UEFA, Respect and Israel-Palestine

By Doctor Michael Herron

The ongoing dispute between European football’s governing body UEFA and Glasgow Celtic supporter’s group, the Green Brigade, over the latter’s flying of Palestinian flags at a recent Champion’s League qualifier between Celtic and Israeli club Hapoel Be’er Sheva raises issues that go far beyond football.

The gist of the dispute is that UEFA have charged Celtic under one of their rules that prohibits “gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature.”

In anticipation of a fine being levied predicted to be around £15,000 the Green Brigade launched an appeal to raise money for two Palestinian charities, Medical Aid Palestine, which provides health and medical care to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and the Lajee Centre, a sports and arts project in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.  By launching the appeal, the Green Brigade hoped to match the amount of the fine imposed by UEFA.  In fact, the Green Brigade have been successful in raising over £130,000 for the two charities.

Issues that arise from the controversy derive from the fact that as the Green Brigade stated UEFA has deemed the Palestinian flag to be an “illicit banner” and how this judgement poses questions for UEFA’s own “respect” agenda, its admirable campaign to remove racism from football.

To explain why UEFA’s two positions are contradictory it is first necessary to define what racism is.  As the Oxford Dictionary defines it as a “belief in the superiority of a particular race and an antagonism towards or discrimination against other races as a result of this [belief]”

Many academics, however, have generally moved away from using race as a category to define different groups of people because of its imprecision and have instead preferred to use ethnicity, which describes a social group having a common national or cultural tradition.

If one replaces race with ethnicity in the Dictionary definition one could argue that the Israeli state has exhibited racism towards the Palestinians by employing antagonistic and discriminatory policies on the basis of the Palestinians’ ethnicity that have gone from restrictions on travel, through arbitrary arrest and imprisonment to mass killing.

There are those who challenge the accusation that Israel operates a policy akin to apartheid given that Israeli Arabs have served as MPs in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.  This point is well taken, however, it does not alter the fact that Israel operates a discriminatory and punitive policy against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

Recent discrimination against the Palestinians has a long history stretching back to the founding of the State of Israel.  Some of their supporters have even argued that they have been the victims of genocide.  This article will thus trace the history of these grievances and will argue that although a number of these crimes appear to approximate genocide, they instead fall under the more general crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The first depredations against the Palestinians occurred at the end of the British Mandate in Palestine, which a British colonial authority had administered up to 1948.  A UN Commission had drafted a report which recommended partition of Palestine, whereby territory would be divided between Arabs and Jews.  In anticipation of this partition both Arabs and Jews mobilised into armed groups to seize the land.  Unwilling to manage a deteriorating situation the British virtually allowed a state of civil war to exist in Palestine.

A number of atrocities were committed by both sides; however, Jewish groups were responsible for two particularly significant acts.  On !9th April 1948 two Jewish paramilitary groups, Irgun and Lehi joined forces to attack the village of Deir Yassin and massacred 250 Palestinians.  On 9th July of that year David Ben Gurion, future prime minister of Israel appeared to have ordered the expulsion of Palestinians from the towns of Lydda and Ramle, numbering 70,000.  These civilians were force marched in what became known as the Lydda Death March towards Ramallah and hundreds particularly children and old people died from the heat and thirst.  These events were accompanied by other expulsions which totalled between 300,000 and 400,000.

Some claim these events to be an example of genocide.  Indeed, the forced marching in the Lydda Death March has echoes of the forced marching of the Armenians during the First World War genocide.  The expulsion of 300,000 to 400,000, arguably, could at least be described as ethnic cleansing.  At this point it is important to define genocide, which is commonly interpreted as the intent by a state to destroy a national, ethnic or religious group in whole or part.  In this context, these atrocities were committed not by a state since the state of Israel did not exist yet, but by various armed Jewish groups and armies some of which were violently opposed to each other as well as to the Palestinians.  Although it does not diminish the seriousness of these acts, the lack of state involvement is crucial to how one defines these crimes, which one would have to define as war crimes.

