I would like to use Israel an example of duplicity, when it comes to criticism and praise. I believe people were right to criticize Ignatieff for his timid position on Gaza, and I did a few posts of my own, highlighting the problems I had with the "official" Liberal position. Serious people acknowledge the complex political dynamics, the past problems for Ignatieff during the Lebanon conflict, but our position was still utterly disappointing. I still see the Liberal position as entirely dedicated to a two-state solution, a resolution on settlements and refugees, a sense of the human suffering, the potential for an even handed perspective. We "blew it" on the Gaza offensive, but that doesn't translate to complete failure on the peace process as a whole- I have faith that Ignatieff and the Liberals will articulate a comprehensive compromise position in the end, this adventure aside.
If one looks at Obama's statements on Gaza yesterday, and couple them with his past statements on Israel, you will find NARY a difference between what he argued and the position of the Ignatieff Liberals. In fact, reviewing the Liberal press release on Gaza, and comparing it with the text of Obama's presentation, the two views are mirror images. And yet, nobody is criticizing Obama, in fact we hear accolades, which is bizarre, given the reaction to Ignatieff.
Barack Obama, on the justification for the Israeli offensive into Gaza:
Let me be clear: America is committed to Israel's security. And we will always support Israel's right to defend itself against legitimate threats.
For years, Hamas has launched thousands of rockets at innocent Israeli citizens. No democracy can tolerate such danger to its people, nor should the international community, and neither should the Palestinian people themselves, whose interests are only set back by acts of terror.
Michael Ignatieff on the justification for the Israeli offensive in Gaza:
The Liberal Party of Canada unequivocally condemns the rocket attacks launched by Hamas against Israeli civilians and calls for an immediate end to these attacks. We affirm Israel's right to defend itself against such attacks, and also its right to exist in peace and security.Both leaders firmly support Israeli action against these rocket attacks, the offensive was valid.
Obama did recognize the suffering of Palestinians:
I was deeply concerned by the loss of Palestinian and Israeli life in recent days and by the substantial suffering and humanitarian needs in Gaza. Our hearts go out to Palestinian civilians who are in need of immediate food, clean water, and basic medical care, and who've faced suffocating poverty for far too long.
We regret the loss of life sustained on all sides of the conflict. We call on all parties to end these hostilities, mindful that a durable ceasefire will be necessary to prevent continued civilian casualties and lasting damage to essential civilian infrastructure.Loss of life, on both sides. The need for humanitarian assistance. Our thoughts, our hearts.
The international community has a responsibility to ensure that the cost of conflict is not borne by the innocent and Canada must stand ready to assist and ensure that basic humanitarian assistance reaches those who need it.
This comment from CBC's Neil MacDonald, reviewing Obama's speech yesterday:
"Obama also made it clear, that the United States stands first and foremost behind Israel and it's security needs. Where that conflict is concerned at least, the new President positions are strikingly similar to those of his predecessor."
Neil MacDonald CBC
MacDonald is probably also drawing on Obama's past speeches, including one in June, wherein he took Jerusalem off the table, widely criticized by Palestinians. The very pro-Israeli rhetoric was praised by Prime Minister Olmert. The democratically elected Hamas nothing more than a "terrorist organization". As for yesterday's speech, it was slammed by Hamas, lauded in the Israeli press.
My point? Obama is no different than Ignatieff on the latest conflict, if anything a historical review of past statements, the American President maybe to the right (oh, the horror). Barack Obama is bending over backwards to appease the pro-Israel crowd in America, he's been doing it for quite some time, if you're paying attention. Yes, Obama is ready to send envoys and I don't doubt for one second his Presidency will be considerably more effective in helping to achieve a lasting peace. However, that long term view is exactly the same as that of Ignatieff, there is no difference in philosophy. The position of both men, on this current over-reaction in Gaza is decidedly disappointing, so if one is to vilify Ignatieff, then surely Obama deserves some fire.
You can't give Obama a pass, and then attack Ignatieff, for holding the same view. If one is going to be intellectually consistent, then Obama deserves criticism, maybe we can call him "Obama the bloody" for the ridiculous posters amongst us. The sad reality, all of our leaders are to careful, the language so vetted, it's rendered useless, when it comes to Israel. Obama failed to call out Israel for the Gaza operation, in fact he used the rocket attacks for justification. No talk of war crimes, no talk of the United Nations, no talk of disproportionate response, only the rationale for the operation.
I will continue to watch, as future events unfold, the great disconnect in perspective, between two men who are far more similar than some are prepared to accept. The uneven reactions to the Gaza conflict, a terrific example of double standards, based on personal bias, rather than an even reading of black and white facts.