Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Classless

I want to compare the comments from two leaders, both of which spoke to the Canadian Council for Israel. Which one demonstrates grace and which one attempts to make a sensitive topic a wedge-issue, playing to the lowest common denominator?:

Stephen Harper:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper painted his political rivals as fairweather friends of Israel and said he will stand by the Jewish state even if costs him politically.

"We got a pretty sharp reminder that it's one thing to offer supportive words to Israel when it's convenient," he said.

"And (it's) quite another to stand firm in its hour of need. . . When it was not popular to do so, we stood and told the truth. Israel had a friend that mattered.

"And that, my friends, is the only thing that really counts."

Stephane Dion:
Addressing the same audience later Tuesday evening, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion warned that the cause of Israel should never be treated as a domestic political football.

"Supporting the right of Israel to exist in a secure and peaceful Middle East is not a Liberal cause or a Conservative cause," Dion said in the prepared text of his remarks.

"It is not, and it must never be. It is a Canadian cause. It is the common cause of every democracy.

"That's why I am so proud to be here tonight, not just as a Liberal but as a Canadian, to toast Israel and Canada's partnership with her."

The Liberal Party is not "anti-Israel", and it really grates me that Harper favors scoring cheap political points with a desirable constituent, rather than act like a statesman. Dion, on the other hand, states the obvious and attempts to bring the issue back where it belongs, beyond partisan politics. Despite Harper simplistic analysis of the Lebanon conflict, the entire affair had many layers. Showing some concern for innocent civilians doesn't translate into "anti-Israel". I guess the American administration's recent concerns about the use of cluster bombs means that Israel has lost another friend.

The way Harper approaches Israel is quite revealing. It tells us that Harper likes to frame issues as us vs them, it's divisive and shows no understanding of nuance. Harper also shows us his hyper-politicism, that makes everything partisan, every sentence targeted. Harper already has credibility with the Jewish community, it does him no favors to take the low road to further his support- but, he can't help himself, as he demonstrates time and time again. Harper says Canada will be more "assertive" on the world stage, the more he articulates his approach, the more he should stay home, it's embarrassing.

BTW, history will view the war in Lebanon as a colossal failure, that did exactly what detractors envisoned- emboldened extremists and sent Lebanon back into chaos that will only further de-stabilize the region. History will also show, if it hasn't already, that there was nothing "measured" about the entire affair. Is Israel safer as a result of this war, the recent evidence screams no.

21 comments:

Miles Lunn said...

I too wish our parliament was far less partisan. Although both leaders are sometimes guilty of partisanship, I find Harper far worse. I think at least Dion knows where to draw the line. In addition in the past ideological conservative governments generally succeed by polarizing the electorate. Mike Harris, Ronald Reagan, John Howard, Margaret Thatcher, and George W. Bush all polarized the electorate and won that way. Because they are to the right of the mainstream they don't succeed by painting their opponents as centrist. They succeed by painting their opponents as far left and that it is an either or proposition with no middle ground.

Steve V said...

miles

They are all partisan, but it's a question of degree. The problem with Harper, as examples the Arar apology letter and the Nairobi speech, he can't help but see opportunity, the forever tactican. That's why I like the reference, hyper-political.

Even today, Harper tried to insinuate that if you like gangs, guns and drugs vote Liberal. Give us the policy, we can do the compare and contrast thanks.

Scotian said...

Miles Lunn:

You put your finger on one of the prime reasons why Layton's apparent lack of recognition of the threat he faces from Harper really baffles me. If the Liberals are to the far left then what is the NDP by that standard? Just because the CPC is making tactical use of Layton to weaken the greater threat, the Liberals, does not mean that once that task is done the CPC will cut the NDP any slack. If anything it will pick the most advantageous moment to undercut Layton and humiliate him as a response for his good will, in part because he has made himself the threat because of the weakened Liberals. This is a dynamic which is entirely predictable, has happened repeatedly in the past including the recent past as you noted, yet Layton appears not to see it.

Garth Turner was quite correct today when he spoke about what the CPC is and what it is not, anything like the old PCPC. I know I sound like a broken record about this, and I don't really care. These people scare me and until they are discredited and a more Canadian rooted Conservatism comes back to the fore I am going to keep being a broken record. I like having balance between our various parties and I liked the old PCPC. I thought that between our PCPC, Libs, and NDP we had for the most part a fairly stable system which allowed us to develop into what we are today. The fact that we have problems to deal with in part because of the growth is an inevitable byproduct of that growth and personally I tend to think it is well worth the cost. I like what this country is and represents and I have a very hard time understanding those that do not.