Another event that has gone down in the litany of Palestinian grievances is that concerning the massacres in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut in 1982.  These massacres occurred in the context of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon to drive the Palestinian armed organisation, the PLO, from the Israeli border.  According to TG Fraser, Israeli Defence Minister, Ariel Sharon, allowed the Christian Maronite paramilitary group, the Phalangists, into the camp to look for terrorists.  These camps had been left defenceless as PLO fighters had been evacuated from Beirut in the preceding weeks.  Before the Phalangists entered the camps, the camps were lit by flares fired by the Israeli army.  The Phalangists killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians, which the Palestinians have numbered as 2,000 and the Israelis 800.

Although Israelis did not do the actual killing, Israeli authorities must bear some degree of responsibility for the crime, indeed a number of Israeli officers were punished.  However, Ariel Sharon largely avoided responsibility although as Defence Minister and having facilitated the Phalangists entry to the camps he must shoulder the burden of blame given that he must have anticipated what the Phalangists were likely to do once they entered the camps.  This was a war crime and a case was later filed against Sharon to this effect, which this article will return to.

The intifadas of the 1980s and 90s largely grew out of tensions arising from the settlement of the West Bank by Israeli settlers, which the Palestinians viewed as a land grab.  These intifadas, or uprisings witnessed scores of Palestinian demonstrators falling victim to live fire by Israeli troops.   These killings could also be described as war crimes.

The intifadas were then followed in 2014 by the Israeli invasion of Gaza in retaliation for the Islamic group, Hamas, firing rockets into Israel.  During this invasion Israeli forces targeted civilians and demolished Palestinian homes with bulldozers.  There are some who argue that this invasion was genocide.  However, this invasion could be viewed as collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza for supporting Hamas rather than the destruction of the group as such.  As stated previously genocide means the intent by a state to destroy a group in whole or part so that the group could not reconstitute itself.  Although the Palestinians as a group in this case were left largely intact the deliberate targeting of civilians by the Israeli military has to constitute a war crime.

There is a problem, however.  In order to be sanctioned by the UN, Israel would have to be subject to a UN Security Council Resolution.  In this context, Israel’s ultimate ally, the United States has used its veto to block any such resolution. There is a loophole though in that under Belgian law persons may be charged with war crimes or crimes against humanity regardless of the nationality of the victims or the accused.  In this context, in 2001, survivors of the Sabra and Shatila massacres brought war crimes charges against Ariel Sharon in Belgium while he was still Israeli prime minister.  However, the International Court of Justice later ruled that the Belgian court could not go ahead with the case since a foreign government minister enjoys diplomatic immunity.  Incidentally, this immunity may not extend to military personnel or former government ministers.

In conclusion, Israeli actions against Palestinians have far exceeded the normal definition of racism as antagonism or discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity.  It is laudable that UEFA has tried to eradicate racism in football but by defining the Palestinian flag as an “illicit banner” it has itself engaged in politics and has tacitly endorsed the racist policies of the Israeli state towards the Palestinians.  UEFA, of course, on its own, cannot force Israel to change these policies.  Only the permanent members of the UN Security Council, primarily the United States can end Israel’s virtual impunity and force it to face up to its responsibilities under international law.


Harriet Sherwood, Peter Beaumont “Celtic fans’ appeal raised £130,000 for Palestinian charities” The Guardian 24 August 2016

The Concise Oxford Dictionary Ninth Edition, Della Thompson (ed.) (London: BCA 1996)

Benny Morris The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem (Cambridge: 1987)

Michael Palumbo The Palestinian Catastrophe (London: 1987)

Robert Fisk Pity the Nation (London: 1990)

TG Fraser The Arab Israeli Conflict Basingstoke: palgrave macmillan, 1995)

Geoffrey Robertson QC Crimes Against Humanity (London: Penguin Books, 2012)

Why A Memorial Must Be Raised To The Irish Famine

By Doctor Michael Herron

The prevarication of Glasgow City Council over raising a memorial to the Irish Famine needs to be answered by challenging the revisionist narrative of the Famine.

