The Panthers of Identity Politics

The recent attacks by dissident republicans in Northern Ireland were an anarchic spasm of violence by a tiny minority. In a way, they underscore the importance of what has been achieved since the Belfast Peace Agreement in 1998.

LONDON – I was in Jordan, that beautiful oasis of calm and moderation in a difficult and dangerous neighborhood, when I first heard the news about the murder of two British soldiers and a Catholic policeman by dissident republican terrorists in Northern Ireland.

We had looked out across what Christians call the Holy Land from the Jordanian hills. What struck me, thinking back to the days I once spent in Northern Ireland, was how both there and here the crucible of so much struggle, bitterness, and bloodshed is very small.  There is an intimacy about the geography of Northern Ireland, Gaza, and the West Bank that makes the violence seem all the more inexplicable and obscene.

Is this violence made inevitable by the clash of cultures, religions, and ethnicities? Is it programmed into DNA by history, language, and our different ways of meeting our spiritual yearnings?

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