Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cowardly Leadership: We All Pay A Price

As I have written in the past, poor leadership costs all of us dearly. Whether looking at local provincial, federal or international politics, the price we pay for leadership that has too high a regard for itself and too little for the people is moral, social, economic and military disarray. Whether we are talking about rampant cynicism with regard to the political process, the demonization of groups within society, the dodging of taxes or the kind of demagoguery that leads to war, all, at least in part, can be tied to defects in leadership. It seems that so many want power, but so few are willing to accept the real burden of responsibility that comes with that power.

Recently, at Northern Reflections, Owen wrote a post on Gerald Caplan's assessment that the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians will likely never be resolved. I wrote the following comment:

I fear that Caplan's assessment is depressingly accurate, Owen. While some good but unlikely things have happened in the world, such as the ending of apartheid in South Africa, that achievement palls when compared to the deep-seated and abiding hatreds that seem to prevail in the Middle East and consume so many.

Owen replied: South Africa had Mandela, Lorne. There appears to be no Mandela in the Middle East.

Neither does it have someone like Bishop Desomond Tutu, long a brave warrior in the long march against apartheid, and a man never afraid to enter the lions den, as he did recently in Fort McMurray, where he called the oilsands products “filth” created by greed.

Tutu is showing a similar fearlessness in offering his strong views on Israel's behaviour vis–à–vis the Palestinians in Gaza. Writing in Israel's oldest daily newspaper, Haaretz, the social activist, Nobel Peace Prize winner and retired bishop is unsparing in his assessment of the situation, and is calling for a boycott of any company profiting from the occupation of Gaza:

Over the past few weeks, more than 1.6 million people across the world [have joined] an Avaaz campaign calling on corporations profiting from the Israeli occupation and/or implicated in the abuse and repression of Palestinians to pull out. The campaign specifically targets Dutch pension fund ABP; Barclays Bank; security systems supplier G4S; French transport company Veolia; computer company Hewlett-Packard; and bulldozer supplier Caterpillar.

But the heart of what Tutu writes about is hope, not punishment. Drawing upon the Sourth African experience, he says:

We know that when our leaders began to speak to each other, the rationale for the violence that had wracked our society dissipated and disappeared. Acts of terrorism perpetrated after the talks began – such as attacks on a church and a pub – were almost universally condemned, and the party held responsible snubbed at the ballot box.

The real triumph of our peaceful settlement was that all felt included. And later, when we unveiled a constitution so tolerant, compassionate and inclusive that it would make God proud, we all felt liberated.

Of course, it helped that we had a cadre of extraordinary leaders.

The role the boycotts and divestments played in the ending of apartheid, says Tutu, could have the same benefit for Israel and Gaza:

The reason these tools – boycott, sanctions and divestment – ultimately proved effective was because they had a critical mass of support, both inside and outside the country. The kind of support we have witnessed across the world in recent weeks, in respect of Palestine.

My plea to the people of Israel is to see beyond the moment, to see beyond the anger at feeling perpetually under siege, to see a world in which Israel and Palestine can coexist – a world in which mutual dignity and respect reign.

No one can be truly free until everyone is free. The people themselves need to look beyond their leaders and make their voices heard loud and clear. That seems to be the message Desmond Tutu is trying to deliver to this very troubled region of the world.


  1. We've all seen the maps of the fragmented scraps of what remains of the Palestinian territories not occupied by Israel. To imagine that Israel would ever restore the lands it has stolen to the Palestinians is to succumb to delusion. To Israelis these stolen lands are now called "disputed territories", an assertion of a vested right created out of whole cloth.

    A few rockets that can never seem to hit anything of consequence is a small price to pay for maturing Israel's claims to Palestinian territory and, of course, the aquifer that underlies what had been the West Bank.

    Meanwhile, Netanyahu has announced what amounts to a permanent state of war on Gaza. With a wink and a nod from Western leaders (including our own), Israel can continue with the reduction of Gaza to a near terminal state.

    Damn few Canadians recognize the radical transformation that has spread through the Israeli population and its leadership. You don't have to be a Nazi to be a fascist.

    1. I agree, Mound, that the odds of any real change seem remote at best. Nonetheless, having a man of Tutu's stature speaking out thus at least improves the odds of more people coming to understand the truth of the Middle East conflict and holding accountable the leaders (including our own) who aid and abet it.

  2. Harper did take a planeload with him, when he visited Israel. So, we knew Harper was up to no-good. Harper does not do anything, out of the goodness of his heart. Harper only does things, that benefit Harper.

    Harper is a Neo-Nazi fascist dictator from way back. He was Policy Chief for his, Northern Foundation of 1989. Conrad Black was a member of Harper's Foundation and was Harper's propaganda machine. Harper had friends such as, Wolfgang Droege and his Heritage Front. Harper has a, very, very shady political past.

    Damned straight Israel is Fascist or else, Harper would not have stuck his fascist face, in Israeli business. Harper encouraged Israel to make war on Palestine. Israel wants Palestinian lands, water and gas. And of course the dead Palestinian children, are merely collateral damage.

    Six members of my family served in WW2. I see Harper and Israel, no better than Hitler. Israel said, Palestine would never be a state. Will Palestine be pushed into the sea? Or, perhaps? The Palestinian people, will be forced into ghettos? Were the Jewish Children with tattoos on their arms, merely collateral damage too?

    A petition went around the globe. Many countries are calling for, Israel to be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. They also want Harper tried too. He told Israel, he would back them up to the hilt and encouraged Israel to make war on Palestine. It was likely Harper who organized, Israel's attacks on Palestine.

    Harper also is supporting, the fascists of Ukraine. Harper raced to drive a wedge between Russia and Europe. Harper is rabid, to sell his energy to Europe.

    Unless the partition between Israel and Palestine is strictly fair? This fighting will never stop. Winston Churchill worried about the partition of Israel and Palestine, would bring trouble down the road.

    There is nuclear powered Israel, pounding the hell out of Palestine.

    1. It is clear that in the world of Stephen Harper, Anon, there is right and there is wrong. It must make life very easy for him.

  3. .. anyone can do some simple research & determine how many Israeli citizens have died from rockets fired from Gaza since 2000. Approx 34... As well, one can confirm that approx 400 + Israeli citizens have died in traffic accidents annually.

    All are tragic.. that's beyond dispute. That there are solutions to both is also beyond dispute. Perhaps its unfair, but why are Stephen Harper and John Baird not braying shrilly at Israel to resolve the issue of their traffic fatalities? Even more, why are they not active in reducing Canadian traffic fatalities?

    Were our elected MP's and appointed Ministers elected to meddle in foreign affairs without appropriate input or consensus of Canadians? I think not.

    1. Apparently, Salamander, the Harper cabal feels it knows best and can speak on behalf of all of us, perhaps not surprising given their particular brand of evangelicalism.