According to this narrative, the British government would not interfere with the regular patterns of imperial trade, which diverting food ready for export to feed the starving Irish would have done.  Adhering to the economic orthodoxy of the time thus explained the government’s policy.  The British government’s response to a natural disaster, the potato blight, was also marred by administrative incompetence mainly at a local level.

Conversely, the Great Hunger Memorial Committee was correct to highlight how a potato blight that affected all of Europe, particularly populations with a potato based diet in Eastern Europe, only resulted in mass casualties in Ireland with one million dead and another million forced to emigrate.

This article will explain why the revisionist narrative of the Famine is at least incomplete and ultimately wrong as it was in fact a case of genocide.  It is instructive that genocide scholar, Professor William Schabas of the National University of Ireland, Galway, has previously described the Famine as a “crime against humanity”.

To explain why it was a case of genocide, it is necessary to define what genocide is.  According to the Genocide Convention of 1948, genocide is the “intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such” comprising a number of acts including “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

The issue of which groups were affected by the Famine underpins the most common argument made to deny that a genocide was perpetrated since Irish Protestants were also affected by the Famine as well as Irish Catholics.  This is to misunderstand how genocide works.  Genocides can encompass victims other than the target group, for example, during the Rwandan genocide, a number of Hutus as well as Tutsis were killed by Hutu perpetrators.  Key aspects of genocide are the identification of the target group and separation from the rest of the community.  Oliver Cromwell had already accomplished these two steps when he banished the Gaelic speaking Irish Catholic population to the infertile West of Ireland.  The Victorian perpetrators of the genocide took advantage of this fact as they knew where the target group was located, which could then be destroyed.

Perhaps the most important and difficult aspect of the definition of genocide is proving intent.  In Katherine Goldsmith’s view intent can be defined from an understanding by the perpetrator that what they will do will probably eliminate the group.  While for Florian Jessburger intent can be determined from the circumstances in which the crime took place.

This article will show that the British government of the time had a clear understanding that its policies would probably eliminate the core group of the Irish in Western Ireland.  In addition, in its knowledge of the circumstances pertaining in the West of Ireland it deliberately inflicted on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

Intent can also be inferred from determining patterns of behaviour and policy.  A policy of “ethnic cleansing” of the Gaelic speaking regions of Britain can be perceived in the early nineteenth century.  The Highland Clearances along with the Famine were key parts of a continuum of government policy by the Hanoverian state.  It is perhaps not coincidental that these Gaelic speakers allied to the French had almost overthrown this state in the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 and the Irish rebellion of 1798.

In this context it is important to note that Ireland was often a testing ground for ideas and policies that would be implemented in other parts of the British Empire.  The idea of plantations was replicated in the colonisation of North America and the use of famine as a means of population control was later adopted in India.

Perhaps a stronger motive than the strategic imperative for genocide was the economic.  In both the cases of the Highland Clearances and the Famine the landowners would derive more profit by consolidating their land free of tenant farmers than they would with them on it.  Indeed, as noted by Tim Pat Coogan, there were influential figures in the British government during the Famine including Palmerston, Landsdowne and Clanricade who owned some of the most extensive landholdings in Ireland and helped shape government policy on Ireland to suit their interests.  This does not contradict the charge of genocide, it supports it, since expropriation of the victims’ property is a common feature of genocide.

It is important to note that “ethnic cleansing”, the deliberate expulsion of a group from a specific territory, and genocide are not mutually exclusive. One can blur into the other as was the case at Srebrenica when Bosnian Serbs massacred Bosnian Muslims.  The British authorities were able to “ethnically cleanse” the Highlands of Scotland without many casualties because the population was smaller than in Ireland.  There were many millions of tenant farmers in the West of Ireland.  In order to successfully cleanse the West of Ireland, genocide would also have to be employed.