Scotian said...

Steve V:

As to your post, I can't say either surprises me. Part of Harper's problem is that he does not see anything being above partisanship in terms of maximizing partisan advantage, whereas there have generally been some things on which we kept lines in place as a society where such is unwelcome and unwanted. I think this is going to prove out to be one of Harper's weaknesses once his government has fallen and is dissected to understand why. This is one of those examples of how he doesn't appear to truly sense/grasp the Canadian dynamic and misreads it in some fairly fundamental ways.

Steve V said...

Scotian

I fear that Harper represents a new stage in partisanship, and it may become political norm. Look at how American politics has dis-integrated, largely as a result of the neo-con politicization of every issue. The problem, if Harper continues to enjoy some short-term success, the other parties react to this reality and adopt the same tactics. A good example, those stupid backdrops, that have the slogans behind the said politican, everyone does it now. Where did that propaganda exercise begin?

Anonymous said...

The Liberal Party is run by the same crew that used to run it when they were fine with constant condemnations of Israel at the UN. Anti-semitism is very popular among the soft-left these days and the Liberal party is desperate to be popular, they think the soft-headed leftist crowds owns popularity.

Anonymous said...

It's probably pretty hard to show up in Harper's church with anything other than praise for Israel.

Anonymous said...

Whoever Anonimous 12:51 and 2:40 are - they have fallen for the misleading propaganda. Obviously, they haven't checked out any facts and are so clueless they believe whatever Harper says. This is sad.

sortagiddyeon said...

Stephen Harper has mastered all that is evil about government so it shouldn't be surprising his principals are fluid.
Flowing this way and that, Harper maneuvers along the channel providing the largest intake at the least cost. It is clear a typical Harper channel is near or on the bottom; the common ground of bottom feeders.

Pseudonym said...

I agree with you that Harper has used Israel as a wedge issue for political gain. Yes he is an opportunist and perhaps his sincerity in supporting Israel may be no different than his support for the environment. But as a Liberal Jew I can tell you that Canadian Jews have been totally disappointed with the Liberal position on the Middle East and have been abandoning the party. Israel has few friends in the global community. Under previous Liberal governments it would have been a real stretch to consider Canada a friend. With Israel being continually threatened by its neighbours and more isolated then ever, it would be difficult for me to continue to support the Liberals without some solid tangible evidence that they are willing support Israel's ongoing existence.

ottlib said...

pseudomym:

As a Liberal Jew you should know that there is no questions about Liberals unshakable belief in the right of Israel's right to exist. To suggest they believe otherwise is preposterous.

Do not take constructive criticism of the actions of the Israeli government as lack of support for Israel.

The Liberal position during the recent Lebanon crisis was that Israel has the right to defend itself but Liberals were worried about the civilian casualties, on both sides, and the long term implications of them.

As Steve points out Israel's security is much diminished as a result of the Lebanon crisis and the way the Israeli government handled that crisis is one of many contributing factors to that situation.

To put it another way. Israel has always been smarter than its neighbours and they have always seen the big picture. That is why they have survived over 50 years surrounded by hostile enemies. The way they handled the Lebanon crisis was in no way like they have handled similar crises in the past. It was hamfisted and clumsy and for the first time in a long time Israel failed in achieving its objectives in a conflict with its neighbours while helping its protaganists to achieve theirs.

Pseudonym said...

And as I have pointed out, your view is not shared by the Jewish community.

Scotian said...

Pseudonym:

Funny thing, I don't see you blaming any actions of Israel for it's increasing global isolationism, why is that I wonder? Is the Liberal party supposed to support Israel blindly regardless of what it does? Is it appropriate for the political party of one country to place the interests of another country ahead of its own? That is what you appear to be demanding of the Liberals on this and personally I find the arrogance of that most offensive and disgusting.

I can accept Israel's right to exist according to the 1967 borders, as those are the internationally agreed upon borders. What I cannot accept though is the idea that Israel has the right to do whatever it wants without being held to the same standards as any other western democracy when they commit actions that are considered inappropriate to simply wrong. Deal with it.

