Comment & Analysis
Apr 9, 2024

Silence on Gaza is Complicity

"This is not a time for ‘holding a space’", says Dr Fintan Sheeran

Dr Fintan SheeranContributing Writer
Emer Moreau for The University Times

Some weeks ago, the Provost spoke to staff on a number of issues. She briefly addressed College’s position in respect of the outrage that is being perpetrated in Gaza, stating that they were ‘holding a space’ where people could air their differing views. 

Back in the 1930s, many in Ireland stayed silent as fascism rose in parts of Europe and antisemitism grew day by day. Effectively, a space was held in which other perspectives were offered, including the idea that we, in Ireland, had some shared perspectives on a common enemy. Indeed, my parents told me of German war songs being sung at the campsites in Wicklow at that time. When the reality of what was happening became apparent, it was clear that there was no justification for ‘holding a space’ for the expression of other opinions. Only one opinion was valid: genocide was happening. Sadly, the signs preceded the Holocaust and many chose not to see them.

In the Book of Ecclesiastes (Kohelet in the Hebrew Scriptures) the Teacher tells us that there is a time for everything under Heaven. There is a ‘time for keeping silent’, he says. That time passed a long time ago and now is the time for speaking, no, shouting the truth.


The truth is that Palestinians have, since the late 1800s, been subjected to oppression at the hands of Zionism, facilitated initially by Britain, and then the United States of America. Their history was cast aside, their land taken and given to people with no links to that region, and they themselves were cast aside. Throughout the many decades that followed, they have experienced ongoing violence perpetrated by the oppressive Israeli state. Despite Israeli efforts to dehumanise them, Palestinians have repeatedly asserted their humanity and have strived for liberation. But, echoing Paulo Freire’s words, the Israeli state and its unquestioning Western allies have continued to reject this assertion, branding them ‘subversive’, ‘barbaric’, ‘terrorist’. Through these actions the oppressors, those who support them, and those who remain silent have themselves become dehumanised.

This is not a time for ‘holding a space’. It is a time for calling out and naming the signs of another holocaust that is happening before our eyes: innocent men, women and children are slaughtered by an occupying military force, health and aid workers are murdered,  hospitals are devastated, depriving the ill and injured of medical care, universities and colleges are destroyed, with many of their staff and students executed, people are herded into defined spaces and subject to gunfire and bombs, supplies are denied starving masses with famine developing…need I go on?

These are the signs of genocide, and we are being asked to ‘hold a space’ for the expression of other opinions? That space is long redundant and, sadly, our beloved College is fast becoming (morally) redundant too.

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