Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Some History, Mr. Prime Minister?

What will it take for Prime Minister Harper to demand an explanation, let alone an apology, for the killing, by Israel's military, of an entire Canadian family in Lebanon? Will Israel have to sink one of the commercial vessels that are currently evacuating Canadians from Lebanon? No one, from the PM down to Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, has in any way, shape or form demanded to be told what happened. The more I look at it, the more obvious it gets that under the current government, there are two classes of Canadians, and it's all determined by genetics: there are "real" Canadians, and the rest. The rest include immigrants and their descendants; "whites," a terminology which a former supervisor of mine at government once asked me to use when referring to Caucasians, and "browns," as The Globe and Mail recently described an individual in Toronto as he looked on at the circus surrounding the Group of Seventeen arrests. They're like us, chimed Jack Hooper of CSIS… but not entirely.

Not only is our Prime Minister ostensibly racist, but his reading of the political situation in the Middle East is limping at best. "We are not going to give in to the temptation of some to single out Israel, which was the victim of the initial attack," Harper said from the diplomatic comfort of the G8 Summit in St. Petersburg. Initial attack? Are we to understand that the whole thing began seven days ago, with the kidnapping by Hezbollah of two Israeli soldiers? Surely, some advisor of the PM would point out that things in the Middle East tend to be linked? Surely, someone at CSIS would have indicated that Hezbollah has overtly supported the Palestinians' struggle for liberation, and that consequently the Hezbollah incursion a week ago was launched in that context? Why would the so-called West, with the hegemonic United States spearheading the whole endeavor, be the only entity that is allowed to develop alliances—for practically this is what Hezbollah and the Palestinians have established: an alliance? Ok, already this allows us to take a step back in history. Last week's kidnapping wasn't committed in a historical vacuum; rather, it was part of a chain of complicated events, and one trigger may very well have been Israel's pounding of the institutions of state in Gaza, acts which can only delay the development of a just and viable state for the Palestinians. But the aggression against Gaza wasn't produced in a vacuum either. It, too, is part of the long tumble into violence.

It is not my intention to list all the action-reaction sequence in here, for to do so would likely prompt a complaint by the administrators of this web space to the effect that I have exceeded my data limit (or my readers' patience, for that matter). What I do intend to say, however, is that comments like those made by our PM, to the extent that the murderous quandary is solely the blame of Hezbollah and the result of last week's events, are not only myopic but also devastatingly self-serving, in that they seem to be based on facts and provide the ammunition to further the ambitions of the Israeli state at the detriment of whoever happens to be in its path—Lebanese, Palestinian, or Canadian. The current conflict will not be resolved in isolation, or with the defeat of Hezbollah. It can only be resolved, once and for all, if the Palestinian issue is addressed justly.

Despite my abhorrence for Harper's antediluvian view of the world, it would be invidious to blame him alone for Canada's current near-sightedness. After all, the entire government institution that props him up, the numerous agencies whose mandate it is to brief him, is also historically deficient. Officers at CSIS and elsewhere are extremely thin on their history of the world. Everybody affairs himself on the present, and the everyday necessities of producing reports and accomplishing the attendant sundries leave precious little time to read up on history. As a result, everybody is locked in the near-present. Only through such a view of the world is it possible to blame Hezbollah for every ill in the Middle East. Harper has his bias and probably doesn't have the time, either, to crack open a book—say, Robert Fisk's informative Pity the Nation, or anything by the late Edward Said—and acquaint himself with the complex history of the region. For that, he depends on his advisors, who in turn depend on the officers and analysts within the many departments in Ottawa that deal with those things. Haplessly, these aren't doing their job either.

Of course, a well-informed media could provide the needed corrective, which would likely come in the form of a challenge. But then again, Harper's government seems to have nothing but contempt for the journalistic profession, and shuns it as if it were Hassan Nasrallah himself, trading the robe for the microphone.

All of which allows for Harper's dangerously pro-Israel and racist policies to continue unchallenged.

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