‘He’s lost my vote’: Many Irish Americans turn against Biden over Gaza war

One evening in 2004, when John Francis Mulligan, a US-born Irish citizen, was in the West Bank, a stranger asked him to walk her to a funeral.

It was after curfew in Nablus, and Palestinians weren’t allowed out on the streets. A young man had been killed earlier that day, and because of religious beliefs, his family needed to bury him within 24 hours, Mulligan recalls. But if they went outside, the Israel armed forces “would open fire on them for violating curfew”.

The dead man’s mother asked Mulligan: “Can you march with us? Can you stand at the front with our family? Because they’re not gonna shoot you, you’re white … I just need someone, literally, to stand with me.’”

This moment – the struggle to bury the dead in peace – hit home for Mulligan, 54, who went to primary school in Northern Ireland during the Troubles in the late 1970s.

“It felt, to me, very much like going into political funerals in the north of Ireland, where helicopters would be overhead – in that case, it was the British Army. And here it was the Israeli army,” he says. “It really resonated.”

Mulligan points to these parallels as part of the reason he is rallying with other Irish Americans in the US to support Gaza.

Leaders from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are meeting Biden this weekend. First Minister Michelle O’Neill met Biden on Friday, telling him “the world watches on in horror at the genocide of the Palestinian people,” and urging him to work towards an immediate ceasefire and sovereign Palestinian state.

But only Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar will attend the St Patrick’s Day White House ceremony on March 17, where he will present President Biden with a bowl of shamrocks, in a token of friendship, as per the decades-long tradition. But the annual ceremony and meeting between the taoiseach and Biden promises to be unusually tense this year, as a growing chorus of voters – both within Ireland, and among the Irish American diaspora – voice outrage over Biden’s support for the war on Gaza.

“I can recognise colonial oppression, colonial state violence,” because of a childhood in Ireland, says Mulligan. Now, in Palestine, “they’re dehumanising people. They’re criminalising resistance, criminalising the complete population,” and using “starvation as a tactic” as the British did in Ireland during the Great Famine.

“It’s the same exact playbook happening in Palestine.”

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