Friday, 30 November 2012

diplomatic minnows

Congratulations to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority, and all Palestinians, on the profoundly affirmative vote at the UN.

Despite John Baird's efforts to champion the cause of Israel, in apparent support of Israeli unilateralism and in passionate opposition to Palestinians thinking and acting for themselves, the world (in the form of the UN) voted in support of Palestine, on the anniversary of the date that Israel was affirmed in the same body.

Even the BBC has failed to notice our minister's efforts, so if this is what Baird hoped to be remembered for, it is just too bad that he has placed himself on the wrong side of history.
The United States naturally remained in Israel's corner but, alongside it, was to be found largely a small collection of diplomatic minnows including the Western Pacific Territories of Palau and Micronesia. 
 ~Kevin Connelly, UN Vote gives Palestinians new diplomatic powers
So much for his well-polished speechmaking.*  Canada's fall from grace as an international player continues apace. In an earlier story about LGBT rights in Uganda, and John Baird's Dilemma, another journalist notes,
Uganda's Parliamentary Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, was received with a welcome rally upon her return to Uganda, following a conflict with Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister at the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in Quebec City on October 25. Kadaga is reportedly vowing to do entirely the opposite of what Baird had urged, by pushing to resurrect the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill...
The problem detected is plainly stated:
Part of this arises because of an increased sensitivity to other nations imposing their will on Africa, something that has taken place overtly and covertly throughout Africa's entire remembered history.  (source)
This is, I suggest, the reality gap between Baird, his US parallels and fellow minnows, and much of the rest of the world, including constituents in the countries voting against the order yesterday.

Self-regency is important. It is a fundamental aspect of democracy. We do not believe that Canadian nor US leadership has a more accurate view of what is good for Palestine than Palestinians do.

It is neither the US nor Canada's job to control the path to peaceful resolutions in the Middle East: at the end of the day, it is none of their business. To support the process, yes, but not to dictate it.

If we found the saturation-levels of coverage of the recent American elections tiring, here in Canada, imagine what it would be like to live in Gaza:

HOW does it end in Gaza?
This has been the issue with all the self-defeating Israeli military offensives of the past 16 years — Operation Grapes of Wrath in Lebanon, Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and now Operation Pillar of Defense, all of them, not coincidentally, initiated on the eve of national elections in Israel.

Roger Cohen, NY Times Op Ed & International Herald Tribune for full article

How it ended was, a ceasefire, and all hope that the ceasefire will hold.

As the days of violence unfolded, however, Baird and Harper did not loudly condemn Israel's "unilateral action." They said, Every state has a right to defend itself. 

What is true for Israel is true for Palestinians, and it is a real shame that Canada chose not to support diplomatic and "symbolic" actions that would both encourage and empower Palestinians, and strengthen the possibility of meaningful negotiations for peace. The facts of the occupation and blockade seem to have remained invisible to them, but happily and luckily, not to the rest of the world.

OTTAWA — With hope of an Israel-Gaza ceasefire beckoning Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird hailed the “miracle” of a Zionist Israel while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began the hard diplomatic work of brokering an end to the violence.

Speaking to a glittering Jewish community fundraising gala, Baird called the birth of Israel a “miracle to behold,” describing it as “a phoenix-like rising … from a barren desert to the dynamic country we see today.” source, National Post

It is appropriate that ministers visit constituents, however, Mr. Baird seems to be unaware that the "barren desert" is a myth created to obscure the active and forceful dispossession of the Palestinian people, and to be unwilling to look at the truth of the region-- generations of displaced people living in camp conditions-- much less speak and act to ensure just resolutions for all.

As with Uganada, the paternalistic shine through which our leadership views the world will continue to bring unexpected, undesirable results, until the maturity and humility point is reached, and outdated and unattractive partialism is cast aside.

Roger Cohen continued:
Gilad Sharon, the son of Ariel Sharon who orchestrated Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, has an idea for an ending. He expressed it this way in The Jerusalem Post:

“We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima — the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a cease-fire.”

Atomic bombs, blackness, stillness, nothingness — Sharon allows himself to indulge the old Israeli dream that the Palestinian people should just disappear. But of course they do not. They regroup. They find new leaders. They endure with hatred of Israel reignited by loss.

This is an old story. As early as 1907, Yitzhak Epstein, a Zionist, wrote an article called “A Hidden Question” in which he observed: “We have forgotten one small matter: There is in our beloved land an entire nation, which has occupied it for hundreds of years and has never thought to leave it.”  (source)
Hours before Hamas strongman Ahmed Jabari was assassinated, he received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the cease-fire in the case of a flare-up between Israel and the factions in the Gaza Strip. This, according to Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin, who helped mediate between Israel and Hamas in the deal to release Gilad Shalit and has since then maintained a relationship with Hamas leaders.
~Israeli Peace Activist (Haaretz)

 Gaza Ark

"Moral shelter" should be provided to those who do right, when they do right, and withheld from those who use violence for political ends ("cutting the grass").

As long as the Canadian government gives it's unconditional support to a government bombing a people "back to the Middle Ages," we must continue to protest and to speak out. 

*2011: Pro-Palestinian Remark Cut From Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird's United Nations Address, Documents Show [moving Canada away from balance and into an emotionalized, one-sided realm]


Mr. Baird announced Friday morning that he is temporarily recalling Canadian ambassadors to the UN and the Middle East to consult them on their next steps, and reviewing Canada’s relationship with the Palestinian Authority. But in an interview with CBC News, Mr. Baird said the Canadian reaction “will be responsible and will be deliberate.”

Before the vote, Canada had warned of potential retaliatory steps against the Palestinians – including private warnings to Palestinian representatives that it might close their delegation in Ottawa.

On Friday, however, Mr. Baird ruled out that step: “We’re not, obviously, looking at breaking off relations with the Palestinian Authority,” he said. ...

However, Mr. Baird’s warning of retaliation has already provoked a stark response from the Palestinian Authority, whose chief negotiator said Canada has “disqualified” itself from any future role in the Middle East peace process with its vitriolic opposition to upgraded UN status for Palestinians.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Canadian threats of reprisals and Mr. Baird’s decision to personally campaign against the Palestinian resolution at the UN have ruled Ottawa out of a future role.

“I believe this government is more Israeli than the Israelis, more settler than the settlers,” he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “I think they have disqualified themselves from playing any role in the Middle East peace process.”
~The Globe & Mail

for more background from legal and economic perspectives, see, 
International law, the Gaza war, and Palestine's state of exception (Levine & Hajjar, Al Jazeera op ed)
Diplomacy with Palestinians Key (Schwartz, Calcalist (Israel) transl. Al Monitor) 

The Justice of the Occupation January 24, 2012
The filmmaker Ra’anan Alexandrowicz explores the impact of Israel’s High Court of Justice on Palestinian rights.  
source: NY Times Op-Docs

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