MoDo is in Galway, Ireland. In “Gaelic Guerrilla” she addresses a Florida congresswoman’s donnybrook with a colorful Galway pol over Ireland’s Che Guevara. The Moustache of Wisdom has a question: “What Does Morsi Mean for Israel?” He states that the election of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, as president of Egypt is bound to affect the peace treaty with Israel. Here’s MoDo:
Billy Cameron, a colorful local pol here, never expected to set off an international incident. “It’s ruined my life over here for awhile,” he says cheerfully of his Yank foes.
Things got ugly after Cameron, a Labour Party member of the Galway City Council, proposed putting up a memorial to honor that famous son of Hibernia, Che Guevara, or “our Che,” as Cameron fondly refers to the Argentinian Marxist revolutionary.
Che made only a brief stop in Ireland in the ’60s, visiting a pub in the West Clare seaside town of Kilkee one night after his flight from Moscow to Cuba stopped for refueling at Shannon airport and then got stuck in fog.
But Cameron has been pushing the idea that “Dr. Che Guevara Lynch,” as his Irish supporters dubbed him, counts as a Galwegian because he’s descended from the Lynches and Blakes, two of the 14 original tribes of Galway, well-to-do merchant families who once ruled the city. “Patrick Lynch immigrated to Argentina in the mid-1700s and settled in Buenos Aires,” Cameron notes. “Che is part of the Irish diaspora, I would say.”
An Irish Central Web site headline in May proclaimed “John F. Kennedy beats Reagan, Che Guevara, as world’s top leader with Irish ancestry.”
Ernesto Che Guevara’s grandmother was Ana Isabel Lynch, and his father, Ernesto Guevara Lynch, told an interviewer in 1969: “The first thing to note is that in my son’s veins flowed the blood of Irish rebels.”
Cameron agrees: “I’m sure Che studied guerrilla tactics of the I.R.A., the same way the Mau Mau in Kenya did.” He thinks the memorial would draw tourists from Latin and South America.
The council voted last year to honor Che. Cameron says he got pledges of funding from the Cuban and Argentine embassies in Dublin. The architect Simon McGuiness and the Dublin artist Jim FitzPatrick designed a plan for a three-dimensional, interactive work of art that would be “a total homage” to “man, image and ideal,” according to McGuiness, featuring three glass panes in different colors of Che’s iconic image.
FitzPatrick, remarkably, was the teenage barman in Kilkee who served Che an Irish whiskey that night. The guerrilla leader told FitzPatrick that his ancestors were Lynches from Galway and that he admired the Irish revolutionaries who had helped Ireland “shake off the shackles of empire.”
Fascinated, FitzPatrick went on to become the artist who made the Alberto Korda photo of Che in his black beret famous by creating his own stylized psychedelic-tinged posters in the late ’60s.
When plans for the memorial were printed last winter in the newspaper, “all hell broke loose,” Cameron recalls.
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was furious. She wrote to Prime Minister Enda Kenny, calling Che a “mass murderer and human rights abuser.” Che died at age 39 fomenting revolution in Bolivia, executed in 1967 by C.I.A.-supported Bolivian forces.
The Ivy League joined the brawl. Carlos Eire, a Yale professor of Cuban and Irish descent, wrote a letter, printed in The Galway Advertiser, condemning the “monstrous project” and suggesting it would be “only fair” to put up a monument to Oliver Cromwell next to Che.
FitzPatrick jumped into the donnybrook, writing The Irish Times saying he wished Ireland had a Che-like figure “who could so inspire us” to bring the looting bankers and politicians to justice.
“Che was a bloodthirsty, sadistic killer who did not value human life,” Ros-Lehtinen wrote in an e-mail to me on Tuesday. “I do realize that Che continues to be a chic figure to the intellectual elite harboring misplaced romanticism, but I represent many of his victims and survivors who see him in a far different light.”
The controversy caused the outgoing mayor of Galway and others to back away, claiming they didn’t realize an actual monument was being planned. “What did they think they were voting for, an egg and spoon race?” laughed Dermot Keys, a reporter for The Connacht Tribune.
The lefty Cameron argues that “Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and her buddies down South, lunatic fringe Republicans with a Miami-Cuban agenda, should not be allowed to dictate what happens in Galway politics.”
He calls Che a magnetic brand who launched a million T-shirts and mugs — not to mention a passel of biographies, the glamour of “Evita” and movies produced by Robert Redford and directed by Steven Soderbergh.
And therein lies the rub with the bizarre idea. Just because Che became a chic brand for the capitalism he tried to destroy, it doesn’t mean he’s worth honoring on Galway Bay. And just because Ros-Lehtinen can be grating, it doesn’t mean she’s wrong this time.