The path to genocide was a case of cumulative radicalization as the British government deployed more radical measures to resolve a crisis of its own making developing from long standing roots.

The roots of the problem were that the Irish banished to the West of Ireland occupied plots of land that were only suitable for growing potatoes.  These tenant farmers were at the mercy of absentee landlords who demanded labour as well as rent to maintain their tenancy.

According to James Handley in The Irish in Modern Scotland, the position of these tenant famers was made precarious by the attempt in 1838 to enact Irish poor law reform on the lines of the one adopted in England.  One commission set up by the British government recommended a different kind of bill to the one in England, taking into account the different conditions existing in Ireland where the problem was not that people were unwilling to work, but there was no employment available.

The Whig government of Lord Melbourne rejected the findings and instead assigned an English Poor Law commissioner, Nicholls, to compile a report more to their liking.  This commissioner recommended the establishment of 80 to 100 workhouses to accommodate 1,000 people each.  The government based its Irish Poor Law on Nicholl’s recommendations.  According to Handley, another government adviser, Sir George Lewis explained in his book The Irish Disturbances the reason for the workhouse plan “it was necessary to provide a shelter for the evicted tenant in order to lessen the ignominy and danger to the landlords in their endeavour to consolidate their farms”.

The carte blanche given to landlords by the government to accomplish this outcome was outlined by Lewis in a confidential paper written at the request of Thomas Spring Rice, first Baron Monteagle of Brandon in Kerry and Chancellor of the Exchequer in Melbourne’s government.  Lewis wrote, “in the present condition of Ireland I can conceive of no other means except a strongly guarded poor law of restoring to the landlords the power of doing what they will with their own”.

In Handley’s view the implications of this law were clear “in the light of these facts it is no exaggeration to state that the English government by its Irish Poor Law Bill of 1838 deliberately accelerated its policy of depopulation”.  Contemporary opinion was aware of the potential implications since The Times envisaged a time “when an Irishman would be as rare in Connemara as a Red Indian on the shores of Manhattan”.

When the potato blight struck the response of Charles Trevelyan, the minister responsible for Irish poor relief in both Conservative Robert Peel’s and Whig Lord John Russell’s governments appeared at first sight ambivalent but nevertheless achieved the result of making Irishmen very “rare in Connemara”.

Trevelyan did provide some relief giving food for public works and setting up soup kitchens but his attitude, according to revisionist writer RF Foster in his book Modern Ireland 1600-1972, reflected the “Whig view of economic theory” that “government intervention was to be strictly limited”.  The disbursement of food was indeed very limited.  Trevelyan opposed the import of Indian corn that could have helped to sustain the Irish.  Foster does admit, however, that Trevelyan in his book, The Irish Crisis (1848) “intimated that the Famine was the design of a benign Malthusian God who sought to relieve overpopulation by natural disaster”.

During this time Trevelyan also supported the export of food from Ireland.  Eyewitness to the Famine American journalist Henry George described the situation this provoked: “When her [Ireland’s] population was at its height Ireland was a food exporting country.  Even during the famine, grain and meat and butter and cheese were carted for exportation along roads lined with the starving and past trenches into which the dead were piled”.  Charles Trevelyan was later knighted by Queen Victoria for his work on Irish relief.

The situation was dangerous enough but one event in 1847 turned a crisis into a tragedy.  By the summer of 1847 three million Irish were receiving relief.  Due to a good harvest but not one for potatoes since no seeds had been planted, the government decided that all government relief under the Soup Kitchen Act would end in September 1847.

