Thursday, January 15, 2009

Take a Stand Without Taking Sides

On Tuesday night I went to a meeting of Liberals in my riding and heard Michael Ignatieff speak.

It was a small gathering (250) so there was plenty of opportunity to get to know the new Liberal leader. Many of the questions were challenges to his statements about the Gaza conflict. Ignatieff is careful to blame Hamas and defend Israel and this did not sit well with many of the constituents in my riding who are from the Middle East and South Asia.

There has to be a way to stand up for principles without taking sides. Today's column by James Travers in the Toronto Star makes a good case [Don't take sides but do take a stand].
Canada, with its polyglot population and its military fighting fundamentalism in Afghanistan, is more interested in Middle East conflicts than it is able to influence them. At best it can exert pressure on all sides not to reduce future peace prospects by making the immediate situation worse.

What's possible is relatively straightforward. Canada should be as forceful in holding Israel accountable for its actions as Hamas. And when the shooting stops it should invigorate honest-broker efforts to address the inequities and injustices that inevitably spawn violence.

While no panacea for a conflict layered in complexity, it would at least reaffirm values and principles that in the past informed Canadian Middle East policy. Beyond Israel's security, they include its legitimate expectation to live without fear and the countervailing requirement that Palestinians be released from decades of bondage in their own land.

Not taking sides does not mean not taking a stand. Unequivocal support for Israelis and their safety does not require equivocation on Palestinian human rights and political freedom.

Canada can best serve Israelis and Palestinians by finding its voice when it's time to say "enough."
Sounds good to me.

Jennifer Smith of Runesmith's Canadain Content makes the same point in her letter to Ignatieff [Dear Mr. Ignatieff].


  1. So Prof. Moran has joined the Israel bashers. Apparently, he thinks that the Government of Israel is being beastly towards the Palestinians. I have a flash for the good professor. He doesn't know what beastliness is. Beastliness is the late dictator of Syria, Hafaz Assad assembling several hundred artillery pieces around the Syrian City of Hama in 1982 and subjecting it to two days of continuous bombardment in which at least 20,000 people were killed.

  2. I see that SLC has completely missed the point. Both sides have done horrific things and neither are innocent. But there is no point in playing the blame game as it accomplishes nothing and only polarizes people.

  3. Eric says,

    I see that SLC has completely missed the point.

    Sad, isn't it?

  4. Do I remember incorrectly? It seems to me at 74 years that my memories of the conflict are thus: there is a truce - then someone from the Arab world calls an end to the truce - then there is active warfare - then Israel mobilizes and begins winning this round - the world get upset and calls for a truce - eventually a truce is declared - then someone from the Arab world calls an end to the truce and so on.

    My opinion is that Israel is always ready for a permanent truce and the Arab world is not and is willing to throw their people away again and again under the assumption that some day Israel will call a truce at the wrong time and the Arab world will wipe Israel and its people off of the earth forever.

    I have no memory of a persistent policy of Israel to destroy the Arab people forever yet this has been the policy of the Arab world since I can remember.

  5. Re Larry Moran

    I see that SLC has completely missed the point.

    Sad, isn't it?

    No Prof. Moran, what's sad is your complicity in the equating of the Hamas terrorists with the Government of Israel. The Hamas terrorists have stated over and over again that their goal is the removal of the State of Israel from the map of the world and the expulsion or extermination of the Jewish population therein. The fact is that the Harper Government has rightly refused to accede to this equating, to their eternal credit. The fact that the leader of the Liberal party has taken the equating position brings no credit upon him.