Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
“Out Of The Way”
This is the last post in this series on the flotilla incident, and it’s more personal.
My mind and purpose on the mid-East conflict was determined prior to the flotilla attack and the conclusion is this: regardless of the merits or errors on either side, my job is to do all in my power to not only defend the innocents but to struggle to get the resources required to assist them in getting on with their troubled lives.  In the region a couple of years ago, I asked leaders if there was any help I could give to those families affected by a recent rocket attack on their homes.  The answer was quick and clear: ambulances had arrived immediately, security was established around the area, and the injured were in some of the best hospitals in the world.  To Israel’s credit, they had responded to the need with alacrity and sympathy.
Gaza is different.  No matter what you see, there is need everywhere.  Ambulances aren’t permitted through; food shipments permitted through the cordoned areas aren’t nearly sufficient; medical facilities for the wounded or injured are worse than what I’ve seen in Sudan.  So, that is where I have chosen to concentrate my energies, without attempting to step on the minefields of opinion on either side.  I sat my staff down on Friday.  Troubled by the strident emails and phone calls flooding into our office, I reminded them we are an essentially an ambulance crew – that is my philosophy.  There is great need in the region, and we will focus our energies, not on siding with one view over another, but on actually fighting through that complexity to administer aid.
This was once what made Canada respected worldwide.  While others battled it out, we sent peacekeepers to protect channels to the people in need and to keep things from spinning out of control.  While other countries maintained the need for landmines, Canada said “no.” For its part it would seek an international accord to get rid of such implements of conflict.  Why?  Because it was the innocents that were dying from them and that just wasn’t the way we looked at the world.  The Canadian government came onside and a Canadian won a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts and success on the file.
Israel sees the flotilla attack as an issue of security, while the rest of the world sees it as humanitarianism.  Both are valid.  Sadly, multitudes have entered the arena with their various motivations and clouded the issue.  But there is hope.  Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian president, has put aside the old model of getting an independent state first and concentrated instead of building those institutions that will make for a better West Bank.  Then, and only then, will the state be valid, just, and understanding of Israel’s right to exist.  Once successful, it can be transplanted into Gaza as a more progressive model.  And there is a new generation in Israel saying that the status quo has proved useless, and in sympathy for the suffering in Gaza, have demanded an opening of aid routes to the area – security without humanity and self-determination actually brings on insecurity and distrust.
Perhaps the most difficult part of firefighting in my nearly 30-year career was the act of just getting to the fires.  Sirens blaring, lights flashing, drivers nevertheless refused to pulled to the side to let us through.  Each driver had their own agenda, important places to get to, or were just distracted by the music blaring on the radio.  But what truly mattered to us were the people trapped in the fire.  It wasn’t until laws were passed, giving us the priority, that society determined the need of the distressed took priority over the agendas of the many.
We require international laws, giving humanitarian diplomacy at least an equal place with security and politics.  Our present government has foolishly turned us from a humanitarian middle-power to a defender of one side.  Not me.  For as long as I’m an MP, I opt for the ambulance or the firetruck.  Others have their own purposes and I respect them, but to them I say, please, just get out of the way.  The pleas of innocents continue to ring in my ears.  Like the Red Cross or Red Crescent, I don’t have the time or the inclination to take sides.  Not politics, ideology, or even the Conservatives, NDP, Bloc, or the Liberal Party can stand in the way.  Let others be careful in their reasonings; that is only right.  I’m not that smart or that driven.  Just let me get to where I need to be – with those suffering the collateral damage.
Thanks to all for their patience in my ruminations.  Shorter blogs to come.