Cameron hopes the city council takes the memorial matter up soon. Meanwhile, he sees the totalitarian rainbow. “The ultimate fruit of all this is that Che will be known as having the Irish blood and the Galway connection,” he says. “And that is an achievement in itself.”
Now here’s The Moustache of Wisdom:
Is the election of Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, as president of Egypt the beginning of the end of the Camp David peace treaty between Israel and Egypt? It doesn’t have to be. In fact, it could actually be the beginning of a real peace between the Israeli and the Egyptian peoples, instead of what we’ve had: a cold, formal peace between Israel and a single Egyptian pharaoh. But, for that to be the case, both sides will have to change some deeply ingrained behaviors, and fast.
First, let’s dispense with some nonsense. There is a mantra you hear from Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in Israel and various right-wing analysts: “We told you so.” It’s the idea that somehow President Obama could have intervened to “save” President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and he was just too naïve to do so, and the inevitable result is that the Muslim Brotherhood has taken power. Sorry, naïveté is thinking that because it was so convenient for Israel to have peace with one dictator, Mubarak, rather than 80 million Egyptians, that this dictator — or some other general — would and could stay at the helm in Egypt forever. Talk about naïve.
I truly appreciate the anxiety Israelis feel at seeing their neighborhood imploding. But it is also striking that a people for whom the Exodus story of liberation is so central — and who for so long argued that peace will happen only when the Arabs become democratic — failed to believe that the liberation narrative might one day resonate with the people of Egypt and now proclaim that the problem with the Arabs is that they are becoming democratic. This has roots.
“In their relations with power, Jews in exile have always preferred vertical alliances to horizontal ones,” notes Leon Wieseltier, the Jewish scholar and literary editor of The New Republic. “They always preferred to have a relationship with the king or the bishop so as not to have to engage with the general population, of which they were deeply distrustful — and they often had reason to be distrustful. Israel, as a sovereign state, reproduced the old Jewish tradition of the vertical alliance, only this time with the Arab states. They thought that if they had a relationship with Mubarak or the king of Jordan, they had all they needed. But the model of the vertical alliance only makes sense with authoritarian political systems. As soon as authoritarianism breaks down, and a process of democratization begins, the vertical model is over and you enter a period of horizontality in which the opinions of the people — in this instance, ordinary Arabs — will matter.” As a result, Israel will have to make the man on the street “not only fear it, but also understand it. This will not be easy, but it may not be impossible. Anyway, nostalgia for dictators is not a thoughtful policy.”
I don’t know whether the current Palestinian leadership can be a partner for a secure, two-state peace with Israel, but I do know this: Israel needs to be more creative in testing whether that is possible. Because the alternative is a one-state solution that will be the death of Israel as a Jewish democracy and deadly for peace with a democratic Egypt.
And what are Morsi’s obligations? Have no illusions: the Muslim Brotherhood at its core holds deeply illiberal, anti-pluralistic, anti-feminist views. It aspires to lock itself into power and exploit a revolution it did not initiate. I just don’t think it is going to be so easy. Iran is political Islam in power with oil — to buy off all the pressures and contradictions. Saudi Arabia is political Islam in power with oil. Egypt will be political Islam in power without oil. Egypt can’t survive without tourism, foreign investment and aid to create the jobs, schools and opportunities to satisfy the Egyptian youths who launched this revolution and many others who passively supported it. Also, the U.S. cannot, will not and should not give the Muslim Brotherhood the same deal it gave Mubarak — just arrest and torture the jihadists we want and you can have a cold peace with Israel and no constitutionalism at home.
As the analyst Hussein Ibish wrote in Now Lebanon, with the Muslim Brotherhood in power, it is now vital for liberals in Egypt and abroad to focus on ensuring that Egypt’s new constitution is built on laws that constrain “the powers of government and ensure ironclad, inviolable protection for the rights of individuals, minorities and women.”
So Morsi is going to be under enormous pressure to follow the path of Turkey, not the Taliban. Will he? I have no idea. He should understand, though, that he holds a powerful card — one Israelis would greatly value: real peace with a Muslim Brotherhood-led Egypt, which could mean peace with the Muslim world and a true end to the conflict. Of course, that’s the longest of long shots. Would Morsi ever dangle that under certain terms? Again, I don’t know. I just know this: The Mubarak era is over — and with the conservative Muslim Brotherhood dominating Egypt and with conservative religious-nationalists dominating Israeli politics, both will either change their behaviors to make Camp David legitimate for both peoples or it will gradually become unsustainable.