Friday, August 25, 2006

Big Tent

The middle east has proven to be a sore spot for the Liberals, in attempting to craft a cohesive message. I don't find it particularly alarming that the Liberal Party mirrors the divisive opinions found in the general public. When you have a party that prides itself on being inclusive and embraces the "big tent" approach, this reality presupposes a certain amount of friction. While it may be important to present a united face publicly, it is also unrealistic to expect the goosestep from diverse members.

What is important in moving forward, is that various "interest groups" aren't allowed to bully their position, at the expense of other factions within the party. Jewish Liberals have become increasingly vocal in demanding that the party adopt their perspective. However, the Liberal Party can't be an extension of the Jewish lobby because it effectively alienates other constituencies that are equally important. An inclusive party must draw on various opinions, especially in a circumstance where both sides can claim validity. You can't expect a party to completely adopt a perspective that doesn't have universal appeal. Official party policy must reflect some emotional detachment from an issue that allows for a rational approach.

I would argue that the recent policy purity that has been demanded undermines the premise of free speech and a robust discussion of ideas. In my mind, the Lebanese question is incredibly complicated and doesn't lend itself to simple black and white propositions. It is an open question on how to proceed diplomatically, and it may involve some decisions that aren't endorsed by all subsets of the Liberal Party. Offering to negotiate with Hezbollah doesn't necessarily translate into a lack of support for Israel, but it may simply reflect a simple reading of a permanent reality. Purging people and demanding resignations from those who express this sentiment is a dangerous precedent that shows no recognition of the complexities moving forward, nor does it embrace the idea of a big tent. Everyone who like the party to completely reflect their opinions, however a party that adopts narrow points of view is destined for marginalization. The Liberal Party is "messy" and it really shouldn't be any other way. People shouldn't feel threatened if they express a view that isn't endorsed by everyone.


bigcitylib said...

Your posts on this topic have been models of even-handedness.

Peter Loewen said...

Official party policy must reflect some emotional detachment from an issue that allows for a rational approach.

Insisting on a "balanced" and "middle" approach on every issue is just another emotional attachment. There is nothing rational or right about always just splitting the difference.

Could it be that this time those who suggest that we not grant legitimacy to a terrorist non-state actor actually have the rational position? And could it be that one could hold this position without being Jewish? Heaven forbid.

Peace said...

Oh please. This whole affair reeks of Israeli lobbies.

What other disagreement within the party was met with such draconian reaction? You are free to hold differing views on Kyoto, health care, softwood, equalization, Quebec, gay marriage and even abortion. But "heaven forbid", if you stray from the official Israeli line, you need to resign!

Hezbollah is labelled a terrorist organization by 6 out of the 193 countries in the world, Israel, US, UK, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands. And that despite serious arm twisting by the US on Israel's behalf.

So why is this treated as gospel by the party, and any discussion considered blasphemous?

Peter Loewen said...

Of course, it's the ever powerful Jewish lobby causing Hezbollah's classification. Nothing to do with the acts of terror they actually commit.

A Jew under every rock, eh Peace?

Steve V said...


A rational approach doesn't translate into a neutral position, it just recognizes the political reality. If you want to deal with Lebanon, you must deal with Hezbollah- period. Hezbollah is a permanent fixture, even moreso in the aftermath of this misguided offensive. Simply saying we won't deal with Hezbollah goes nowhere fast, doesn't address the problem in any substantive way and assures future conflict. Hardened positions are what fosters this mess, Canada should look at every avenue available to try and move the process forward. What is wrong with taking a formal position, wherein we set terms for Hezbollah's omission from the terrorist list. Where is the harm in trying?

Interesting to note, today's news headlines are full of stories that speculate on the NATO, Taliban "negotiations". All covert of course, it suggests hypocrisy on our formal position. How could you possibly fathom negotiating with suicide bombers? The reality demands an attempt, that takes precedence over idealistic stances.

Peace said...

Forgive my ignorance. There is no such thing as Israeli lobby groups in Canada. And if there were, they are poorly funded with little influence; and they certainly would have no interest in classifying Hezbollah.

Satellite photos, aerial surveillance drones, precision guided weapons, and the over 90% Lebaneses civilian casualties is the result of extraordinary measures by the IDF to avoid killing civilians; but the 25% ratio by Hezbollah are "acts of terror".

If Canadians inflicted 90% civilian casualties in Afghanistan, I wonder if the public response would be equally benign.

If the case against Hezbollah is so strong, why is it shunned by 187 out of 193 countries?

If the case against Hezbollah is so strong, why prohibit debate on the issue rather than welcome it?

And since when do Liberal's call for the resignation of their fellow MP's when their views differ?

An anti-semite under every rock, eh Peter? (borrowing your tactic of fabrication)

On the contrary, I admire Jews. Chomsky chief among them. But then, he's not a "real Jew" is he?

Peter Loewen said...

Peace, the point is that Canada can stand with Israel as a democracy without it being the result of an international Jewish conspiracy and lobby.

As for different civilian causalty rates, I think we can both agree that the Israel on Lebanon rates would be a lot lower if Hezbollah would do us all the courtesy of not exclusively using civilian sites for their military outposts.

As for Hezbollah, we do not need to debate their status any more than we need to debate the clasification of murder as a crime. Anyway, would you really want them to not be a terrorist organization, and instead grant them legitimacy? Think about the implications of this for Lebanon. Suddenly Lebanon becomes a failed state because it has a rouge military within its borders which it does not control. At that point, Israel is free to do as she wishes in retaliation on any number of state infrastructures. Definitions matter.

Steve, I am not suggesting that negotiation with hezbollah not occur. I just don't think we should treat them as equals with Israel when assigning blame. Peace obviously feels the same way, s/he simply places the weights on the other side of the ledger.

Steve V said...


"I just don't think we should treat them as equals with Israel when assigning blame."

I think that depends on your starting point.

Peter Loewen said...

I have no idea what that means.

Steve V said...

What part did Israel play in creating the environment that allowed Hezbollah to fester? Blame is so subjective in this region, each side finds ample evidence to support their arguments.

Peace said...

So by extension, those 187 barbaric countries who refused to brand Hezbollah a terrorist organization also sanction obvious crimes like murder?

If civilian sites were used as miltary outposts, you would think that a few militants might be dug up among the women, children and elderly.

Every civilian casualty should be investigated and their perpetrators held to account. The 44 by Hezbollah and the over a thousand by the IDF.

As blame accountants go, I'd sooner look up Arther Anderson than go with your ledgers.