An Act of Parliament of that year drastically radicalized the situation and can be seen as the key turning point towards genocide.  Legislation facilitating genocide by a Western liberal democracy only has its parallel in the various Indian Acts passed by the US Congress endorsing genocide of Native Americans by the US government.  The Poor Law Extension Act of 1847 allowed able bodied persons to enter workhouses and be fed in return for work and for the first time granted the workhouses authority to provide outdoor relief.  This would be funded by local Poor Law rates not the government in London.  There was one problem, in order to receive relief anyone possessing more than a quarter acre of land would have to give up their property.  The maximum capacity of the workhouses was 100,000.  The choice facing upwards of 1.5 million was a stark one, starvation or shelter from the harsh Irish winter.  Foster accepts that the Act “boosted the landlords’ desiderata of land clearance and emigration” and resulted in “disintegrating the fabric of rural society”.

At this point a number of parallels can be made with a genocide that genocide scholars have agreed was genocide, the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turk government during the First World War.  Having studied this genocide for a doctorate “Denial of the Armenian genocide in American and French politics,” this author was struck by the commonalities with the Famine although there were important differences since the Armenians were subject to massacres while the Irish were not.  Perhaps the most important commonality is that both the Armenians and Irish were evicted from their homes.  Most of the Armenians died on forced marches into the Syrian desert where they perished from starvation, thirst and exposure to the elements; the Irish were also forced out of their homes to walk the roads often in the depth of winter and suffered starvation and exposure to the Irish climate and once they had reached their destination they often had no shelter as the workhouses were full.  Indeed, Mustafa Kemal, the founder of Modern Turkey, expressed surprise at British complaints about Armenian suffering given their treatment of the Irish during the Famine.

There are a number of reasons why this author argues that the British government perpetrated genocide through passage of the Poor Law Extension Act of 1847.  If one can accept revisionist arguments about economic orthodoxy determining policy and administrative incompetence, the Poor Law Extension Act gives the lie to these excuses. Any reasonable person would have been aware that forcing a million and a half Irish off their land as the workhouses were already overwhelmed and full to capacity would result in disaster.  The decision to force the Irish to make a choice between food and shelter, indefinite though that was, under the 1847 legislation appears to meet the requirements of article ( c ) of the Genocide Convention of “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

Emigration was an option for some although many of the population could not afford the fare.  By deliberately worsening the problem through the 1847 legislation and then leaving the Irish parishes to deal with the consequences the government in London must bear the major share of responsibility for the disaster.  It is this deliberate worsening of the situation that meets the requirements of the convention.  For this reason, this author argues that it was a case of genocide, where the British government used the opportunity of a natural disaster to deliberately engineer the mass destruction of the population of the West of Ireland.

If this charge of intent to commit genocide is accepted, then the population decline in Ireland of 2,225,000 through death and emigration between 1845 and 1851 was a result of the first genocide of Modern European History.  It is why a memorial to the Irish Famine must be raised in Glasgow.


Katherine Goldsmith “The Issue of Intent in the Genocide Convention and Its Effect on the Prevention and the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Toward its Knowledge-Based Approach” Genocide Studies and Prevention 5(3) pp238-57

Florian Jessburger “The Definition and the Elements of the Crime of Genocide in Paulo Gaeta (ed.) The UN Genocide Convention-A Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)

Tim Pat Coogan The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy (US: palgrave macmillan, 2012)

James Handley The Irish in Modern Scotland (Cork: Cork University Press, 1947)

R F Foster Modern Ireland 1600-1972 (USA: Penguin Group, 1989)

Robert Kee Ireland A History (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1980)

The Turkish Coup-Kemalism Revisited

By Dr Michael Herron

A number of reasons have been given for the recent coup in Turkey that followed those in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997.  One argument was that elements of the military had been given wind of a plan to purge them by the Erdoğan government and moved to pre-empt this purge. Another that it was instigated by the Gülen movement to overthrow the government.  Another was that elements of the army had been angered by the revival of the Kurdish war and the machinations of the Erdoğan government in Syria.

However, the most common reason for the Turkish military to engineer a coup has been to protect the principles of secular government as established by Mustafa Kemal, Atatürk, which Erdoğan’s opponents claim have been threatened by Erdoğan’s government.  This article will argue that there are in fact many commonalities between Erdoğan and Atatürk but of course some vital differences.

