Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Excerpts from Interview with CBC’s Evan Solomon

Excerpts from Interview with CBC’s Evan Solomon

27 March, 2006

Solomon: As I understand – let me just parse that for one minute. Is there, only later in Osama bin Laden’s rhetoric did he start to link the Palestinian situation because it tied into a kind of dialogue that takes place on any issue. But remember, his fundamental issue was not against Israel, it was against not only America in Saudi Arabia, but also against Muslims who he thought had misread the Koran and were not living properly. Then he tied it into a more populist stance.

Ignatieff: His – Al-Qaeda’s exploitation of the Arab/Israeli conflict has been entirely…

Solomon: It’s a propaganda.

Ignatieff: A propaganda – but it doesn’t change the fact, the difficult fact that for sixty years the Palestinian issue has…

Solomon: Right, it’s a fundamental…

Ignatieff: It’s a running sore. And my point about the Sharon plan is that evacuation from Gaza conceals the consolidation of settlements on the West Bank. More than 200,000 Israelis will be settled on the West Bank. The placement of the law which is essentially a land-grab reduces the viability of the Palestinian state. The paradox that needs to be grasped is that unless the Palestinian state is viable, and is joined up, capable of providing employment and resources for it’s people, it will become a terrorist rogue state that threatens Israeli security. That’s my book. It’s not because I’m so nice to the Palestinians, I’m actually thinking about Israeli security.

And my judgment is that the Sharon plan will make Israel less secure, not more secure. And the blow through the connection to Iraq is that you can’t keep the two apart. I mean in the mind of the Arab street, there are two injustices going on at once. Two occupation – one Israeli of Palestine, the other American occupation of Iraq. Nothing I’m saying mandates permanent U.S. occupation of Iraq.

We’ve got to draw down the troops, it is unsustainable. But equally, you can’t sustain an occupation of the West Bank in Gaza, it’s also unsustainable. And until those two facts change, there’s nothing that we can do to turn the Arab and Muslim worlds around.

Solomon: Michael, I’ve got to ask you, I mean I’ve read your stuff and talked to you over the years, and I’ve never seen you in the last – I guess post September 11th, you’ve become a realist in the old definition, real-politik. Some have called it the Liberal Hawk and all that, but let’s just say The Lesser Evil is kind of your way of saying I can no-longer idolize my philosophical purity, I have to engage in the real world. A year that you’ve spent the last couple of years I think engaged in – seeing the blood. Is that a fair way to – I mean have we seen the kind of Michael Ignatieff’s sort of the education of Michael Ignatieff in realism?

Ignatieff: I don’t know that realism quite gets it, Evan, I think there has been evolution in what I think. Certain parts of me are utterly unchanged, I’m a kind of Pierre Trudeau, gay marriage, tax and spend liberal on the social domestic side, pretty well unchanged since the sixties, in fact confirmed by events. I think I’ve got tougher on the international side, more hawkish because of the combined effect of watching ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, seeing what it looks like – seeing the Kosovo intervention.

PART 2 –

Seeing that, and part of I think what has changed is being driven slowly mad by arguing with the liberal left and socialist left in North America the kind of constantly growing Chomskian anti-Americanism has pushed me. Sometimes too far. That is I’m not an apologist for Bush, I’m a blue-state tax and spend liberal as I’ve said – never support him domestically, and I wouldn’t support him internationally because this was a regime which was incompetent, untruthful…

Solomon: But I wonder if a guy like you who, you know, who I look to as a guy to help me as a kind of you know confused citizen negotiate my way through these complexities – what would a guy like you do if you’re sitting beside Mahatma Ghandi, and you the realistic armed with your Lesser Evil arguments and sometimes you’ve got to pull the trigger – and you marshal ally your evidence and Ghandi says – I took a different way. What would you say to him?

Ignatieff: That’s a good question. What I would say to him is that anybody who understands politics well understands that non-violent peaceful protest is an enormous lever of social and political change. Ghandi made a revolution in India partly by teaching millions and millions of ordinary Indians the virtue of non-violent disobedience. And proved to be unstoppable. Martin Luther King, learning from Ghandi, used non-violent disobedience as an engine of the most successful human rights struggle of our century.

Completely inspiring to me, then and now. But let’s get polemical here – had the Palestinian movement in the fifties and sixties, instead of embarking in a strategy of armed struggle, listened to Ghandi and Martin Luther King, the history of the Middle East would be very different. I’m profoundly convinced that a non-violent Palestinian struggle would have left the Palestinians in possession of a state. My argument to Ghandi is we’ve got a lot to learn to non-violence.

And people struggling for justice have an enormous amount to learn from non-violence. But the cases that we were talking about – Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, Iraq – all four of them share the following property: that non-violent protest inside those societies for justice would have been brutally crushed. The intervention option…