Assertion, unsupported by fact, is nugatory. Surmise and general abuse, in however elegant language, ought not to pass for truth. Junius


Mr Ignatieff whistles for wind

In the days of schooners and rigging and foremasts, sailors held close numerous superstitions. Don't have priests or women on board. Don't kill albatrosses. And especially, don't raise the wind by whistling. Michael Ignatieff has whistled, and conjured a hurricane. In doing so, he may well have scuttled his leadership ambitions when, on Radio-Canada's Tout le monde en parle, he suggested that the 30 July Israeli bombing of Qana was a "war crime."

Qana, for those who don't remember, is a small town in southern Lebanon which was targeted for attack on 30 July, leaving 28 women and children dead during Israel's ill-advised Lebanese summer adventure. It is also generally accepted that something terrible had happened there. Jan Egeland, the UN's emergency relief co-ordinator called the attack "indiscriminate and excessive" despite Hezbollah's morally questionable use of the civilian areas for refuge. Kenneth Roth, of Human Rights Watch put it in even clearer terms by saying that "such consistent failure [by Israel] to distinguish combatants and civilians is a war crime".

Such is also the opinion of honorary Upper Canadians such as Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Eduardo Galeano, Howard Zinn, Ken Loach, John Berger and Arundhati Roy who recently declared in the Guardian that Israel's actions in Lebanon were indeed criminal:
The US-backed Israeli assault on Lebanon has left the country numb, smouldering
and angry. The massacre in Qana and the loss of life is not simply "disproportionate". It is, according to existing international laws, a war crime. (The full statement can be found here.)
Despite the validation that something calamitous had indeed happened, justifications of Israel's actions in Qana have emerged, mostly in the US media like the Wall St. Journal. The crux of their argument is that Israel, acting on a a tit-for-tat manner, is less to blame than Hezbollah for starting the whole mess. What these finger wagging arguments also do (perhaps inadvertently) is lower the State of Israel down to Hezbollah's level; indeed with a bit of sobriety a good case could be made that one group of armed thugs attacked another group of armed thugs which, in turn, responded with even bigger bombs and guns, killing innocents along the way. Even using that optic, both groups are equally to blame.

Whatever the case, the attacks on Ignatieff have already begun. Susan Kadis, Ignatieff's Toronto campaign co-chair and MP from Thornhill resigned over the affair suggesting that Ignatieff doesn't understand Middle East affairs and argued that the attacks were just. As the Toronto Star reported, Kadis "found Ignatieff’s 'unprovoked comments very troubling,' given that Israel’s attack on Qana was a response to the 'brazen kidnapping' of Israeli soldiers and missile attacks by Lebanese-based Hezbollah guerrillas."

Equally important, Shimon Fogel, chief executive of the Canada-Israel Committee also seems to think that Ignatieff is being unreasonable for suggesting that killing civilians isn't kosher and chastised Ignatieff for even thinking out loud that last summer's Israeli adventure was a mistaken and blood wrought:
For somebody as well-informed and experienced as Mr. Ignatieff, he should know that is not a reasonable charge to level against Israel...What he ought to be preoccupied withis the kind of intolerance that gave rise to the conflict to begin with and the extent to which there are efforts to have it leach into Canadian society. (Quoted in the National Post.)
And Mr. Ignatieff only spoke of Qana. He did not speak of the Lebanese deaths during the war. Nor of the Canadian or UN casualties. He did not speak of the systematic destruction of infrastructure built up since the last Israeli invasion of Lebanon. And he did not speak of more than 350,000 cluster bombs dropped on southern Lebanon after Resolution 1701 was passed. (These charming devices turn into active land mines which, as the Times reports, continue to maim the innocent.) Moreover, he did not suggest that most of the civilized world (and all of the barbarians, evidently) thinks that Israel crossed the line.

All said, while I dearly hope that Ms. Kandis is not speaking for the Liberal party, let alone the people of Canada, she does have a right to have a perspective, however naive. The opinion of Mr. Fogel's organization, however, smacks of censure from an international lobby group, using the anti-Semitic card to trump criticism. In the Canada- Israel Committee's ideal world, we should all shut up, because we just don't understand. Because of the risk of being, in Mr Fogel's words, intolerant. But Mr. Fogel misplaces the origins of intolerance; he should understand that patience runs thin with war and blood, no matter the creed.

So Mr. Ignatieff is at a crossroads. He can either stand alongside his beliefs and intellectual counterparts or buckling under to the pressure from a questionable lobby. For the Upper Canadian the choice is clear: kill an albatross or two, let a woman onboard and weather the inevitable typhoon.


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