Steve V said...

I'm pretty sure it was the anti-Israel Liberal Party of Canada that put Hezbollah on the terrorist list, which Harper so often uses. Concern for human rights doesn't equate to being against Israel. The Israel lobby seems to think that we must view all Israeli actions as infallible, or not subject to criticism. The funny part, there is currently a great deal of revisionist thinking in Israel over the "failures" in Lebanon.

The tone of some in the Jewish community suggest to me that Harper has successfully made this a wedge-issue.

ottlib said...

pseudonym:

That is a sweeping generalization and flat wrong.

As someone with roots in the Jewish Communities of Ottawa and Montreal I can say that I have not seen the exodus that you describe.

There is concern but I am not seeing that translate into unconditional support for Mr. Harper and the Conservatives.

Pseudonym said...

Look people I am not advocating blindly supporting Israel. The point I am making is the Lierals used to have a balanced approach to the Middle East but under Chretien and Martin it was no longer balanced. I welcome a return to the pre-Chretien days and hope this is where Dion is going.

I know for a fact that big money is being raised for the Conservatives by former Jewish members of the Liberal party which I find very distressing.

I also know that the Israeli public is very wary of war and would like nothing more than peaceful borders. But they have no means to achieve peace. They are surrounded my states and groups Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah) intent on destroying Israel. They are not satisfied with the pre-1967 borders. That is why Oslo and Camp David failed. Now with radical groups taking control of the PA and Lebanon, peace is that much farther away. Iran is committed to aquiring nuclear weapons and none of you can be sure that they will not be used against Israel. I am fearful for the future of Israel and so are Jew around the world.

ottlib said...

The Liberals are still taking a balanced view. Balanced by definition means not unequivocally taking sides.

What I have found is there is a small but vocal minority of people in the Jewish community who believe that anything the Israeli government does must be right. They believe in the virtual infallibility of the Israeli government and they expect others to share that view.

Unfortunatley, these folks are spinning the balanced approach the Liberals are taking into an anti-Israel stance because it does not conform to that view and they are gladly being helped along by the Conservatives.

Fortunately, it is my experience that most Jews are smarter than that and they know that they and Israel has been well served by the Liberal Canadian governments in the past because of that balance.

It is amongst those folks that Mr. Dion's message last night will resonate the most.

Scotian said...

Pseudonym:

You would be a lot more convincing if you didn't place all the blame for the failure of Oslo and other peace attempts on everyone other than Israel. They have their own share of blame for why things failed, and the fact you apparently don't see it makes clear just how far from real balance your POV is on this issue. I don't have a dog in this fight, my heritage is Celtic and I come from a family lineage that is generations born in this country going back to before Confederation. So for me the positions I take is a direct result of the *actions* of all parties involved and not just those that certain folks would prefer to cast as the only ones at fault, be it the Arab sympathizers or the Israeli ones.

Sorry, you are coming off like a Likudnik to me in the way you absolve Israel of its responsibilities in the ongoing catastrophe that is the ME. That causes me to have to give no weight to your opinions here as anything other than standard Likudnik propaganda on this issue.

Pseudonym said...

Just for you information, I have never supported Likud. And I have never absolved Israel of acting improperly or over reacting.

But remember Israel has made peace with those willing to recognize its existence (Jordan and Egypt). Who among Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah would be willing to allow the state of Israel to exist?

And yes I am blaming the Palestinians for the failure of Camp David. It provided them with 99% of what they asked for other than the right of return which would have eliminated the state of Israel.

ottlib said...

The Right of Return has the same significance and the same resonance amongst Palestinians as the Right to Exist for Israelis.

In other words just like no Israeli leader can make peace with any of its neighbours until they acknowedge its right to exist, no Palestinian leader can make peace with Israel without its acknowledgement of the right of return.

The interesting thing is Yasser Arafat knew how impractical that was so he was looking for a symbolic acknowledgement and a truck load of money as compensation for not flooding Israel with Palestinians.

He made the offer, Israel balked so he walked away and I cannot really say I blame him. Any peace deal that does not acknowledge the right of return would be as useless and as meaningless as any peace deal that did not acknowledge Israel's right to exist.

Steve V said...

Just to add, let's not forget East Jerusalem, Arafat always held out for that as ultimate capital of the Palestinian state.