Obituary: Conor Cruise O’Brien

Born Dublin, November 3, 1917. Died Howth, County Dublin, December 18, 2008, aged 91.


Radical Irish politician and writer Conor Cruise O’Brien was one of Israel’s most consistent and clear-eyed non-Jewish champions.

In a widespread career, covering Africa, the US, England and Ireland, as a diplomat and government minister, academic and literary critic, he showed his support for Israel in his articles in The Observer, of which he was editor-in-chief from 1978-81.

His 1986 book, The Siege, the Saga of Zionsim and Israel, detailed the historic Arab animosity and unlikelihood of its dissolving, resulting in limited options for Israel to find peace.

But he believed entirely in the legitimacy of Israel, though its policies could certainly be criticised. He welcomed America’s vital support, refusing to give ground to his Western pro-Palestinian assailants.

Reflecting in 2000 on the relevance of the IRA conflict, he noted one major difference. Both Irish parties ultimately believed in democracy. Arab governments were essentially totalitarian.

Divorced from his first wife, he is survived by their son and daughter - another daughter died — and by his second wife and their adopted son and daughter.

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