One common argument used to criticise Erdoğan is that he wants to set himself up as a Sultan.  The revival of the Ottoman Empire in popular culture appears to chime with this idea.  However, arguably rather than wishing to be a latter day Sultan Erdoğan wants to emulate Atatürk’s presidential style and power.  To do this he has adopted some of Atatürk’s methods while rejecting a number of his key principles.

The principles of Kemalism as enumerated by William Cleveland were reformism, republicanism, secularism, nationalism, state capitalism with a further principle for foreign affairs of maintaining peaceful relations with Turkey’s neighbours.

These principles underpinned Turkey’s transformation from what Atatürk believed was the backward remnant of a multi-faith, multi-ethnic empire into a nation state that could survive in the modern world.

Many of these principles were accepted without much controversy.  Reformism, the willingness to accept new ideas was exemplified in the change from a Muslim lunar calendar to the Gregorian calendar with Sunday replacing Friday as the day of rest.  Another reform that was generally accepted was the replacement of the Arabic alphabet by the Roman alphabet.

Nationalism embodied the production of a new Turkish national and cultural identity around which Turks could rally around.  This was largely accepted although Kurds found this new identity problematic.  Populism characterised by the creation of peoples’ houses which engaged in adult education, sporting activities and political education successfully mobilised the people.  State capitalism, which was developed as a response to the depression when Turkey decided it could not rely on imports and moved to develop an industrial base was also well received in Turkey.  Regarding the final principle of keeping the international peace, throughout Atatürk’s rule relations with Turkey’s neighbours remained peaceful.

The two principles which were the source of most controversy during Atatürk’s rule were those of republicanism and secularism.  These two principles went hand in hand.  By consolidating his authority under an amendment to the Constitution of the republic Atatürk was able to enforce the necessary reforms to reduce the public role of Islam and to put it under the control of the state.

Under this amendment, as noted by Andrew Mango the Turkish president would be elected by thy assembly, his term of office would run concurrently with the assembly members and he could be re-elected, the president would appoint the prime minister who would then choose ministers from among the assembly members.  The assembly would approve the cabinet.  The President as head of state could chair the assembly and the cabinet whenever he chose to do so.  In effect the President was an “elected dictator” in all but name whose prime minister would execute his will.  This gave Atatürk the power to suppress dissent and where necessary crush opposition to his rule.

Regarding his views on Islam, Atatürk wished to emulate France’s secular approach to religion of the separation of church and state with one difference, Islam in Turkey would come under the control of the state.

Initially, Atatürk had removed the Ottoman Sultanate while preserving the Caliphate.  However, he came to see the Caliphate as standing at the head of a religions hierarchy of Islamic clerics, the ulema, who ran the religious schools, the medreses, and also interpreted the Muslim holy law, the sharia, that governed most interactions between Turkish citizens.

According to Bernard Lewis, Atatürk saw the ulema as the biggest obstacle to his efforts to reform and modernise Turkey.  Indeed, the ulema had been able to hinder reforms by previous regimes.  By removing the Caliphate Atatürk undercut the authority of the ulema, thus clearing the way for Atatürk to end Islam’s public role in the state and refocusing the allegiance of the citizenry to the nation state.  This was solidified by Atatürk replacing sharia law with a civil law based on Swiss civil law and penal and commercial codes copying those of Italy and Germany respectively.

The ending of the Caliphate witnessed an example of Atatürk’s authoritarianism.  This act had aroused opposition from Muslims around the world including two leading Indian Muslims, the Agha Khan and Amer Ali.  They had written to Ismet, Atatürk’s prime minister, requesting that the Caliphate should be preserved.  However, the letter was published by Turkish newspapers before it had reached Ismet.  As a result, the Independence Tribunal ordered the arrest of the bar association president and the editors of three newspapers for high treason.

