I received a call recently from a good friend of mine who shares my politics in general and my convictions about the American Presidential election in particular. We both support John Kerry and haven’t had reason to think twice about that decision. But when he called, he was irate about Kerry’s pronouncement that he would be an even stronger supporter of
This single-mindedness is a character flaw that exists in supporters of both the Israeli and Palestinian causes. Failure to support their particular side of the debate is tantamount to treason, and anything else that they do, believe, or represent, is irrelevant in light of this supposedly damning evidence. It’s a parochial and counterproductive attitude, and I told my friend as much. We are both Trudeau disciples and I reminded him that his attitude, as expressed, was the very definition of the tribalism that Trudeau despised so much.
He agreed, in part, and admitted that he still supported Kerry but was disappointed. I, on the other hand, wasn’t surprised by Kerry’s position at all. Like it or not – and most don’t – politics is a game with a fairly specific and widely understood set of rules. Failure to adhere to those rules usually results in defeat or demotion, and there are few politicians who are brave enough to willfully break these rules. Despite his many character strengths Kerry does not have this particular kind of bravery.
Even if he did have it, I’m not sure he’d exercise it right now. The American election, now less than two weeks away, is crushingly important both in terms of the future of American society and the world as well. If Bush is re-elected he will continue his aggressive pursuit of a militaristic agenda in which
If John Kerry is elected, American may have an opportunity to move away from the brink of its current madness and return to behaving in a way that befits a civilized and democratic society. While he isn’t a Kennedy or even a Clinton, he is a far more desirable candidate to those who support multilaterism, social democracy, and international justice.
Remember that this election looks like another photo-finish, with polls indicating a dead-heat between the two candidates. It may well come down, yet again, to the state of
I have no doubt that my friend has a right to be annoyed with the pro-Israel bias in American politics because I share it. We’re both equally annoyed by the subtle but serious tilt in Canadian foreign policy towards Israel, articulated in a recent article by The Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson, that is driven largely by a Liberal cabinet that is full of voices in favour of unconditional support for Israel but without a single strong voice supporting the Palestinian cause. But I understand that, as I mentioned earlier, politics is a game with very specific rules. I’m not sure my friend does, and more generally I’m not sure that the North American Muslim and Arab communities do either.
The Jewish community, both in the
The Muslim and Arab communities, in contrast, are not nearly as coordinated in their efforts. They speak from multiple perspectives and through different contexts, a result of the fact that the Arab and Muslim communities are not tied as closely by their religiosity as the Jewish community is. It isn’t a matter of numbers, by the way – there are approximately 347, 955 Canadians of Arab descent according to the 2001 Census, and 348,655 of Jewish origin. There are also almost 1 million Muslims in
But, of course, it isn’t. The Middle-East discourse in
So if my friend calls again and complains about a perceived bias towards one group over another, I’ll remind him of this reality. If you’re going to play the game of politics – and I believe that on an issue as important as this you have little choice – then you have to play it to win. To date, the Arab and Muslim communities have not figured out how to do this. Until they do, it is unlikely that much will change.
Ottawa, October 19 – 1136 w.