Monday, March 16, 2009

When Ignatieff Wasn't Afraid to Be Smart

When I said back here that a guy as smart as Michael Ignatieff should be smart enough to hold an informed and nuanced position on Israel and Palestine? This is what I meant:

Two years ago, an American friend took me on a helicopter ride from Jerusalem to the Golan Heights over the Palestinian West Bank. He wanted to show me how vulnerable Israel was, how the Arabs only had to cross 11km of land to reach the sea and throw the Israelis into it. I got this message but I also came away with another one. When I looked down at the West Bank, at the settlements like Crusader forts occupying the high ground, at the Israeli security cordon along the Jordan river closing off the Palestinian lands from Jordan, I knew I was not looking down at a state or the beginnings of one, but at a Bantustan, one of those pseudo-states created in the dying years of apartheid to keep the African population under control.

That was when I understood that for all their talk about a two-state solution, both sides never inhabited the same universe of discourse about what it actually meant. It is not just that both sides failed to make peace, but that peace never meant the same thing.

Given who Arafat was and is, it required extraordinary vision by Israelis to understand that their security depended on having a strong neighbour in Palestine, not a weak one. The Israelis failed to realise that they needed a Palestinian Authority capable of providing enough services for its population to keep them from wanting to kill Israelis, and enough military and police capability to stop them if they tried. The Palestinians equally failed to understand that a good neighbour is a strong one. Many wanted a state of their own, to weaken Israel and prepare the final conquest of Tel Aviv.

Both sides have an equal share of blame in the slow collapse of the two-state solution. The Palestinian leadership degenerated into a venal tyranny, holding back an increasingly frustrated Palestinian civil society. The Palestinian Authority also failed because Israel never allowed it to become a state. When authorities cannot become competent states, when they cannot meet the needs of their people, they can only survive by playing to the longing of their populations to counter humiliation with acts of suicidal revenge.

~ Michael Ignatieff, The Guardian, April 19, 2002

I would still disagree that the U.S. sending troops anywhere would make anything better, but the rest of the article sure as hell beats the simplistic crap that's come out of his mouth more recently.

I swear, he's playing dumb just to avoid comparisons with Dion.

BTW, that letter I sent back in January? It took two weeks just to get a robot email saying "We have received your email", and another FIVE WEEKS to get an actual response to my question. Which wasn't a response at all, really - just a form letter saying "Thank you for your letter regarding the situation in Gaza. The Liberal Party shares your concerns about this conflict and the suffering and loss of life on all sides, passing shot at the Conservatives, yada yada yada". From the Office of the Leader of the Opposition.

(H/T to Alison at The Beav)


  1. He's not playing dumb. He's playing politician. At least with respect to that he has been a quick study: jettison principles, pander to powerful who buy elections.

  2. I too received the form letter response to my missive on Gaza. Thanks for posting Iggy's 2002 piece on the Palestinians. Once again his own words reveal him a rank hypocrite. He's no democrat but a duplicitous oligarch. I guess that's just what Libs think they need to lead the LPC.

  3. His political strategy of pandering just might backfire if enough lefty liberals feel abandoned. There are limits to party loyalty.