Atatürk’s authoritarian tendencies were again brought to the fore when he was the victim of an assassination plot.  He used this conspiracy as an opportunity to round up political opponents.  These included twenty-seven members of the banned Progressive Party, five of them generals and former members of the Congress and Union Party who had previously opposed Atatürk or had split with him after the War of Independence.  Death sentences were handed out to a number of the defendants, six of the Progressive Party defendants were executed, four Unionists were put to death while five were condemned to ten years in prison for incitement to murder.

This incident has its echoes in Erdoğan’s crackdown on political opponents after the recent failed coup.  This repression has also followed a number of arrests of journalists which have multiplied in the wake of the coup.  Indeed, many in Turkey prior to the coup believed that Erdoğan wanted to consolidate power around the presidency as Atatürk had done previously, although this time to reverse many of Atatürk’s secular reforms and promote Islam as more central to daily life.

Erdoğan has also challenged Atatürk’s principle of maintaining peaceful relations with his neighbours as his involvement in the war in Syria attests.  All this may be a consequence as the Popes argue of the Turkish establishment over the years trying to preserve Kemalism in aspic rather than allowing gradual reform that would have permitted Turkey to become a more developed democracy.

In the meantime, Erdoğan has used populism and nationalism to mobilise his Conservative Muslim base to support his claims to aggrandize more power for himself.  It may be one of the great ironies that a figure like Erdoğan has used some of the principles of Kemalism as well as Atatürk’s methods to undermine the foundations of the secular republic, which Atatürk established.



William L. Cleveland A History of the Modern Middle East (Colorado: Westview Press 2004)

Andrew Mango Atatürk (London: John Murray 1999)

Bernard Lewis The Emergence of Modern Turkey (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2002)

Nicole Pope and Hugh Pope Turkey Unveiled: A History of Modern Turkey (Woodstock & New York: The Overlook Press 2004)


Trumpism-Nativism Redux

By Dr Michael Herron

Donald Trump, it has been argued, is the latest in a long line of American populists. Some commentators compare him to Charles Lindbergh, leader of the isolationist “America First” party in the 1930s and 40s.  Indeed, “Putting America First” has been one of Trump’s slogans.  Others compare him to another figure of the 1930s, Louisiana governor, Huey Long or the Populist leader of the 1890s and champion of the downtrodden farmer against the railroads, William Jennings Bryan.

However, this article will argue that Trumpism harks back to an older strain of American populism, the Nativism of the 1840s and 50s. Indeed, it will demonstrate that a number of the reasons for the rise of Trumpism are similar to those for the rise of Nativism, with some important differences.

Ostensibly, American Nativism emerged as a response to a rapid growth of mainly Catholic Irish and German immigration into a United States that was predominantly Protestant during the 1840s and 50s. However, as Eric Foner and other scholars have argued this immigration only exacerbated an already fractious situation.

According to Foner, the seeds of Nativism had been sown by the economic depression of 1837-1842.   This depression had undermined the labour solidarity of the 1830s which had tended towards greater secularism in the spirit of Thomas Paine.  As this labour solidarity broke down and divided the working population on the basis of religion and ethnicity, American Protestants became open to the emerging Protestant evangelical movement, the Great Awakening.  This increased enthusiasm for evangelical Protestantism then reinforced the native born American Protestant population’s hostility to newcomers with a different faith.

The fact that this immigration was on a massive scale stoked the fires of this hostility even higher. According to Doris Kearns Goodwin, in her epic study of Lincoln, the population of the United States was 20 million in 1845.  In the space of ten years 3 million immigrants came to the United States, the vast majority from Ireland and the German states.  These immigrants had fled the Famine that ravaged Ireland from 1845 to 1851 and the failed Revolution in the German states in 1848.

This immigration encouraged some American Protestants to found an anti-Catholic party, the Know-Nothings. This party’s platform aimed to prevent the newcomers claiming citizenship until they had been resident for a number of years and to disqualify them from voting.  It also opposed state funding to support Catholic education.  This platform grew out of the general suspicion among American Protestants that the new immigrants owed their allegiance to the Pope and the Catholic Church rather than the United States.

