Also this week: David Cameron and Ryan Tubridy prove that London is the city for comebacks.

THE LAST TIME most of us paid any attention to David Cameron, he was announcing his resignation outside 10 Downing Street. 

Fresh from making a balls of the Remain campaign, Cameron resigned as Prime Minister and strolled back to the same black door that has since served as a backdrop for every tumultuous twist and turn the UK has taken since. Unaware that he was still mic’d up, we could hear him humming absent-mindedly and speaking to himself, sounding breezy as you like. 

It cemented in many minds an image of Cameron as a man who dropped his country on the doorstep of chaos and rode off into the sunset, unaffected by the catastrophic consequences of the referendum he’d unnecessarily called and then spectacularly lost.

So imagine our surprise when the very same David Cameron reappeared, as if by some kind of bizarre Bullingdon Club summoning ritual, in front of 10 Downing Street again this week. UK political reporters had the scoop immediately – Rishi Sunak would be appointing Cameron to the Cabinet in the role of Foreign Secretary. Group chats lit up with the news.

“He’s not even an MP, is he?”

“Can they do that?”

“They’ll have to make him a Lord first.”

“Where’s the clip of Danny Dyer calling him a twat?”

Yes, this week many of us learned that in the United Kingdom you can pull anyone – anyone at all – off the street and make them a Cabinet secretary so long as you make them a Lord first. Rules are rules.

But London was the city for comebacks this week. It was there that Ryan Tubridy also made his return to the airwaves, appearing on The Chris Evans Show to confirm that he would be joining Virgin Radio for a three-hour-a-day weekday slot which will be simultaneously broadcast on Q102. Presenting-in-exile, a bit like Charles De Gaulle after the fall of Paris. 

He’ll also be presenting an Ireland-specific show on the weekends, meaning that after all the furore, we’ve somehow ended up with way more Tubridy. Coincidental though it may have been, it felt like moment of revenge for the former RTÉ man, whose former employer this week laid out the painful steps it would be taking in order to secure a €56million bailout from the state, including the loss of 400 staff over the next five years and increased outsourcing of production.

While we can all remember a time when upheaval at RTÉ dominated the news like little else, public consciousness in Ireland remains focused squarely on events in Gaza.

Thousands gathered outside Leinster House on Wednesday to call for the expulsion of Dana Ehrlich, Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, as well as the referral of Israel to the International Criminal Court, and other such measures to be voted on by the Dáil.

The government resisted these motions, and passed countermotions of their own, condemning both Hamas’ attack on 7 October and “the escalation of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory since then”. 

It was the latest step the government has taken on the weeks-long tightrope walk that has seen several strong statements in opposition to the violence unfolding in Gaza, while avoiding any concrete changes to Ireland’s diplomatic relationship with the nation responsible for that violence.

Speaking in the Dáil this week, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris told TDs that he believed Israel had become “blinded by rage” and that its actions could now be construed as a “war on children”. 

“You cannot build peace on the mass graves of children,” Harris said. He is correct, but events in Gaza have tragically outpaced this kind of rhetoric.

Over 4,000 Gazan children are already dead. More children have died in the last 50 days than have died in all global conflicts combined since 2019, and more continue to die each day – whether by bomb, bullet, or removal from their incubators as yet another hospital is reduced to rubble.

As fatalistic as it may sound, it is already too late. The ghastly foundations are laid. Gaza has already been turned to a grave. Ireland’s official position continues to be a two-state solution achieved through diplomacy, but to even think of such a resolution seems delusional in the face of this ongoing campaign of heartbreaking violence. This bloody prologue to whatever comes next will be inescapable, not only for those of us watching in real time, but for the generations that follow.

Anyone who believes that the moral event horizon has not yet been crossed is mistaken. The world will be reckoning with this horror for centuries. Perhaps for as long as we walk the Earth.

Anyone with an internet connection and a smartphone has now borne witness to video after video of this gruesome violence – inflicted in large part upon children – side-by-side in the timeline with the paltry justifications offered by the IDF. Handfuls of seized guns on a table here, 3D visualisations of supposed command-and-control centres there, hospital calendars passed off as Hamas documents

The IDF raid on the al-Shifa hospital – which had been treating 650 patients before it was rendered defunct this week – resulted in little more than the capture of, at most, a few dozen guns. One photograph of evidence shared by official Israeli social channels showed that among the few guns was a box of dates

In an interview with CNN, IDF spokesperson Richard Hecht could only say that they “found certain things” at the hospital. Having failed to find Hamas’ leadership there, Israel has now turned the attention of its military force to Khan Younis, a city in Southern Gaza.

On the one hand, Cabinet leaders openly recognise the violence at the heart of the public’s outrage, and on the other, seem shocked that the public might be outraged at the apparent persistence of normalcy. Cabinet ministers know, by their own admission, that what is happening in Gaza will from now on be indelibly etched onto the list of the world’s most unforgivable sins – along with the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, and the centuries of slavery borne of European colonialism.

Like Srebrenica, like Hiroshima, Gaza now belongs to history as a byword for atrocity. There will be no coming back from that.