The Know-Nothing party had widespread support in the United States in the early 1850s. It gained control of a number of cities, had strong backing in New York and won power in the state capitol of Massachusetts.  At the time, there were also a number of anti-Catholic riots in a number of cities in the North.

Perhaps the high point for this party was when under the new name of the American Party it nominated Millard Fillmore for President during the election of 1856. Fillmore also gained the support of the Whigs.  However, during the election the American Party only won one state, Maryland.

The party eventually split over the issue of slavery. Many of the northern Know-Nothings also opposed slavery whereas the Southern Know-Nothings supported this institution.  According to Goodwin, the Northern Know-Nothings split with their southern counterparts because they viewed the extension of slavery into the new western territory of Nebraska as more important than opposition to new immigrants.

These anti-slavery Know-Nothings joined with “Conscience Whigs” who were also opposed to slavery and the “Independent Democrats who had split with the Southern Democrats over slavery to form the Republican Party. However, according to Goodwin, Lincoln in particular was as hostile to Nativism as he was to slavery stating “how can anyone who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favour of degrading classes of white people”.

Nativism lived on after the Civil War particularly in the Republican Party. It came to the fore especially in New York politics against the Democrat machine that ran New York city government, Tammany Hall.  This machine derived much of its support from the Irish working class of the city.  Nativist elements in the Republican Party seized upon the deaths caused by the riots over a march by the Orange Order in 1871 to oust from power Boss Tweed and to suppress Irish working class influence in New York for some time. However, Tammany Hall regained some of its influence only to have its wings clipped when Theodore Roosevelt, then a New York assemblyman introduced a bill in 1884 to allow New York City Mayors to employ or sack employees without having to consult the board of alderman which was dominated by Tammany Hall.

Extreme Nativism had been dormant within the Republican Party for some time until it has re-emerged with the rise of Donald Trump. Some of the reasons for this re-emergence coincide with those leading to the original version of Nativism, while some differ.

It is important to stress that America for some time has witnessed a rise in evangelical fervour as in the 1840s and many of these evangelicals have given their support to the Republican Party in return for the Republican Party taking their side in the so called culture wars, particularly over the issue of abortion. Recent years have also seen the rise of the Tea Party funded by billionaire donors, which has pushed an aggressive right wing agenda.  There has been overlap between the evangelical movement and Tea Party membership and the Republican Party has pandered to both.  The United States has also seen great demographic change in recent years with the growth of the Latino population, often as a result of migration.  These are developments that Trump neo-Nativism has exploited.

Another echo of 19th century Nativism by 21st Century Trumpism is that as for questioning the loyalty of recent immigrants to the United States, Trump wants to impose a blanket ban on all Muslim migration to the US until these individuals have been proven to pose no threat to the security of the US.



Donald Trump has harnessed some of this populism but he has also manipulated opposition to globalisation among the White working class/ middle class. This globalisation, which was not so pronounced in the mid-nineteenth century has often come at the expense of the White working class.  Trump has exploited populism and this issue of globalisation to push the Republican party to the extremes particularly over the issue of immigration with his call to deport illegal migrants, undocumented mainly Mexican workers and to build a wall between the United States and Mexico as well as his anti-Muslim proposals.

The lessons of the 1840s for the present day are that once the genie of Nativism is out of the bottle, it is very difficult to put back. Nativist sentiments remained strong for many years in American politics after its heyday in the 1840s and 50s.  Arguably, they were only ultimately overcome with the election of John F Kennedy in 1960.  Although there have been many Catholic national leaders in American public life since JFK’s death in 1963 he remains the only Catholic President to date.


Eric Foner Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976)

Doris Kearns Goodwin Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (London: Penguin Books, 2005)

Michael A Gordon The Orange Riots: Irish Political Violence in New York City, 1870 and 1871 (New York: Cornell University Press 1993)

Geoffrey C Ward and Ken Burns The Roosevelts An Intimate History (New York: Knopf, 2014)